Troy Patterson

Educator, Thinker, Consultant

Month: April 2015

Moodle vs Classroom Update

The last post pointed out some of the differences between Moodle and Google Classroom. Of course, Google being Google, they updated Google Classroom the next day.

The update addressed a couple of major concerns: multiple teachers and the ability to delay posts (create drafts). These are two very welcome upgrades. It demonstrates one of the advantages of Google’s iteration scheme. A weakness was discovered and addressed. Much joy in Mudville.

On the flip side, note that the teacher that is invited to edit the classroom has all of the same rights as the originating teacher – with the exception that the invited teacher can’t delete the course. In Moodle, a teacher has much more fine grain permissions that can be granted. The originating teacher in Moodle can give the co-teacher the right to just grade but not to change the content of the course OR to have the same rights OR just about anything that the teacher wants. Of course, this means planning and training. This is a great feature in the real world. Teachers who work together sometimes have different ways of accomplishing goals. Sometimes they have different understandings. A teacher knowing for sure that their content is safe and can’t be changed can be very reassuring. Also, this helps prevent accidental changes. I know many co-teachers who are working with two or three lead teachers. Keeping things organized is paramount. Accidental mistakes can happen.

Moodle contains many ways to prepare content ahead of time and schedule the delivery of content, activities and resources. Theoretically, one could schedule an entire year ahead of time (bad pedagogy for a classroom that meets physically though).

Also note that students can move/delete files from the Classroom folder. This breaks the connection between those files and Classroom. Hopefully, Google will resolve this issue soon as well.

The recent updates are a nice snapshot of the advantage and disadvantage of Google Classroom. It is still regularly updated. The updates address needs that users have. However, Google is not coming at this from a true educational perspective. They are still not addressing the underlying issues of pedagogy. They are focused on the S in the SAMR model.

Moodle is also frequently updated (every six months an updated version is released). Moodle also addresses teacher concerns. Moodle is also built on the concepts of good educational practice. However, Moodle is also more complex and needs more of a training commitment.

Neither tool is the right tool. Both have their place. Thankfully, teachers have options.

Moodle vs Google Classroom

Dr Jak Tangkuampien, over at Jak’s Thoughts, has a terrific write up about Moodle vs Google Classroom. I had been thinking many of the same thoughts, but he has written up before I did. Give his post a good read. But first, I’d like to expand on couple of thoughts about Moodle vs Google Classroom.

Underlying pedagogy

Google Classroom does a really good job of replicating what many teachers are very comfortable doing already. That is, Google Classroom allows teachers to create documents (templates) that are then distributed to the students to complete and turn in. Google Classroom organizes this nicely. This is analogous to creating a worksheet and passing it out to students. Classroom does make this a digital transaction, but it doesn’t fundamentally change the relationship or the process of education.

Moodle was founded with constructivist educational strategies in mind. Founded by Martin Dougiamas, Moodle was the result of his experience with distance learning in the Australian outback. He was also interested in social constructivist teaching strategies.

Developed by Teachers

Whereas Moodle is developed by educators with an educational bent, Classroom is designed by engineers geared toward education. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Engineers can come up with wonderful ideas.

Long term viability

Google has a tendency to iterate, iterate, iterate. That means that things change. Most of the time, this is for the best. However, as a long time user of Google Reader, well, as a former user of Google Reader, I can tell you that relying on Google to have a product around forever and lead to disappointment. Google killed Google Reader back in 2013. This was after Google had effectively killed off all the other RSS readers but making Reader free and phenomenal. Similarly, Google has retired many other products. A few come to mind:

  • Google Wave
  • Google Health
  • iGoogle
  • Knol

Google has no problem discontinuing products that it no longer feels deserve it’s attention. One must be aware that the discontinuation of a product is definitely a possibility. Thus, given this history, the end of Google Classroom is always a possibility.

Moodle is open source. Even if Martin Dougiamas (founder of Moodle) decides to move on, Moodle can continue to be developed. In fact, there are several forks of Moodle already in existence. Thus, Moodle is sure to be around for quite some while.


Google Classroom handles the distribution and collection of materials. Using Google tools, the teacher can also create quizzes that students complete. Moodle does these things as well. However, Moodle has a great more flexibility and functionality built in.

Jak’s Thoughts

Jak’s Thoughts is a nice write up. He includes things like multiple teachers, groups, the ability to create prior to distribution and more. Multiple teachers is a huge issue for my district. We utilize team teaching throughout the district. Moodle allows for that collaboration to happen easily. Teachers can allow other teachers to just view, to help with grading or to fully edit a course. This power is greatly needed.


Google Classroom is a nice tool. It has a beneficial role for teachers. The learning curve to get started is certainly much lower than Moodle. If you are looking for an investment that can lead to true change, Moodle is hard to beat. If you are looking to move toward using digital tools and taking a small step with low barriers, Google Classroom is a great choice.

Great Tools Matter

TWSBI 580Great tools matter. I like to joke that my daughter made me buy a fountain pen. Actually, it was both daughters. My oldest daughter let me write with her new fountain pen. I really liked the feel and the result of the pen. I had always thought that fountain pens were old fashioned. I thought that they were very troublesome to use. I was wrong. I chatted with my youngest daughter. She put together a wonderful chart that described the pros and cons of a variety of fountain pens. After our discussion, I ordered a TWSBI 580 and a variety of ink colors.

I found myself taking more care with my writing. Although my handwriting is certainly nothing to, um, write home about, it is much more legible now. The care that I’m taking is producing tangible results. I’ll continue to work on penmanship as well. The tool does make a difference.

I’ve long known this. I’ve always purchased good tools – tools in the literal sense. I have a toolbox full of Craftsman tools that I know that I can rely on. I knew when I bought them, that I was buying tools that would last.

This is one of the reasons that I’m a big proponent of Moodle. Moodle is a great tool. Moodle is the tool that I know that I’ll be able to continue to count on to provide online learning. It may not be the flashiest tool. There may be some expense in terms of learning how to use Moodle, but, in the end, it remains a powerful tool that will serve me well.

I’m a convert to the fountain pen world. I really do like to find the right tool. Some things just feel right. When you find those things, treasure them. Great tools matter.

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