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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Moodle versus Sakai

I received a question about how Moodle compares to Sakai. I'd like to share it with you.

What are the advantages to a ... university of 20,000 faculty and 5,000 students to using Moodle over Sakai?

I found several advantages to Moodle over Sakai:

1. Moodle is better documented from every angle than Sakai. Administrators, Teachers, Students, and Developers all have better documentation in Moodle.

2. There are more official vendors ("Partners") providing service for Moodle than Sakai. Note that the term Moodle Partner is a trademark, and is managed by the founder to ensure that anyone awarded that label knows their stuff.

3. There is a much larger active community for Moodle. It's no advantage to have the most popular software in a category if the community of users don't help each other. But Moodle's community is both larger and more (inter)active than Sakai's. Put simply, if you don't want to or can't pay for consulting, you have a better chance of finding answers from the Moodle community than from the Sakai community.

4. Moodle's user interface is more consistent than Sakai's. And I don't just mean in the traditional sense, where you compare the icons, colors, menu actions, and layout on each page to ensure they match. As you go through a Moodle site, things look, feel, and function consistently. But more importantly, you interact with each activity, your classmates, and the teacher in a consistent way, whether it's in the chat room, a forum, or leaving feedback on a workshop.

This is because Moodle is designed around an educational philosophy called "social constructivist learning." Sakai, on the other hand, is designed around a technical framework. Try as I might, I could not find anywhere on the Sakai websites a statement of their instructional philosophy, or what instructional strategies they strive to support. To an IT person like those I work with every day, this isn't a big deal. But to teachers and students, it is a key point.

3 comments:

darolmar said...

From my point of view, there some issues you have to take into account when choosing an e-learning platform:
- Internationalization: though it is said that Moodle supports more than 70 language, this is not true. Language packages don't cover all Moodle blocks, activities, modules, etc. On the other side, Sakai doesn't support all languages either. Test the two platforms in the languages your users will need.
- Integration with other applications: Moodle only support web services invocation through XML-RPC (in version 2.0 will support also SOAP and REST). Sakai, however, as is built upong JAVA technologies supports SOAP and REST in a "native" way. This makes Sakai the better option when your LMS has to be connected with other systems. However, take a look to Moodle plugins. The final decision will depend on your integration needs.
- O&M: technologically, Sakai is more complex than Moodle and requieres more skilled staff to O&M tasks.
- Staff skills: if your developers use PHP and not JAVA, choose Moodle. If your developer know JAVA, choose Sakai...or give your staff the opportunity of learning Java (but the learning curve is so high, take it into account).

And I also would like to comment something said in this blog:
- Sakai community is very active, too. I know because I'm joined both in Moodle and in Sakai communities.
- Sakai documentation is very good, too. Take a look to http://www.sakaiproject.org. o Sakai Confluence sites.

If you are considering what platform to deploy in your campus, I recommend you Sakai and Moodle books found at http://www.packtpub.com/books, and also my blog (http://david-roldan-martinez.blogspot.com). I can provide more information about these issues.

Erik Aronesty said...

I've tried to get answers from both communities as well, I think JSP is what's bogging Sakai down. It's a cumbersome framework. PHP doesn't have an implicit built-in framework, which means the framework you develop reflects your development strategies. Moodle has its own plug in, module architecture, etc. I think it's easier to learn, easier to customize, etc.

Jems Nichole said...

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Technical Writer