Moodlemoot

Preface — This is as it’s happening, raw reaction to MoodleMoot and presentations there in.Ā  I am trying to gain more experience / knowledge with Moodle to make an informed decision about whether or not they do things that we should be investigating.Ā  This could be particularly harsh, you have been warned šŸ˜‰

This will be on going but thus far from MoodMoot I’m unimpressed with Moodle.Ā  Now, I didn’t like Moodle coming into things having played with it a little bit.Ā  But after seeing others walk through how to modify aspects of Moodle sites (all of which look the same minus minor color alterations and logo graphics) I can securely say that I’m horrified of this product.Ā  Mile long pages of settings to change text?Ā  PHYSICAL .php files laying all over the place?Ā  Discussions of how to submit bug tickets about the gradebook and other components mid-semester / during usage?!

WHAT!?Ā  Are you kidding me!?Ā  This can’t be a serious way people work.Ā  Common slams on Drupal:

  • Usability
  • Complexity
  • Security

My new and improved list of common slams on Moodle:

  • EVERYTHING LOOKS THE SAME
  • Complexity through lack of usability — this is like looking at Drupal 4 branch in terms of what things mean and do
  • Form and function — .php files laying around instead of having everything be modular; example: to change a status message generated by moodle.php, I need to go to moodle.php in an admin menu and physically edit the mile of options (ummm….String Replace Drupal module to do this that’s 1 very small page)

Wow… more to come as this keeps going on but I’d like to dig my eyes out at the thought of people moving to this.Ā  There’s no way this product is mature enough for me to mess with it.

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25 comments

  1. Alex · June 22, 2009

    hmmm… moodle certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s the only very widely used open source VLE out there. Might not be mature enough for you, but has been good enough to encourage/help 1000’s of teachers – who have all found it very usable. So I’d disagree with your comments on usability.

  2. nadavkav · June 22, 2009

    i second Alex comments and…
    we also found it very very useable. at least for the 540+ teachers and 6670+ students in 14 schools (K12) that use it over here šŸ™‚

    are you a teacher ? maybe you were looking for a instant CMS framework (like drupal) to build a website ? this is a professional LMS. all the features in all the fields are important and should not be removed. really ! (i tried, teachers kicked my ass!)

    i hope you learn to appreciate it šŸ™‚

  3. btopro · June 22, 2009

    I enjoy irking people by nature so stirring up discussion was part of the point of that post. As a developer, I think the design and feature set is horrifying. This isn’t to say it’s not good for certain markets. I often point those K-12 to it over Drupal but it’s purely based on the word of mouth. I wouldn’t use it unless there was a mandate to do so which is sad because I really was cheering for Moodle until I found out more about it.

    Finding something usable from a teacher perspective and a dev / admin perspective are two very different things as well. I won’t debate teacher usability.

    Drupal can also be an LMS if you’ve seen any of our work and can also be used for websites. This is one of my biggest complaints about Moodle is that it’s too concrete, it serves one purpose. Drupal you could (theoretically) standardize on for everything you do instead of just LMS or just web development. Moodle requires you to have programmers / staff knowledgeable in another platform by default where as Drupal can be a one-stop shop for all components.

    Full disclosure, it’s not a full blown LMS…yet. But the tool set is definitely being developed.

  4. nadavkav · June 22, 2009

    i do love drupal (i translated it our local language, years ago…) and i check it out from time to time, although i do not use it, daily. i agree it can be stretched to do a wide spectrum of tasks too šŸ™‚

    back to Moodle, do you have a specific recommendation/idea/usability issue you would like to point to that we can fix/change in the way Moodle is built ?

    thank you for your comments šŸ™‚

  5. btopro · June 22, 2009

    In seeing people use it I didn’t like the idea of .php files being used to power specific scripts where as Drupal is entirely hook based. It reminds me of an old way of php development that people complain about php all the time for just being all over the place where as Drupal is very modular and everything gets added to drupal via hooks. I don’t know enough about the moodle API to comment on that aspect but if the end result is multiple .php files with names that are just things like ‘moodle.php’ that’s not as elegant a solution right there.

    I was also shown an interface that referenced the files directly through a drop down and made it easy to modify parts of those files messages via a web interface. Again, modding files via the web, not such a good idea IMHO. Make them settings or a module to override things. Again, I’m biased now as there are fundamental aspects to the way Drupal organizes things that give it so much more power over other projects that I don’t know I could work on a project that doesn’t organize itself that way. If I could, I’d still be grumbling about conventions (let’s be serious, none of these are going to last “forever”).

  6. nadavkav · June 22, 2009

    good points. i will take them into consideration when i develop new code šŸ™‚

    thanks šŸ™‚

  7. cytochromec · June 22, 2009

    I am not a coder, but I understand some aspects of programming. I have used Moodle as a teacher and encouraged other teachers to use it.
    I do find it clunky and bloated with long non AJAX enabled forms. However it has everything a teacher needs.
    We had someone try to code an LMS using a commercial CMS. $50,000 later we had half the feature set of Moodle.
    So while I agree that someone could probably make a nice, modern looking LMS from the various content management platforms out there, no one really has created one with the functionality (and user base) of Moodle.
    I would argue the power of Moodle is its community. What good is great software that no one uses?
    Good luck with a Drupal based LMS. I would love to see it grow, and interface with Moodle šŸ˜‰

  8. btopro · June 22, 2009

    And the power in all modern CMSs is the community. I’m not doubting Moodle to have a good one, I’ve just heard that it’s a mixed bag of users — instructors wanting help, dev’s wanting help, and IDs / the in between. All wanting help at very different levels. Not that there is a problem with that, but Drupal’s community is so focused on development of a framework that can become anything that you get a much more flexible CMS.

    Drupal can become a web platform or course platform or LMS platform. I would argue that Moodle can only become a LMS platform because that’s exactly what it was designed to be.

    Part of the issue w/ throwing money at the issue is that open source kills proprietary solutions so I think it’s an unfair comparison :). I hope Moodle matures more, I know lots of effort is in integrating Drupal with Moodle and I think the two could make a great relationship. Moodle for the LMS components, fed by Drupal with the CMS components. One does learning management really well, the other does content management (which MOST courses have a lot of content hopefully šŸ™‚ ).

    I don’t want Drupal to become a full blown LMS; just stating it could šŸ™‚

  9. nadavkav · June 22, 2009

    indeed. allot of people are asking for help on various levels šŸ™‚ . we try to make every one happy. lots of forums on all languages and levels.
    there are quite allot of tutorials, videos, HowTos, wikis… by now that makes me feel quit satisfied and comfotable to redirect (almost) any question i get to one of them šŸ™‚

    i was also aware that there is an in process development of Drupal Moodle integration.
    i really hope that will come along successfully for the benefit of both frameworks. after all, we should not waste energy in duplication code when it is already implemented elsewhere šŸ˜‰

    šŸ™‚

  10. Tim Hunt · June 23, 2009

    I blogged my response: http://tjhunt.blogspot.com/2009/06/geeks-dont-really-matter.html

    On the subject of Drupal doing everything with hooks. Yes, it is an elegant architecture that allows everything to be overridden, but only once you understand what is going on.

    I am a complete Drupal novice. I once wanted to tweak something simple in Drupal (I can’t remember what now), but I had to give up after a couple of hours when I could not even begin to work out which bit of code was doing the thing I wanted to change. (Sure, I could learn to hack Drupal by reading all the right docs, the point is that I did not have the time or inclination to follow a full tutorial.)

    By comparison, suppose you want to tweak what happens in Moodle when viewing a forum. Well, go an look at the forum in your web browser, and look the URL. …/mod/forum/discuss.php?… That makes it totally transparent where to start reading the code.

    Of course, once you have found the bit of code you want to change in Moodle, then you have to edit it in-place. You can’t override it from a separate module. That is a pity, but then git/svn/cvs can help with that.

  11. btopro · June 23, 2009

    So, you’ve said Moodle is easier to edit then Drupal, yet you need to understand how to use git/svn/cvs in order to upgrade your site going forward? What’s the workflow for upgrading a critical security flaw in that discuss.php file that you’ve now modified?

    What’s my workflow for upgrading the security hole? Download Drupal, replace files, reupload Drupal. Run update.php — done. My code will still override at the proper place and it’s a much cleaner solution.

    I admit Drupal has a much higher learning curve then anything else I’ve worked on but I’m not also able to enable those with no idea what Drupal or the traditional web languages powering it are. I have lowered the cost of entry for all of our employees much as Moodle has for those in the LMS world.

    You’re post is somewhat valid — these are coder-snob issues. Both are valid solutions to the problems put forth. But which is more sustainable? The one where individual files have to be modified or where almost anything imaginable can be overridden. This is more in fitting with how cascading style sheets work as well as the functions and hooks cascade down in a logical order, one overriding / performing an operation before/after the previous one.

    If Moodle had the planning put forth to do this, you don’t think there’d be more killer-app like functionality to it? Again, while I’m sure Moodle meets the needs of it’s end-users in teachers and instructors; gorgious, flexible, sustainable code could also produce the same usable end product. I just think Moodle could learn a lot from the way WordPress and Drupal have their stuff organized / managed is all.

    Believe me… I want Moodle to succeed; I REALLY do, more then this initial rant / posting could probably indicate. I just can’t get behind it from a developers perspective.

    Good follow up / discussion though! I love to see this topic keep going šŸ™‚ Disagreement / conflict leads to growth and reshaping of ideas.

  12. Tim Hunt · June 23, 2009

    I think we agree that the Moodle and Drupal ways of doing things have different strengths and weaknesses. Sadly we have not yet found the one way of doing things that solves all the problems. It is always a trade-off.

    It is natural that the trade-offs made by the system you are most familiar with are the ones you understand best and are most comfortable with. It seems to be dangerously easy for the human brain to generalise from ‘the way I am familiar with’ to ‘the best way’. Humans seem to be much better at rationalising than being rational.

    Another factor that drives systems to be designed in weird ways is that the platforms we develop on are not perfect. Moodle started off on PHP 3/4 and MySQL 3 and there are some weird design decisions that can be traced to that.

    Similarly, Drupal started in the PHP 4 days and came up with its completely custom hooks system that basically re-implements OOP in PHP to avoid the problems with PHP 4 objects. If you were starting today, you would probably do more with plain PHP classes/interfaces rather than a custom hook system.

  13. btopro · June 23, 2009

    I would argue that Drupal is better form then Moodle because of the design constraints of the version of PHP they were started in, much as you just said. Drupal is slowly moving towards OO or at least a more true function based OO. Not to say this is the BEST approach possible but relative to Moodle which seems a bit more hodgepodge I feel it is better. I just think if Moodle had a more developer friendly backend driving the instructional design / learning management process that it would reap the benefits Drupal has in the dev area.

  14. Laura · August 5, 2009

    From a designer/themer point of view I prefer Drupal any day.

    I’m working on a Moodle project right now and I’m fighting it all the way. I have no control over the mark-up except the very top and bottom of the page. There are tables all over the place that just don’t need to be there but I can’t do anything about it. Can’t hack the core because of the security issues.

  15. paula · April 1, 2010

    Looking forward to following developments re Drupal and Moodle interfacing.

  16. Pingback: Rumblings of the Drupal LMS | Drupal in Education
  17. lorenzo · August 17, 2011

    https://elms.psu.edu/ a profile LMS built using Drupal.

  18. I think it was discarded, loooong time ago.
    People use Moodle these days šŸ™‚
    With a Drupal connector of some sort. (or LDAP or External DB…)

    • btopro · August 17, 2011

      uhh.. what was discarded?

  19. Drupal for EDU

    • btopro · August 17, 2011

      oh. That distribution was discarded but the Drupal in Education community is very strong as is the push towards ELMS.

  20. Great! i was not aware of that.
    I usually recommend teachers to use Drupal Gardens which is mostly more then what they actually need. and very easy to use.

    • btopro · August 17, 2011

      very true. have seen a lot of movement towards gardens. It’s a great service, especially for those looking to quickly get a usable drupal site up and running to play with.

  21. Pingback: Sustainable Drupal Platform Development | Drupal in Education

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