Choosing MOODLE: An Evaluation of Learning Management Systems at Athabasca

Choosing MOODLE: An Evaluation of Learning Management Systems at Athabasca

Brian Stewart (Athabasca University, Canada), Derek Briton (Athabasca University, Canada), Mike Gismondi (Athabasca University, Canada), Bob Heller (Athabasca University, Canada), Dietmar Kennepohl (Athabasca University, Canada), Rory McGreal (Athabasca University, Canada) and Christine Nelson (Athabasca University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-342-5.ch013
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Athabasca University—Canada’s Open University evaluated learning management systems (LMS) for use by the university. Evaluative criteria were developed in order to ensure that different platforms were tested against weighted criteria representing the needs of the university. Three LMSs (WebCt, LotusNotes, and Moodle) were selected for the evaluation. Moodle was chosen with 11 first place ratings and with only one third place rating. Lotus Notes was second with five first place ratings. Moodle garnered 40% of the total weighted score with Lotus Notes getting 32%, and WebCT 29%. The first place preferences within individual criteria show the following: WebCT 6; LotusNotes 7; and Moodle 58.
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At Athabasca University (AU), a learning management system (LMS) committee was struck to report to the Academic Council composed of up to 30 faculty and staff members. The LMS committee discussed strategies for making the transition to a single learning management system as was identified in the AU Strategic University Plan (SUP) (Athabasca University, 2002 #1). In the AU SUP developed in 2002, the university community decided that the future development of the university’s learning systems required the adoption of a single learning management system. Three LMSs were proposed for evaluation, WebCT, Lotus Notes, and Moodle. WebCT was being used by faculty in the Centre for Nursing and Health Studies and in the Master of Distance Education programs. Lotus Notes was being used in two different formats, by the School of Business and the Centre for Innovation and Management. Another LMS, Bazaar, which was developed at AU and was being used by smaller groups in the Master of Arts in Integrated Studies program, was not considered, as it did not garner significant support for continuation among faculty.

The final evaluation of these LMSs was conducted through a rating system. This rating system was based on different criteria, including the university’s mandate as an open distance learning institution, systems administration, initial and ongoing costs, instructional design features, and the teaching and learning tools available.


The chosen LMS would need to accommodate the unique nature of AU’s mandate as an open distance education institution. In choosing an LMS, the evaluation committee members considered the need for:

  • Flexibility in start and end dates for students enrolling in courses

  • Support for paced and individualized study courses

  • Affordability for students

  • Accessibility for students with disabilities

  • Access at different connection speeds (dial-up vs. high speed)

Systems Administration

Systems administration features had to facilitate:

  • Integration with current registration procedures

  • Single sign on capabilities and compatibility with current authentication systems

  • Flexible administration across centres and programs

  • Secure access, authorization, and virus protection

  • Interoperability using SCORM, IEEE LOM, and CanCore


The price tag for the system chosen was an important consideration, and included:

  • Licensing fees

  • Hardware and software costs

  • Costs related to integration with the Banner registration system

  • Cost of ongoing support (external and in-house)

  • Staff training costs

Instructional Design

Most of the criteria listed under this category in the Appendices tables are self explanatory. Some require further explanation:

  • Granularity refers to the LMS’s capacity to separate content from presentation so that the content can be reused or redirected, accommodating content delivery on a variety of devices, including mobile devices and sharing learning objects across courses.

  • Templates and modularization refers to the LMS’s capacity for customizing the look and feel of different AU Centres and programs.

  • Student Experience refers to the intuitive logical layout in the LMS from the students’ point of view, if it supports standard Web browsing, multiple platforms, systems, low bandwidth, and Java.

Teaching and Learning Tools

Criteria in this table are self-explanatory. For example, researchers evaluated whether or not the LMS had a workable assignment drop box, or whether or not it could accommodate XML and mobile device delivery. The testers also determined if the LMS had course authoring tools to create effective online quizzes or could display correct mathematical notation. Please see the tables in the Appendix for a complete list of criteria.

Complete Chapter List

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Associate Editors
Table of Contents
Mahbubur Rahman Syed
Mahbubur Rahman Syed
Chapter 1
Hiroshi Takeda, Hisashi Yaginuma, Hajime Kiyohara, Akira Tokuyasu, Masami Iwatsuki, Norio Takeuchi, Hisato Kobayashi, Kazuo Yana
This article describes a new automatic digital content generation system we have developed. Recently some universities, including Hosei University... Sample PDF
Automatic Digital Content Generation System for Real-Time Distance Lectures
Chapter 2
Filomena Ferrucci, Giuseppe Scanniello, Genoveffa Tortora
In this chapter the authors present E-World, an e-learning platform able to manage and trace adaptive learning processes which are designed and... Sample PDF
E-World: A Platform for the Management of Adaptive E-Learning Processes
Chapter 3
Judy C.R. Tseng, Wen-Ling Tsai, Gwo-Jen Hwang, Po-Han Wu
In developing traditional learning materials, quality is the key issue to be considered. However, for high technical e-training courses, not only... Sample PDF
An Efficient and Effective Approach to Developing Engineering E-Training Courses
Chapter 4
Te-Hua Wang, Flora Chia-I Chang
The sharable content object reference model (SCORM) includes a representation of distance learning contents and a behavior definition of how users... Sample PDF
A SCORM Compliant Courseware Authoring Tool for Supporting Pervasive Learning
Chapter 5
WenYing Guo
Selecting appropriate learning services for a learner from a large number of heterogeneous knowledge sources is a complex and challenging task. This... Sample PDF
An Ontology-Based e-Learning Scenario
Chapter 6
Dan Phung, Giuseppe Valetto, Gail E. Kaiser, Tiecheng Liu, John R. Kender
The increasing popularity of online courses has highlighted the need for collaborative learning tools for student groups. In this article, we... Sample PDF
Adaptive Synchronization of Semantically Compressed Instructional Videos for Collaborative Distance Learning
Chapter 7
Jing Chen, Qing Li, Ling Feng
The abundance of knowledge-rich information on the World Wide Web makes compiling an online etextbook both possible and necessary. In our previous... Sample PDF
Refining the Results of Automatic e-Textbook Construction by Clustering
Chapter 8
Yueting Zhuang, Xiafen Zhang, Weiming Lu, Fei Wu
Chinese brush calligraphy is a valuable civilization legacy and a high art of scholarship. It is still popular in Chinese banners, newspaper... Sample PDF
Chinese Brush Calligraphy Character Retrieval and Learning
Chapter 9
William K. Cheung, Anders I. Mørch, Kelvin C. Wong, Cynthia Lee, Jiming Liu, Mason H. Lam
In this article we investigate the use of latent semantic analysis (LSA), critiquing systems, and knowledge building to support computer-based... Sample PDF
Grounding Collaborative Learning in Semantics-Based Critiquing
Chapter 10
Giuliana Dettori, Paola Forcheri, Maria Grazia Ierardi
Learning Objects (LOs) are increasingly considered potentially helpful to improve teachers’ work and to spread innovation in the school system.... Sample PDF
Improving the Usefulness of Learning Objects by Means of Pedagogy-Oriented Design
Chapter 11
Frederick W.B. Li, Rynson W.H. Lau, Taku Komura, Meng Wang, Becky Siu
Human motion animation has been one of the major research topics in the field of computer graphics for decades. Techniques developed in this area... Sample PDF
Adaptive Animation of Human Motion for E-Learning Applications
Chapter 12
Gennaro Costagliola, Vittorio Fuccella
On-Line Testing is that sector of e-learning aimed at assessing learner’s knowledge through e-learning means. In on-line testing, due to the... Sample PDF
eWorkbook: An On-Line Testing System with Test Visualization Functionalities
Chapter 13
Brian Stewart, Derek Briton, Mike Gismondi, Bob Heller, Dietmar Kennepohl, Rory McGreal, Christine Nelson
Athabasca University—Canada’s Open University evaluated learning management systems (LMS) for use by the university. Evaluative criteria were... Sample PDF
Choosing MOODLE: An Evaluation of Learning Management Systems at Athabasca
Chapter 14
Damien Clark, Penny Baillie-de Byl
Computer aided assessment is a common approach used by educational institutions. The benefits range into the design of teaching, learning, and... Sample PDF
Enhancing the IMS QTI to Better Support Computer Assisted Marking
Chapter 15
Ali Dashti, Maytham Safar
Distance education created new challenges regarding the delivery of large size isochronous continuous streaming media (SM) objects. In this paper... Sample PDF
Streaming of Continuous Media for Distance Education Systems
Chapter 16
Manjulika Srivastava, Venugopal Reddy
The question why some learners successfully study through distance mode and others do not is increasingly becoming important as open and distance... Sample PDF
How Did They Study at a Distance? Experiences of IGNOU Graduates
Chapter 17
Gwo-Jen Hwang, Ting-Ting Wu, Yen-Jung Chen
The prosperous development of wireless communication and sensor technologies has attracted the attention of researchers from both computer and... Sample PDF
Ubiquitous Computing Technologies in Education
Chapter 18
S. Grunwald, B. Hoover, G.L. Bruland
In this chapter the authors describe the implementation of an emerging virtual learning environment to teach GIS and spatial sciences to distance... Sample PDF
An eLearning Portal to Teach Geographic Information Sciences
Chapter 19
Maria Manuela Cunha, Goran D. Putnik
Individualised open and distance learning at the university continuing education and post-graduate education levels is a central issue of today. The... Sample PDF
A Changed Economy with Unchanged Universities? A Contribution to the University of the Future
Chapter 20
Richard Y.D. Xu, Jesse S. Jin
This article presents a schematic application of computer vision technologies to e-learning that is synchronous, peer-to-peer-based, and supports an... Sample PDF
Rationale, Design and Implementation of a Computer Vision-Based Interactive E-Learning System
Chapter 21
Dorothée Rasseneur-Coffinet, Georgia Smyrniou, Pierre Tchounikine
This article presents an approach and tools that can help learners appropriate a Web-based learning curriculum and become active participants in... Sample PDF
Supporting Learners' Appropriation of a Web-Based Learning Curriculum
Chapter 22
Gwo-Jen Hwang, Hsiang Cheng, Carol H.C. Chu, Judy C.R. Tseng, Gwo-Haur Hwang
In the past decades, English learning has received lots of attention all over the world, especially for those who are not native English speakers.... Sample PDF
Development of a Web-Based System for Diagnosing Student Learning Problems on English Tenses
Chapter 23
Chi-Syan Lin, C. Candace Chou, Ming-Shiou Kuo
The paper outlines a new paradigm and its underlying rationales for implementing networked learning environments that is emerging from new... Sample PDF
Inhabited Virtual Learning Worlds and Impacts on Learning Behaviors in Young School Learners
Chapter 24
Rory McGreal, Terry Anderson
Any view of e-learning in Canada must be informed by the uniquely Canadian feature of provincial jurisdiction over education. Therefore any... Sample PDF
Research and Practice of E-Learning in Canada 2008
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