Should You Switch from Moodle to LearnDash?

It’s now easier than ever to switch from Moodle to LearnDash. Here’s why you should.

You’re starting an online course. What platform should you use?

This is the first and most basic question facing anyone as they get their start in online education—whether as a private individual launching their first course, an educational institution trying to bring their current catalog online, or a business hoping to broaden their employee training.

Of the options available, Moodle is one of the most established learning platforms. It has a long history in the online education field, opening the market to many of the Learning Management Systems (LMSs) that followed.

However, despite (or perhaps because of) its history, Moodle has failed to modernize enough to keep pace with developments. As a result, many users are considering making the switch from Moodle to another LMS. Many other potential users are trying to decide if they should choose an old brand with an established reputation, or opt for a newer, sleeker model.

These are not easy choices, which is why it’s important to do the research. While we clearly believe LearnDash is the best option for most educators, we also recognize that no LMS is the best option for literally everyone. Therefore, while we’ll be making the case for our platform, we also want our readers to understand their options. So with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at Moodle.

Contents:

What is Moodle’s place in the current LMS market?

If you’re using Moodle, then obviously you know that Moodle is a learning platform that educators can use to manage online course content, similar to Blackboard, Teachable, or LearnDash.

However, apart from being systems that help educators deliver online content to learners, these products vary widely in their underlying architecture. While those of us with a long history of working with online platforms may understand what these differences signify for our courses, there are many other educators who find the technicalities bewildering.

Nevertheless, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into before you make a decision about your course platform. Here are some of the main differentiators between Moodle, LearnDash, and a few of the other leading LMSs.

Open source vs. proprietary.

Moodle, like WordPress and LearnDash, is an open-source platform. This means the code is open for developers to modify and tweak as needed to accomplish their purposes. Open-source platforms also mean that external developers can create custom plugins the expand the functionality of the platform.

On the other hand, a proprietary platform, such as Blackboard, is owned by the developing company, and cannot be modified by external developers. These are often more expensive, but they supposedly offer more integrated functionality and a 24/7 support helpline.

The largest proprietary platforms often pitch themselves to large educational institutions who can afford their steep price tag, but that’s no guarantee they offer the user experience to justify the expense. Nor is open source an indication that the program is sub-par. In fact, Blackboard now offers an open-source version of its LMS for added flexibility.

This may be an indication that the industry is shifting further away from proprietary, closed-source software. After all, in far too many cases, all closed source really means is that you, the user, are tying yourself to a platform that promises a premium experience, but which may not deliver at all better than the competition, and will be harder to leave if it comes up short.

Hosted vs. self-hosted.

A lot of what we’ve just said about proprietary vs. open-source applies the hosted vs. self-hosted, as well, but they aren’t the same thing. A platform can be proprietary but self-hosted, and it can also be hosted but open-source.

For instance, the proprietary Blackboard LMS can be installed on local servers, whereas an open-source WordPress CMS can be either be downloaded and installed on a private server, or run through the hosted WordPress.com website. Moodle also has both hosted and self-hosted versions, the first available at moodle.com, and the second through moodle.org.

However, what we’re mostly talking about when we refer to hosted LMSs are the newest, shiniest entries to the LMS field that cater to private educators rather than to large institutions. These are the plug-and-play platforms like Thinkific or Teachable, which make it easy for users to launch a course in an afternoon, but at the expense of growth and long-term flexibility.

After using Teachable, Moodle, and Udemy, I have concluded that LeardDash is the best LMS plugin on the market and the best open-source LMS platform on the market, no contest.

These, in addition to being hosted, are also closed-source. That makes them a fine option for small operators who are working on their own, have no coding skills, and don’t plan to grow their program into a large business.

However, given their restrictions, we can’t recommend them to any business with the resources to work with professional developers. We would also strongly recommend any user who is not a developer but still has the wherewithal to work through a few extra set-up steps chose an option that gives them room to grow.

All-in-one LCMS vs. CMS + LMS plugin.

So far, Moodle and LearnDash + WordPress are on the same page. Both are open-source, self-hosted platforms that offer an incredible amount of flexibility and control to learners. However, there is one key difference between the two that is a real game changer for many users.

Moodle is what we would call an LCMS—a Learning Content Management System. And that “C” in there basically means that Moodle is two things in one: a CMS (Content Management System) and an LMS (Learning Management System).

On the other hand, WordPress and LearnDash treat these functions separately. WordPress is a CMS, and is used by businesses all around the world for a range of functions, including news publications, membership websites, and e-commerce. However, WordPress has this flexibility because these functions are added to websites through various plugins.

LearnDash is one such plugin, expanding the functionality of WordPress to encompass e-learning. While more parts might sound like a downside, it’s actually a huge advantage. It means that WordPress can focus on making the best CMS on the market, and LearnDash can focus on the e-learning capabilities without having to stretch resources to handle the CMS side as well.

As you can imagine, this has some pretty important ramifications for online educators choosing their learning platform.

Why LearnDash + WordPress is a better LMS for (most) online educators.

If you’ve ever hesitated to choose LearnDash as your LMS because you weren’t sure it could support an institution of your size, you should know that we have worked with everyone from individual educators to top-tier universities. A large part of our success comes from running on WordPress, the most popular CMS on the Internet. Here are just a few reasons why this makes a big difference for our users.

1. WordPress has a larger talent pool.

WordPress powers 30% of the Internet. That’s a huge network of people using the system for every kind of business. And when there are that many users, the support network behind it is huge. WordPress has an entire ecosystem of web developers, plugin developers, e-commerce experts, designers, and marketers, all specializing in its systems.

2. WordPress has over 50,000 plugins to extend functionality.

If you want to add functionality to your site, Moodle has about 1,600 plugins. WordPress has over 50,000. Those numbers matter, especially if you want a plugin that looks good, works well, and does what you need it to do. Even something as simple as a form plugin can be frustrating to work with if it’s missing a custom data field, or if it can’t be linked to an automation tool. More plugins means you can do your research and find the best option for your course, and not be limited by a smaller market.

3. WordPress is more suited for custom development.

Speaking of limitations and customizations, if you ever want to custom develop a theme or plugin for your site, there are plenty of highly qualified WordPress developers who can do that for you. And, as we said in our first point, the large talent pool means you’ll have your pick of qualified developers.

4. WordPress and LearnDash are more user-friendly.

Over the past few years, Moodle has really begun to lag in terms of user experience. While they’ve continued to expand functionality, progress on this front will ultimately let them down if they don’t improve user experience. Fortunately, this is something WordPress takes very seriously, which has been the largest driver of its popularity.

just started migrating from MOODLE to LearnDash…. feedback from the first learner…. this is way better than the last lms!

Because the LearnDash plugin was built to incorporate with WordPress, our system shares that same user-friendly experience on the backend. And we’ve brought those principles through to the front-end of our program as well, doing our best to support learner experience in every aspect of our system.

5. LearnDash has more attractive themes.

Many Moodle themes are limited in the options they offer users for customization. In fact, they’re sometimes described as “skins,” implying a surface-level appearance of the site without affecting the underlying structure. By contrast, LearnDash users have access to a range of themes from world-class designers that follow best practices in instructional design and accessibility. The result is a more dynamic, attractive user interface that helps learners stay engaged.

6. LearnDash is focused on being the best LMS, not the best CMS.

We touched on this before, but it bears repeating: LearnDash provides a better LMS to our users because we don’t have to split our resources being a CMS as well. All our attention goes toward extending the core functionality of our plugin, not on building out features that are not the basis of our services.

This means we can be the best LMS on the market without also having to be the best at e-commerce, or membership, or other content management functions. Working with WordPress is like building with LEGOs: you have a huge array of pieces at your disposal, and you can assemble them to be whatever you need.

How to switch from Moodle to LearnDash.

If you’ve been using Moodle for years and are coming to the conclusion that it’s no longer the best learning platform for your institution, it’s not too late to switch. The good folk over at WooNinjas have recently developed a migration tool that allows users to port their Moodle content to LearnDash, without losing courses, users, or even user progress.

Here’s how it works.

Step 1: Moodle2WordPress

The migration tool actually comes in two parts, the first of which is the Moodle2WordPress plugin. This is installed on the Moodle site, which then allows the site owner to export all site data through use of a user token.

Step 2: Moodle2LearnDash

In the second step, users install the LearnDash plugin on their new site, followed by the Moodle2LearnDash plugin. Once this is done, users pair the old Moodle site with the new LearnDash site using the API URL and token created in the previous step. From that point, you can port courses, users, and course progress directly to the LearnDash site.

LearnDash is a robust, flexible platform that it suitable for institutions of every size.

All-inclusive LCMSs like Moodle or Blackboard are popular choices among large education centers, from community colleges to major universities, as well as corporations with extensive internal training programs. And in some cases, that’s the right choice.

However, more and more frequently, we’re seeing those customers become dissatisfied with their system of choice as it fails to keep pace with the latest instructional design innovations and user experience suffers.

With LearnDash, you can build a platform for your courses without limiting your options. It has the scalability to grow with your organization, and the flexibility to accommodate your needs as they change.

So, if you’ve been looking for a way to move to a system that gives you more control over your content, get ready. It’s not too late to make the switch.

Author

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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