Outsourcing Moodle: a viable option?

Moodle is a leading open-source learning management system that is fast becoming a common alternative to Blackboard and WebCT on college campuses. While a free, open-source package sounds wonderful, it is never truly free. If Illinois Wesleyan decides to go with Moodle on our own, we have many costs. First, it would need to reside on a server with adequate storage and bandwidth. Second, we would need to integrate it with existing systems. Third, we would need to provide adequate resources to maintain the server and software, ensuring reliability and security. Fourth, we would need to provide training and support to our community. So, with a shortage of people and money, what to do?

Well, there are a number of firms that provide hosted Moodle solutions, some of which also provide integration services. Some will even train our staff to prepare us to work with users.

With that in mind, I’ve done a cursory look through some of the offerings. Again, the criteria are:

  1. Hosting (price, storage, bandwidth)
  2. Integration (price, Banner, Luminis portal)
  3. Support (maintenance agreement)
  4. Training

Here are the major players measured against the criteria above:

  • Remote Learner – adequate hosting for $1500 on up, server support for $2000-3500 annually which would probably include help with integration. It looks like we would be largely on our own for training – they have some affordable options but they are far away and limited in scope.
  • Moodle Rooms – adequate hosting for $1500 on up, with “customization” on a call-for-a-quote basis. They have done a Banner/Luminis integration project before. Training is expensive at $2500+ per class. 
  • Classroom Revolution – adequate hosting for $1299 on up. Support is limited without an additional contract ($60/hr or $800/year for online support). They will do “customization” but don’t note any experience with Banner/Luminis on their website. They do offer a more affordable online training option ($500) along with an expensive onsite one ($2000+).

Please remember that this is a quick summary based mostly on websites. When I say “adequate” hosting I mean generally “one notch above the minimum”, or something that we could start with and scale up a bit with no additional upcharge. Support and customization are an unknown quantity since I haven’t seen any Service Level Agreements from any of these firms.

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