As an open-source Learning Management System (LMS), Moodle offers multiple hosting options to help institutions and organizations successfully manage their platform. One way many users get started with Moodle is by using the free or low-cost hosting service provided at MoodleCloud.com. Here you can quickly set up a complete and working Moodle site that includes all the core features and a handful of integrations as well.
What Organizations is MoodleCloud Best Used for?
MoodleCloud is perfect for users just getting started in eLearning or exploring what an LMS can do for them. Organizations with a Moodle site with 500 or less users will find that MoodleCloud can meet most, if not all, of the basic needs and requirements for their learning program.
MoodleCloud plans range from $80 AUD/year for a site with up to 50 users and up to 200MB of file storage to $1000 AUD/year for up to 500 users and 1GB of storage. The paid tiers of MoodleCloud also include more advanced features such as session recording, custom certificates, automated backups, advanced themes, and an advanced pack with includes popular plugins such as Attendance, Level up!, and Quiz venture. It is a pretty good deal for a fully functioning LMS that is hosted off site and will no doubt meet the needs of many small organizations.
Hitting the limits: Have You Outgrown Your MoodleCloud?
Because Moodle is such a fantastic tool that can be used for much more than simplified course dissemination, organizations may find themselves hitting the limits of the MoodleCloud service when looking to expand and diversify their learning content. Soon, organizations using the tool may find themselves outgrowing the service in at least three areas: limits on users and storage, extensibility, and service. We’ll explore each of these in more detail and why you might want to consider alternative cloud hosting if your LMS is lacking in either…
Limits on Users and Storage
One frequently asked question when clients talk to eThink is the process by which we count “active users”. An active user is anyone who logs into the system during the year. A client could have 10,000 users on the Moodle site, but if only 1,000 of them log in during the year, only those 1,000 count towards the active users. This means that schools or businesses can retain inactive accounts on their site for reporting or archival purposes without having to pay for those users.
Additionally, if a client exceeds the contracted number of active users, eThink will still allow those additional users to access the system and adjust the contract later.
MoodleCloud puts limits on the total number of users in the system, and once those limits are reached, no additional user accounts will be permitted to be added to the system.
For example, if a small school reaches their 200-user limit in the second semester, they will have to either delete several users from the site or contract for the next tier of users before additional users can be added.
A similar limitation applies to file storage. While 1GB of storage might seem like a lot, many eThink clients far exceed that amount of space, even if they are not very big. Keep in mind that videos can take up quite a bit of room, so clients who want to allow students to upload video responses to assignments could be limiting themselves. If the limits are reached, files will have to be deleted from the system for new files to be added.
Because eThink offers unlimited storage, this limitation is never an issue. Clients can upload as much content as they need to without having to remove previous content (that may still be in use).
You can see the different MoodleCloud plans and current pricing below.
One of the fantastic features of Moodle is the vast array of plugins that are available to extend the features of the core product. These plugins are developed and maintained by the Moodle community and are easily installed on Moodle sites across the globe. Plugins are one of the significant strengths of an open-source product like Moodle.
MoodleCloud users are restricted from taking advantage of this feature. Until a user subscribes to one of the Moodle for School packages, the only plugin that comes installed with the MoodleCloud service is BigBlueButton, a connection to a quality web conferencing tool. Moodle for School subscribers get access to a few more plugins with the Extra plugin pack which adds 7 very useful plugins as listed below.
Since Moodle Cloud does not permit the installation of other plugins, clients who need to extend plugins beyond this list will need to choose other hosting options such as hosting with a Certified Moodle Partner, preferable one that allows for free, unlimited plugin installs on all vetted plugins like eThink Education. With the use of plugins, you can create a significantly more engaging and interactive experience for your learners by easily incorporating tools for gamified learning, microlearning, mobile learning, and much more.
Moodle is free software, so why would anyone pay someone to help them run it? As is the case with all software, there is a learning curve to running Moodle, and while it is fairly intuitive, there are details that can escape all but the most advanced users. There is a lot of documentation and expert developers, partners, and clients within the Moodle community that can help users improve the functionality of their platform, but searching through a plethora of documentation or waiting for an answer to an urgent question from Moodle developers can be frustrating at times. As MoodleCloud even states, “MoodleCloud hosting is inexpensive because we don’t include a lot of support.”
Clients working with a Certified Moodle Partner like eThink can expect a much higher level of service. eThink is proud to employ a large global team of Moodle experts who have many years of collective experience working with Moodle (as well as the new Moodle Workplace). Overall, hosting with a Moodle Partner allows you to tap into all that expertise so you can get the most out of Moodle.
And if for any reason you’re dissatisfied with your LMS service, you can easily migrate your Moodle site to another hosting provider – another perk of open source. This ensures a top level of service for your solution.
Hosting a site on MoodleCloud is a great solution for small or “starter” sites, or for users who want to get a sense of what Moodle can do for them. Soon, many organizations or individuals will eventually run into limitations with this solution. At that point your best plan of action is to explore the Moodle partner portal and contact a certified partner of your choosing that meets your needs around user count, storage space, plugins, hosting and support, and level of product expertise.
If you’re currently hitting your limitations on MoodleCloud or are considering how to get started with Moodle, our team would love to have a conversation! Contact us to let us know what your goals are for your learning program. Or click below to speak with an expert at eThink to see how we might be able to support your Moodle instance. Happy Moodling!