Blackboard vs. Moodle: North Carolina Community Colleges Assessment

A while back, I wrote a post giving advice to small schools about selecting a new LMS. That post turned out to be reasonably popular. Today somebody sent me a link to a study done by the North Carolina Community College System comparing Blackboard to Moodle and, in particular, talking about the experience of some small colleges that had migrated from the former to the latter. The results are pretty consistent with the advice I gave.

Here are the highlights, along with their correlations to my earlier points:

  • The end-of-term student and instructor surveys showed that Blackboard and Moodle are not that different.” All of these systems are pretty good/bad.
  • The real difference is found in student perception of their teachers’ comfort level with the application. There exists a significant correlation between student survey scores of both Blackboard and Moodle with the perceived comfort level of instructors using either application. Thus, student perceptions of both CMSs were influenced by instructor experience, training, and skills.” The fact that your faculty reviewers are more familiar with your old system than some of the alternatives may bias their evaluations significantly.
  • The CMS application functionality comparison by online administrators (application and network) and online instructors indicated that Moodle 1.9x has a higher perceived functionality than any version of Blackboard evaluated. The large number of “did not use” responses suggested that neither CMS platform was utilized to full capacity.” Having a system with 39,000 seldom-used features that require a course to learn how to use is not as valuable to you as having a system with 39 features that most people will find useful and can figure out how to use on their own.
  • Case studies of four exclusively Moodle institutions indicated that while transition to Moodle was challenging, ultimately the case study students and faculty preferred Moodle over Blackboard.” Migrations are hard, but small schools do them all the time, and they often are worth doing (and sometimes are unavoidable).
  • The analysis revealed the total pre-transition year cost for all four case study colleges totaled $184,410. There was a 35% increase in total cost in the transition year to $248,300, due to supporting two CMSs simultaneously. Lastly, the post-transition year cost of ownership was $52,296, which accounted for a 72% decrease in total cost compared to that of the pre-transition year. The total cost savings from preto post-transition years for all of the case study colleges was $132,114.” Consider long-run costs as well as short-run costs. Migration may be cheaper than staying put, and the more expensive migration in the short run may be cheaper in the long run.
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About Michael Feldstein

Michael Feldstein is co-Publisher of e-Literate, co-Producer of e-Literate TV, and Partner in MindWires Consulting. For more information, see his profile page.
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14 Responses to Blackboard vs. Moodle: North Carolina Community Colleges Assessment

  1. Scott Wilson says:

    The approach we took at our university was to identify a set of core tasks performed by staff using the existing VLE (WebCT), and then to get a sample of staff from various departments to try those tasks in both Moodle and Blackboard in a computing lab setting.

    Blackboard supplied two employees to help staff perform the tasks; we also hired a Moodle expert to be on hand.

    The end result was similar to this: there was no appreciable difference in the experience for the core tasks performed by staff. So the decision became one of costs and IT service tasks. In the end, the cost of using Moodle was so vastly lower (especially as we have overseas campuses for which BB required additional licensing fees) it was a no-brainer: we picked Moodle.

    (On a traditional “feature comparison matrix” approach, I’m sure BB would have performed better. But then, thats probably what its designed to do.)

    Interestingly, the decision turned out to be not “Moodle vs Blackboard” but “Moodles versus Blackboard+Moodles”, as we already had at least two unsupported Moodle servers running already, which would probably have continued delivering courses even if we’d bought BB.

    I hope we can make our assessment public at some point, but hopefully this summary is useful.

    Sadly Sakai went out of the running early – but perhaps may make a comeback in future as we develop the maturity of our open-source culture.

  2. Jeff Fonck says:

    Your blog made good observations about the savings moodle can provide, did yo mention that it is also free?

    I have found tht a second and almost as big advantage to Moodle is that it is open source, meaning that the code can be changed to fit the need and it can be branded as well. Because it is open source there is a good chance someone has already tried to do what you want to accomplish and it is posted on the web somewhere just waiting to be downloaded (scrubbed for viruses, traps ets) and tweaked.

  3. AbdulrahmanAlzahrani says:

    First of all, we cannot neglect the fact that Moodle is a free online source. Also, we know that even though that Blackboard is an expensive online source, they have 24/7 technical support, which Moodle doesn’t have. However, each one of these sources has its won features either good or bad. For small universities and colleges, Moodle is a great source to be used for their online courses which saves them a lot of money. In the other hand, large universities that have thousands of users, need 24/7 technical support especially in the last weeks of each semester which the use of these sources just goes up highly. To sum up, both Blackboard and Moodle, have great features that play an important role in the development of the elearning process.

  4. 2t says:

    How much does Blackboard education cost?

  5. It’s hard to know; Blackboard doesn’t publish a price list. I have heard anything from $10USD to $25USD/user/year, depending on which modules you license, whether you host yourself or have them host it for you, etc.

  6. Gustavo Torreti says:

    Congratulations on the post.

    Is there any publications concerning ERP integration? Although Learning and content management are critically important, making sure the LMS information is not isolated there is very important for the University/School, and it is not mentioned in the study nor in Bb’s response to the study (http://oscmoodlereport.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/ncccs-and-blackboard-report-october-2009.pdf).

  7. Good question, Gustavo. There is a standard called the IMS Learning Information Services which is designed for this purpose. It was just released in Public Draft. So far Moodle supports IMS LIS—but only for Moodlerooms customers—and Blackboard does not support it. Both platforms have point-to-point integrations with various SIS vendors to varying degrees. Support for IMS LIS is the thing that LMS adopters should be looking for.

  8. Gustavo Torreti says:

    Thank you for your previous answer, Mike.

    Even though the Alliance was recently made at IMS (1), I find quite peculiar that no social networking integrations appeared (nor were mentioned) as a “indirect” learning enviroment…

    Even if LMS providers build their own solutions to student/tutors/faculty chatting and exchanging ideas, facebook, twitter and other social networks will still take a nice ammount of time of their lifes. And that could be a nice opportunity to use towards learning (imho).

    How do social networking should relate to LMS Systems to you?

    References:
    1 – http://www.imsglobal.org/lis/alliance.html

  9. Inigral had an IMS LIS integration for their Schools on Facebook product at one point, although I’m not sure what the current status is. The initial efforts to test compatibility were focused on SIS-to-LMS, since that is the current most common use case by far. But there is a strong interest in integrating with all sorts of applications that could be used by teachers and students, including but not limited to social networking applications.

  10. Anjani Kumar Shukla says:

    You have highlighted the features and advantages of most of the LMS’es mentioned here correctly.
    The surprising part is that none of us have mentioned the ability (or ease) of integrating these LMS’es with applications that enhance the productivity and satisfaction of the users. Today most of the LMS’es are supporting “Offline” functionality as well and hence the “Offline Content Players” are coming in picture.
    One such tried and tested Offline Player comes from Harbinger group which can be seamlessly integrated with any LMS which is SCROM/AICC compliant and as it comes from India, it is almost free (compared to the cost of most of the LMS’es). You can visit http://www.harbingergroup.com for more details.

  11. Bob says:

    Backboard price is per FTE (faculty/staff). Not per student.

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