Taking a look at some of the similarities and differences between the newest versions of these two popular LMS's.
Thanks to contributor Olivia Coleman (firstname.lastname@example.org) for collaboratively developing this guest post.
Moodle and Blackboard are both popular online learning platforms with which educators can develop complete online course that can include multimedia content. But how do the two compare to each other and what are the benefits unique to each course delivery system? We will explore some of these benefits in this article, discussing Moodle 2.0 and Blackboard 9.1 respectively.
First let's talk about what Moodle and Blackboard are.
Moodle is an Open Source Learning Management System that is provided freely and can be run on many operating systems. It's “free to download, change, share, improve, and customize to whatever you want it to be,” according to the Moodle website. Therefore, any educator can use it to build or supplement a course.
Blackboard on the other hand is a proprietary Learning Management System and its use is typically limited to educators at institutions which pay a fee each year to take on a license agreement for its use. Blackboard Learn 9.1 is only one of many offerings from the software company Blackboard, Inc.
Moodle 2.0 has been touted as Moodle's “biggest release ever” with tons of upgrades, and its release is scheduled for this month. You can read up-to-date information on all the improvements Moodle 2.0 will have over the previous version here.
New features revolve around increased usability, these include: easier navigation, improved user profiles, community hub publishing and downloading, a new interface for messaging, and a feature that allows teachers to check student work for plagiarism. Text formats will also allow plug-ins for embedded photos and videos in text (Blackboard 9.1 allows for this too).
A major improvement over previous releases is that anyone can set up a community hub, which is a public or private directory of courses. Another notable feature is that Moodle now allows teachers to search all public community hubs and download courses to use as templates for building their own courses. Also, teachers can now see when a student completes a certain activity or task and can also see reports on a student's progress in a course.
Many small scale open source platforms require that users support them themselves, leveraging the open source community as their primary resource. For Moodle however, it is so popular that a small industry has evolved around it, providing a wide range of support and services. Two of the most popular support and hosting services are Moodlerooms and Remote-Learner.
Blackboard Learn 9.1 is Blackboard's newest and most innovative upgrade to its Blackboard Learn package.
Improvements in its uses for higher education include course wikis (Moodle improved theirs too), blogs and journals that stimulate conversation and reflection on a course, and group tools that make group collaboration and communication easier than the previous version. Its most notable feature is its Web 2.0 interface, which makes it easy for educators to navigate when adding content to an online course and for students to navigate when accessing course content.
Blackboard Learn 9.1 also incorporates Blackboard Connect (at an additional cost), which alerts students to deadlines, due dates and academic priorities within a course. The new release also allows educators to more easily incorporate videos and photos directly into text for a more complete learning experience. Finally, 9.1 features Blackboard Mobile Learn (also at an additional cost), which lets students connect to their online courses using various handheld devices, such as the iPhone or iPad.
For more information about Blackboard Learn 9.1, click here.
So, what are the big differentiators?
Features & Functions: Both of these tools have a lot of different functionality available, either natively, or through add-on types of functionality. If different functions are going to be the deciding factor in selecting one of these versus the other, you will really need to drill in and compare and decide for yourselves which features and functions make the difference for your institution.
Cost: This is clearly different. As an open source product, Moodle is simply less expensive. Blackboard is sort of the “Rolls Royce” of today’s LMS, and there are users of the product who would tell you that if you want the best LMS money can buy, you should make the financial commitment to Blackboard. On the other hand, if you want a premier product for a much lower cost, Moodle is really the way to go. Another thing to be aware of is that Blackboard builds substantial annual increases into their pricing model, since they are continually procuring and integration additional products into their offerings, with the intent of adding value for their users.
Product/vendor model: As indicated above, Moodle and Blackboard are very different products with very different vendor models. One is open source, and there are many support and service vendors to choose from, while the other is proprietary and there is just the one company to work with. How that impacts your decision is up to you and your institution to determine.
Guest poster Olivia Coleman writes on the topics of online colleges and universities.
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