Is open source right for you?

If you do want the ability to tailor your VLE to your particular needs then an open source product can offer considerable flexibility. Unlike an in-house development, you will be part of a community sharing expertise but you should not underestimate the amount of resource required to maintain and host an open source VLE.

Many institutions choose open source because they feel that it fits with their academic ethos. Increasingly however people are turning to partners to help both with their implementation and for external hosting.

Open source software is not one clear-cut product; it needs a particular type of [institutional] culture to support it and if you don't have that it can be quite problematic.

Rob Howe, Head of Learning Technology,
University of Northampton

We had an open source ethos that I celebrate but a culture had developed that if we could - we did, and this challenged long-term sustainability and planning.

David Walker, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning,
University of Sussex

There is a certain amount of 'inertia' in organisations that have either bespoke or open source VLEs as even with an open source product you have to keep reworking customisation.

Mark Pountney, Head of Business Technology and Innovation,
London Business School

Working with a Moodle partner

Moodle (the name is an acronym standing for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) is an open source product that can claim to be the world's most comprehensive virtual learning tool. Its development by a global community means it is adapted to suit a wide variety of learning situations and styles.

The reason it is so comprehensive is because the user community has developed c.1350 'plug-ins' allowing Moodle users to extend the core functionality. This is its strength but also a weakness.

Understanding and keeping track of the available plug-ins is a major task requiring an extensive and well maintained knowledge base. Moodle partners have told us that even large and prestigious institutions sometimes work on old and poorly documented installations.

Historically Moodle partners have undertaken one-off developments for institutions that may themselves have contributed to the sustainability issues. Increasingly they are offering ongoing support and hosting options that take pressure off in-house teams and reduce the risk associated with this type of VLE.

Most of our work is to take legacy installations and version them to something more recent and sustainable with a desirable user experience.

Cyril Bedel, President, EDUNAO