Navigate 3.2.1 Tools for Deciding on an LMS Quest


 tools on wall

The basic process of choosing an LMS for an organization has many steps.  This is a basic view below:

My choice of an organization is a K-12 virtual school.  The escalating costs of commercial products was the major factor in my consideration of Open Source products.  The two at the top of my list are Moodle and Sakai.  The similarities begin with the fact that both are supported by foundations.

What does Moodle mean?  It is the acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment.  Moodle was the brain child of Martin Dougiamas.  He grew up in the Australian outback, and his education was from The School of the Air through CB technology.  He and a few other young people talked with a teacher who was 600 miles away.  Every two weeks an airplane dropped school materials.  It is no wonder that he could envision a non-traditional mode of learning.  He had lived one.  His creation has grown from the collaboration within a community seeking to create viable learning environments.  The 40 Moodle partners pay royalties into a Moodle trust , and the developers who work on Moodle are paid from those funds.  The first stakeholder in the project, Martin Dougiamas still spends time every week to actually  do coding. Moodle uses PHP a common, free scripting language.  This code can easily be used in HTML.

I wondered how the open source product Sakai got its unusual name.  This system was originally funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation and was spearheaded by a consortium of universities: the University of Michigan, Indiana University, MIT and Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley and Foothill Community College.  Each institution contributed “tools” to the system.  The University of Michigan made the largest contribution, a course management system named CHEF.  The original collaborators then named the open source system after the well-known Iron Chef, Hiroyuki Sakai.  Sakai is a Java based system, a problem in the view of some in the field.

Ryan Veety, network security analyst for the  Minisink Valley Central School District in in Slate Hill, NY, did a side by side comparison of Moodle and Sakai.  What he found was that the initial set-up of Moodle is easier, but the user interface was superior on Sakai.  Interestingly, at the end of the research period his teachers preferred Moodle, but the students preferred Sakai.

The latest statistics from Sakai show that there are more than 350 participants in Sakai. These include schools from the US and Scotland, Algeria, Romania, New Zealand, and Guatemala.  There is a growing international use of the system  As an Atlantan, I was especially impressed by seeing Georgia Tech on the list.  Sakai serves more than 1.25 million students inside the U.S., and more than 4 million students worldwide.

On one comparison graph the line for growth for Moodle was at the top, and the line of comparison for Sakai was toward the bottom.   Here is why:  Moodle has 64,854 registered sites in 235 countries.  It has proven to be an enormous success worldwide.

I am still going to choose Sakai.  One of the things that impressed me the most from my reading was how students find Sakai as a product.  When a system is judged as more user-friendly for students,  this must weigh heavily in a final decision.  In “theJournal,”  Ryan Veety spoke enthusiastically about how easy he has found the maintenance of  the Sakai product in his school system.  Additionally, I am choosing Sakai because technically advanced and novice users all found Sakai a productive tool that slashes the expenses incurred by commercial products.

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