NECC 2005: Moodle is officially mainstream. I counted at least a half-dozen Moodle sessions at NECC last week, and all of the ones I saw were oversubscribed. One session held in the Marriott ballroom was closed to late arrivals due to a lack of space inside. At another session, a Blackboard representative was spotted attending the session. Do you think they are getting nervous about a free, open-source alternative to their product? Heard many times around the conference was the idea that Moodle is free and does everything that Blackboard and WebCT do. That is irresistable to most people, especially given these companies’ inflated pricing structures.
University High School dropped WebCT when they changed their price structure three years ago. Faced with the choice between developing our own course web site strategy or paying twice as much ($10,000/year) to WebCT, we chose the former. We didn’t know about Moodle at the time, but now the choice is even more obvious than it was then. Now, half of our teachers post web content using Dreamweaver, but a handful have developed successful course web sites in Moodle.
Tertiary education institutions are also headed away from Blackboard and WebCT. Many are creating their own open-source, Java-based course portals from scratch (e.g., Stanford Coursework, part of the Sakai Project. These products require enough knowledge to compile a complex Java application and require more server resources, such as an Oracle database, than most high schools can handle.
By next year, we should be able to hear a lot more about people’s experiences with Moodle: installation, course creation, and support. This will be an excellent test of whether open-source solutions can fly in schools where the comfort level with web scripting may not be quite as strong.
Update 7/13/05: Is this a little over the top?
Humboldt State University Students resolve to switch to Moodle