Not happy Moodle Blackboard
Are you an unhappy Moodle or Blackboard user? You’re not alone. There seems to be a groundswell of negative feedback around these platforms from users.
Are you an unhappy Moodle or Blackboard user? You’re not alone. They are the two biggest LMS platforms in the world, with almost 100 million users between them as of 2015. In contrast to the seeming popularity of these learning management stalwarts, there seems to be a groundswell of negative feedback around these platforms from unhappy users (across schools, universities, business and training organisations). In this article, we look at common gripes expressed by ‘Moodlers’ and Blackboard users to find out why these platforms are on the nose, and where people are turning in the fast-paced world of learning management.
A company’s LMS is the single most important aspect of its eLearning strategy. It is the environment in which all training activities are stored, delivered, tracked, reported and analysed. Companies know this – currently, LMS’s account for 38% of the average learning technology budget. Organisations often feel like they’re entrenched in their LMS, with no easy way out. 44% of companies are currently looking to switch away from their existing LMS. The clunky nature of the LMS has become a common joke between eLearning professionals. So why are users so dissatisfied? Let’s go back to the two biggest players in the market, Moodle and Blackboard, and find out…
Moodle and Blackboard aren’t visually engaging. Both LMSs rely heavily on a text-based, boxed look, with long drop-down menus and a notable lack of visual content. It’s no surprise that Blackboard in particular looks dated – Blackboard Learn was first released nearly 20 years ago. Simply put, Moodle and Blackboard’s layouts are unappealing.
When a student’s learning environment looks sterile, they think the content within that environment is sterile too, and engagement rates and training outcomes drop.
In theory, customising your LMS sounds like a good way to overcome the sterility of Moodle and Blackboard’s layouts. Moodle in particular strongly advocates the customisation of its out-of-the-box layout and themes, with its open-source nature allowing for extensive customisation options. In reality, however, customising Moodle is hard. It requires expert knowledge of the Moodle software, which means hiring a developer. Themes range in the thousands of dollars to implement, whilst the process of finding a developer and quote can be costly and time-consuming in itself. Moodle may market itself as a free LMS platform, but the reality is that there are hidden costs, and many users find these costs unexpected and off-putting.
eLearning authoring tools are expensive. Firstly, you have to pay for the software itself. Then, you have to pay for content developers who know how to use it. Again, hidden costs.
Neither Moodle or Blackboard offer options to create your own eLearning content. That means you’ll need a third-party eLearning authoring tool, such as Adobe Captivate 9 or Articulate Storyline 2, in order to make interactive courses. To give you some indication, Articulate Storyline 2 retails for $1,398 USD for a single installable software license.
Once an expensive piece of software has been purchased, someone has to learn how to use it, and instead of investing large amounts of money into developing engaging content, organisations tend to make quick, cheap, and boring content. Which leads us into the next problem…
Constructivism has been a goal of the eLearning industry for years. Basically, constructivism refers to the process of learning via interaction – when people construct their own knowledge, rather than simply absorb or memorise it, that knowledge is far better remembered. In order to achieve constructivist training, eLearning needs to be interactive, engaging, and appealing. It needs to provide a platform not only for students to engage with their learning content, but also with those delivering the content and other students.
Constructivism is something that Blackboard and Moodle struggle with. The founder of Moodle, Martin Dougiamas, has admitted that most organisations use Moodle in a ‘very didactic and locked-down way… focusing on ‘dump and pump’ learning designs’. Dump and pump learning is the opposite of constructivism. It refers to the didactic training that is most often seen on Moodle and Blackboard. Teachers and trainers dump documents onto their course pages, and pump out quizzes instead of proper learning content. There’s little to no interaction between the students and the learning content, the students and the teachers, or between the students and each other.
Blackboard is very expensive up-front. Moodle is open-source and, in the basic sense of the word, free. But the real costs of both Blackboard and Moodle are not simply their up-front costs – they’re all the other costs we’ve already discussed. Hiring developers to change customisation options, hiring content creation experts to craft engaging learning material, forking out for third-party authoring software… the list goes on. And these aren’t just one-off costs – Moodle and Blackboard’s technical complexities and issues mean that most organisations have one or more full-time IT staff employed just to keep on top of their LMS. That’s a recurring cost in the tens of thousands of dollars a year. The reality is, Moodle is anything but free. It’s starting to look like a wonder that only 44% of companies are looking to change their LMS!
If there’s anything the eLearning industry has learnt, it’s that an uncluttered, visual-based design is the best way to engage staff and students. When a student’s learning environment appears fresh, intuitive and engaging, the student thinks of their content the same way, and learning and training outcomes improve. LMSs need to look inviting, both out of the box and through easily implemented customisation options.
Adding social interactions to your learning environment engages students in active discussion and increases constructivist learning. With fully-fledged chat rooms and other internal social platforms, students login to their LMS more, enjoy learning more, and contribute to each other’s success. Constructivism, anyone?
LMSs that offer built-in authoring tools take away the hassle of outsourcing eLearning content creation to other softwares. Cloud-based software such as the Coassemble combines easy-to-use, online authoring tools with an intuitive LMS, meaning that staff can begin making their own interactive training material and deliver it within a click.
While it has a way to go, a single dashboard for both eLearning content creation and student management could be the future of online training.
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