Using Moodle

Almost all companies who are in the business of training and education require a system where they can provide the course materials and take quizzes online through that system. A lot of the premier educational institutes also have similar requirements. This is where the need of a educational content management system (CMS) is felt … a learning management system (LMS). The open source movement has created one such popular package and that is Moodle. Moodle is an open source learning management system which candidates can use to access courseware, give practice tests, quizzes and submit assignments.

Institutes such as IIT-B, IIM-A, IIM-B and IIM-C have been successfully using Moodle for more than a decade now. As a training provider for CFA, we also use Moodle to provide courseware and quizzes to our students. Now you should know that although the fundamental pedagogies of most institutions are the same, the business processes might differ. What that means for Moodle, is that the requirements and expectations from this system differ from institute to institute. For the past three years we were using Moodle 1.9 … a system which has now become archaic.

It works, yes. But it lacks in the functionality extended towards the course administration. In addition there are a host of other Learning Management Systems cropping up … you have’s open source code for non-profitable institutions which is perl based, but is awesome, you have Dokeos and Sakai which are other open source LMS. There are free cloud based systems such as Pearson’s Google App integrated LMS, and there are premium cloud based systems such as Blackboard.

In my quest to upgrade our systems, I was looking at different options and finally decided to settle with a known beast … albeit a higher version … Moodle 2.2! The good part of any open source package is that it’s generally free of cost and open to customizations … the bad part is that well … there’s almost no documentation and virtually no support. You have to figure most of the stuff by yourself and use forums to  get past your stumbling blocks, and this takes time.

Having said that, I was pretty happy with the latest Moodle, here are my findings –

  • The system has gone more and more object oriented. If you wish to change any behaviour in the core modules, simply extend and over-ride!
  • Reporting has substantially improved
  • Theming has become more complex, but once you go through the steep learning curve then you should do fine
  • The core modules are MVC based, so although it is not suggested, you can jump into their codes and alter away!
  • The documentation is virtually absent, the wiki is a mix of versions 1.9, 2.0, 2.2 and 2.3
  • Quizzing modules have been substantially improved
  • Course progress and objectives tracking has been implemented
  • Adaptive quizzes have been implemented, however I have yet to test these
  • Question randomizations are there ensuring that the quizzes students give are random every time