Open-source software has ushered in a new era of possibilities in the learning space. For a while now, Moodle has been the world’s most popular open-source learning management system. It has enabled organizations of all sizes to deliver and track learning to (likely) millions of people across the globe. Lately, however, Moodle is becoming rather stale. Unless you are a skillful programmer, removing the clunkiness that Moodle has out-of-the-box can be quite the task.
Not too long ago, I met Patrick Selby from On Learning Point. A seasoned learning professional, Patrick and I shared a similar viewpoint on the advantages of choosing WordPress over Moodle. Patrick was kind enough to write-up his opinion on the matter and allow me to post it here on the LearnDash blog. He raises some very valid arguments that I’m sure you’ll find intriguing as well.
What are the advantages of using WordPress over Moodle?
There are several advantages to using WordPress over Moodle but before we dive in let’s take a look at the history of WordPress versus Moodle. As you may know, Moodle started to be developed back in early 2000. WordPress came along much later and so some of the major key differences that you’ll see between the 2 products are the ease of use.
Certain technologies were not available when they were architecting Moodle, although Moodle has come a long way in getting plugins installed and installations and upgrades. WordPress is still the easiest platform to get set up and starting deploying content with. One of the key similarities between Moodle and WordPress is that they both act as a CMS or Content Management System.
While both are content management systems, Moodle has added features that allows for tracking and scoring of content, something that WordPress was unable to do until the LearnDash project started. LearnDash is able to take advantage of the elegant simplicity of WordPress and add the tracking and scoring and convert it into a Learning Content Management System (LCMS). This lets you not only author content within the system, but also deliver it to students and track those changes.
Who would use WordPress instead of using a Moodle site?
Anyone from large to small businesses, Non-profits or even Academic, could potentially use it. It would be a good fit for anyone creating a special purpose learning platform where you would not need to take advantage of some of more formal learning tools and ridged structures that Moodle has built in, such as assessment tools. Rather, you would author all of your content within one Experience API (Tin Can API) compatible software packages such as Articulate or Captivate.
Audience Features – One of the main features of Moodle is the ability to create and manage audiences, but many people do not realize that WordPress also has good robust group and audience features where you can limit access to certain pages based on what group you are in. This also enables you to set up a membership type of site where you can charge for training and even charge for training right at the point of the transaction.
What Organizations would not benefit from having this type of LMS?
Some organizations still have a big investment in legacy content that communicates using the SCORM or AICC formats. Since SCORM/AICC is such an old standard, the newer platforms such as WordPress will not support it.
What type of technology is implemented within WordPress?
It varies depending on your installation, but certainly Experience API (Tin Can API) will be able to be used for course communication. This will help you to track and get the score back from your course where the LMS is and then record into a database.
What type of programs could I run?
- Compliance -One thing that comes to mind is compliance training. And while it’s always a bit tricky to get set up WordPress should be a good fit particularly if you have a narrowly defined audience that you would like to target.
- E-Learning – Delivering e-learning should be no problem on this platform either. You can upload media or you can create pages that communicate the course status directly to the server and then launch it from there.
Simplicity is the key
Having such a simple structure makes it so easy to learn and navigate around in immediately, whereas in Moodle you would need to dive deep and dig into a lot of sub menus. WordPress has a relatively flat infrastructure with everything being maybe 2 or at the most, 3 levels deep.
For instance, when you’re creating a page you would just go to the pages section and then click on add page. It’s less than 2 clicks, making it very simple to create those.
Using WordPress and Moodle together
I use WordPress in conjunction with Moodle since the blogging platform is much stronger. The ability to leave comments is much better than in Moodle. In Moodle you need to be always authenticated in order to see certain blog posts, which can be a real drawback when you are looking to get the content indexed by search engines.
It really shows the divergence in philosophy that the 2 platforms took. Moodle uses blogging as a teaching tool and so at the time when they implemented it they added on a blog for a particular course or for a particular instructor. This results in a closed ecosystem which may work great if you have a very large organization and a very large class that you’re segmenting for each blog. But normally for smaller sites that typically doesn’t work so well on the web. Tracking training right from the WordPress site solves this problem.
The document management on both platforms has come a long way in the last 3 or 4 years, although Moodle still does have some catching up to do. It’s more difficult to implement document management and sharing files and resources files in Moodle. Having the capability for students to upload their own files is a great benefit when teaching certain classes
Because of the way that Moodle was written with PHP it has more security concerns than WordPress. WordPress has had its own share of security issues as well, but Moodle suffers from more of them. As a result they have implemented some workarounds that make it more difficult to use, but were done in the name of security. For example, Flash files that are uploaded to the file area are prohibited from running on certain pages, which is more secure but not helpful when you have a secured site and trusted content. There is no way to enable Flash without changing some of the core code, which most people would be unwilling to do.
Search Engine Optimization
When I set up a for profit site or a site where I’ll be charging for revenue I find it very helpful to have good SEO. SEO stands for search engine optimization which basically means how well Google is able to index your site. Is it able to get to the content that you have available? This is everything that is going to be public facing content. You want this because obviously if more students are able to find your content, then they will be able to sign up for your course.
There are 3 areas which WordPress really does a great job with SEO that Moodle does not.
- The ability for the title page to be changed or the title on the page, whereas Moodle has a static title and it is not easy to rename the title at the top when you name that page. WordPress lets you change the title as well as the page name. Providing a good description for the page is just as important as doing the correct title page or creating a title for the page. The description mole will be normally less than 170 characters. You can have it longer but that’s usually a good target that you would want to hit. The description is always what you see when you do a search and that page shows up in the Google index.
- When you look at the URL you want the top of the page to be the same as your course, for example, SITEURL/CourseNumber1. Moodle does not let you change the name of the page, and the URL will show SITEURL/lessonID?=5 for instance. That little bit of metadata helps when trying to index your site in Google.
- Another item that I find particularly useful is integrating Google analytics into my site; it gives you the ability to see how many people are coming to your site. This is useful for marketing purposes, as well as learning a lot about how the students find and navigate through your site. Moodle is a little more difficult to set that up in than it is in WordPress and WordPress actually has a very nice plugin that you can use in order to implement it. To setup Analytics in Moodle you have to actually go find the code, copy and paste it and put it either into the header or footer section. Just a little bit of a different approach and while not difficult, it takes extra time to set up.
In conclusion everything is much simpler under WordPress. So if you want something very simple, very quick, easy to install, and very extendable using plugins, then WordPress would be the right platform to use. If you’re looking for a lot of assessment type tools and more of the formal learning structures that’s what you’ll find in Moodle.
Most organizations don’t really have a formal learning need when deploying a purpose built Learning system or need to manage the additional overhead. Both WordPress and Moodle have huge user bases so you know the products won’t go away and are safe to invest in. That combined with easy upgrades and simple elegant design makes either a very compelling platform to deliver learning on.
To learn more about e-learning platforms, please visit On Learning Point. On Learning Point is a site dedicated to helping everyone learn about e-learning platforms and e-learning technology.