Troy Patterson

Educator, Thinker, Consultant

Category: Google

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.

Moodle & Google Classroom

Introducing Classroom for Google Apps for Education 2014-09-07 13-59-08 2014-09-07 13-59-11

Google Classroom is now available for Google Apps for Education users. Please note that you must be a Google Apps customer to use Classroom. Google Classroom comes with the tag line More teaching, Less tech-ing. One of the major points of Classroom is the move to paperless. The bullet points include:

  • Easy to set up
  • Saves time
  • Improves organization
  • Enhances communication
  • Affordable and secure

In the real world, how does this play out? I’ve only had a limited experience with Classroom so far, but here are my thoughts.


Originally, anyone in the district could sign in as a teacher. There was absolutely no way to control this. Whenever a user went to Classroom, the user was asked if they were a Student or Teacher. If they clicked the Teacher button, they were automatically given teacher privileges. This means that anyone could create a class and enroll students. Furthermore, the actual setting was for anyone verified or pending. Thus, once the district administrator went in, students could be rejected. However, if the administrator never checked, the students would always have access. More importantly, the potential for frustration, miscommunication and misunderstanding is huge. Google did pretty quickly add a setting into the administrative counsel to adjust the setting to verified only. This means that users can request to be a teacher, but an administrator must approve them before they are ready to use Classroom. This is largely because teachers are essentially just members of a special Group. This group can now be pre-populated by uploading a csv file. However, this is extra work. We already have all of our teachers in an OU (organizational unit) within Google. It’s frustrating that we can’t just use that.


Google Classroom is simple and appealing in looks. There is a large header graphic and then a two column layout. The left hand column is narrower and holds information (Upcoming assignments, Class code). The right hand column contains the main feed (box to update status and a listing of previous posts). The posts come in two flavors:

  • Announcements
  • Assignments

This makes it very easy to, well, make and announcement or add an assignment. The feed looks very similar to Facebook or Google+. It is simple to read.


From a teacher perspective, the assignment feed is very powerful. There is one button to click Assignment to create a new assignment. Then fill in a couple of fields (Title, Description, Due), click on an icon to upload an assignment, to add one from Drive, from YouTube, or a link. If the teacher picks a document that is in Google Drive, they can choose how to distribute it to the students:

  • Students can view file
  • Students can edit file
  • Make a copy for each student

This makes it really easy to create a template document and distribute to students. Essentially, Google Classroom creates a shared folder (called Classroom) in the teacher’s Drive folder. Each class that the teacher creates is a folder within the Classroom folder. Then each assignment becomes a folder within the class folder. Each students’ assignment is a file within this folder. This means that if the teacher is familiar with Google Drive, this will be familiar. However, I can easily see this getting out of hand quickly. We’ll need to monitor this.

Classroom and Moodle

The process of enrolling teachers and students is a pretty much a wash. Moodle is easier for us (district administrators) to get teachers enrolled. It also requires no additional attention by us. New teachers are automatically assigned the proper permissions when they are hired and put into an OU. For students, the process is very similar.

In terms of appearance, Classroom wins. It is very pleasing to eye. There are some discoverability issues, as in “What do I click?, but mostly it is very quick to learn and very not confusing. It looks like a 21st century application. Moodle is making strides, but still lags behind. Moodle does present all of the options that you have though.

In terms of use, well, this will need a few more posts. Suffice it to say that Classroom is very easy to use in terms of recreating the worksheet model. That is, if you consider a teacher’s job to be handing out worksheets, Classroom does this really, really well. It the major concern is to move to a paperless system, Classroom is a great choice. This is not to say that great things can’t be done. They can. However, I’m concerned that this become substitution only. Moodle has more powerful options, more opportunities for changing the way of teaching.

My thoughts

This is not an either/or for us at this point. We’ll offer both to teachers and hope that they take advantage of both. Classroom seems very limited right now. However, teachers also need to get used to using online tools. The learning curve for Classroom is lower than Moodle. It is my hope that Classroom will lead to teachers wanting more power and options and control. Then Moodle will be a great choice.


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