Why Moodle Isn’t Really Free

When you hear “free,” you probably think, well, free. If I tell you that this soda, this popcorn, this television, this whatever – is free, you expect me to hand it over in exchange for nothing.

What about software? We’ve all found free software out in the wilds of the Internet. We manage our email on Gmail for free. We upload videos to YouTube and never pay a dime. And so when a robust learning management system is touted as free – well, we think that sounds great!

Until we start investigating a little.

Make no mistake – Moodle offers some highly creative ways to organize and manage your content, but calling it free – and thinking that means you won’t pay for it – is a bit of a misnomer.

It starts with small costs: hosting your Moodle content, for example. You can find cheap commercial hosting – but is that the right choice for your proprietary and confidential company training? Do you want your employees to be able to log onto Moodle via your company intranet? That’ll cost you.

Now that your hosting is settled, how exactly are you getting your content onto Moodle? Will dedicated employees spend their time on this project? Are you hiring or contracting with someone specifically for this purpose? With all that “Free” talk flying around, it’s easy to forget that getting up and running will, in fact, cost you money.

Are you happy with the basics? Great! But – maybe tomorrow, you’ll need something more. Maybe you already do now. Any functionality beyond the minimum may wind up costing you money you didn’t budget for with your “free” solution.

By the way, do you know how to do everything you need to do with Moodle? At minimum, someone in your organization is going to have to spend time learning the ins and outs of the system. Time is money – and most of us would rather know the cost up front, rather than finding our pockets unexpectedly emptied halfway through a project. Other options is to opt for value added and support services from the service providers, here we are talking paid services.

Have you used Moodle? What costs did you incur? And how did they affect your wallet?

Photo by Tim Parkinson.