[Offtopic] WebCT and Moodle

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Mon May 1 23:15:16 EST 2006

Open source cuts distance
Derek Parker (snip)
APRIL 26, 2006


WITH software at the heart of online and distance education, the value of 
open source software that is simple and robust is becoming increasingly 
apparent, according to Peter Hughes, co-ordinator of the media studies 
program at Victoria's La Trobe University.

"For several years I used the proprietary software package WebCT in my 
teaching," he says.

"It was very good for placing support materials for lectures and 
tutorials online, and there was a good facility for discussions, email 
and student interaction within the group. 

It also helped students create their own websites, which was important 
for several of my courses." 

"There was no requirement for the students to download specific software. 
All they needed was a password to access the website." 

"But we started to experience problems around 2001-02, after there was 
[an upgrade] of the package by the supplier. We began to experience 
difficulties with some operating platforms and browsers, especially on 
the older generation of computers. It also started to get rather slow and 

"In an academic environment, what you need is simplicity and reliability, 
so we started to look elsewhere." 

Hughes explains that colleagues pointed to Moodle, an open source -- that 
is, freely available from the web -- package. After testing it for 
suitability, he switched to Moodle in 2003. 

"Basically, it gave us everything that we had before, with a graphical 
user interface that was very simple to operate. 

"I think the problems that had developed with WebCT related to the 
tendency of proprietary software developers to .. increase the number of 
possible applications and users. It can mean that the package becomes 
more specialised and less robust. 

"Robustness and reliability [haven't] been a problem with Moodle. We 
conducted a survey of student users in 2004 and it showed that they were 
very happy with it; it was transparent and simple, and it allowed them to 
focus on the teaching materials rather than the delivery system." ..

Stephen Loosley

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