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Why Southern Oregon University and Amherst College Use Moodle™ by eThink

By January 21, 2021 No Comments

Moodle™ is the most widely adopted LMS in the world, covering more than 295+ million users. In the United States, Moodle™ is considered one of the top learning management solutions, and it further sets itself apart from other solutions due to its open-source code base. As an open-source LMS solution, Moodle™ is community-driven, highly interoperable, and very flexible. These characteristics have helped it maintain a consistently strong market share for years, supporting the learning needs of organizations and institutions alike.

eThink offers fully-managed Moodle™ solutions and services to help clients facilitate online and hybrid learning. In other words, we make it easy to use Moodle™ by covering all LMS-related needs including hosting, implementation, consulting, integrations and support.

In a recent webinar, our clients at Southern Oregon University and Amherst College discussed their experiences navigating the LMS selection process within their universities, what advantages led them to choose Moodle™ as their LMS, why they partnered with eThink for support for Moodle™, and how the eThink team has helped them support learners in today’s current climate. We’ll highlight some of the key takeaways from the session in this blog post and further explore the value of an LMS hosting partnership.

LMS Selection: Factors to Consider When Evaluating an LMS Platform

There are numerous options to choose from within the Learning Management System (LMS) market. So, why is it that – on a global scale – people choose Moodle™ more than any other LMS?

The decision-making process looks a little different for every organization, but many higher education institutions tend to consider similar criteria. The following were a few of the key considerations for Southern Oregon University and Amherst College that led them to choose Moodle™:

  • Integrations: For both universities, one of the biggest factors for selecting both an LMS and a provider was integration capability. Most organizations have other systems and tools that need to interact or be connected with the LMS, such as a Student Information System (SIS) or laboratory and research data systems. As an open-source solution, Moodle™ is highly interoperable in nature, making integrations with a variety of systems smooth and seamless.
  • Configurability & Flexibility: In a similar vein, both universities also indicated that configurability was especially important for their decisions. Every institution has unique needs, and most LMS solutions will not satisfy everyone’s requirements in their default configurations. Fortunately, Moodle™ is very flexible and can be configured to incorporate unique themes, plugins, design elements, and many other settings modifications.
  • Barriers to Entry: Many LMS options have a high licensing cost and cannot be easily hosted elsewhere. Although Southern Oregon University hosts its main LMS through eThink, the team also has a separate, local implementation thanks to Moodle™’s flexible and freely available code base that allows for self-hosting. This helps them to experiment, troubleshoot and otherwise understand the platform better.
  • Ease of Use: Finally, many organizations indicate that the ease of use of Moodle™ is a major element in choosing it. It is easy to start using immediately and is also highly scalable, especially if you partner with Moodle™ experts to handle the configuration and implementation.

LMS Hosting: Choosing Whether to Self-Host or Partner with an LMS Service Provider

Although Moodle™ is open source and can be implemented in-house by any organization or institution, it is often wise to select a managed hosting solution. This allows you to delegate back-end processes, upgrades, and other time-consuming LMS management tasks to experts, while your team can focus more on end-user experience and supporting learners. In the case of Amherst College, some personnel who had been primarily responsible for maintaining the in-house implementation left. This led them to realize that they needed a hosted solution for the sake of consistency and to better apply their resources.

When it comes to Moodle™ hosting and support, you have options. There are a number of Moodle™ partners across the globe that provide hosting and specialize in their own areas. That said, eThink specializes in a fully-managed support model that includes unlimited support, powerful integrations, and award-winning services. These are some factors you may consider when selecting an LMS hosting partner:

  • Implementation Help: Getting Moodle™ (or any other LMS) set up with your institution’s unique preferences and branding is no small matter. Whether you are transitioning a current Moodle™ installation to a new Moodle™ provider or starting from scratch, completing this process and maintaining your solution while supporting active learners can be difficult. Both Southern Oregon University and Amherst College reported a smoother and successful implementation with eThink at their side.
  • Support Offerings: Once the initial setup has been completed, it is helpful to have fast and responsive support. This can be challenging to evaluate and there are important factors to consider, such as ticket-response time, completion of tickets, and how sustainable support is once implementation is complete. Fortunately, eThink has an average ticket-response rate time of under one hour, which is significantly lower than the industry standard where you typically wait 24-48 hours for a live response. eThink supports clients from start to finish when it comes to your eLearning programs. The responsiveness of your LMS partner will be extremely important during upgrades, when troubleshooting, or in an any kind of technical emergency.
  • Upgrades: The eLearning partner you choose will determine how upgrades are managed for your Moodle™ instance. One of the key factors for Southern Oregon University was the software upgrade cycle. Their previous hosting service had forced upgrade windows. eThink allows customers to upgrade on their own schedules, allowing you to test new changes prior and upgrade when it is most convenient for your learners.
  • Cost: As mentioned, Moodle™ is free for anyone to download. However, even with free software, there is always an associated cost to host and maintain the software. Naturally, cost is a major factor when selecting whether to self-host or to partner with a Moodle™ provider. Often, it is more cost-effective to partner with a Moodle™ provider who can offer support at scale and thus cheaper than an institution could if it were to host internally. Pricing for Moodle™ providers vary, as do the levels of support, so it is wise to identify any costs that might be considered an “add-on” or not included down the road in order to get a full scope of expected costs. For Amherst College, other hosts appeared to be promising the world for a small price, with little proof of delivery. Conversely, eThink is very transparent and specific in our pricing model. This gave the team confidence that the quoted price would be the actual price and have since found proof of value in eThink’s consistently high-touch, high-quality service and support.

Ongoing LMS Support: Using an LMS During COVID and Other Challenging Times

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many organizations to rethink how they handle digital learning. Many universities transitioned to online or hybrid learning in 2020. Unfortunately, unexpected disruptions like a global pandemic, natural disasters, or other challenges can happen anywhere and at any time, and being ready for them is essential.

For Southern Oregon University, the increase in their LMS usage was exponential as they were forced to move fully online. Fortunately, they were able to rely on eThink for unwavering support and to generate customized reports that helped with better understanding the changes in their Moodle™ usage and how to react to them.

Similarly, the change to remote learning was very sudden at Amherst College. Among other measures, they integrated Zoom, a web conferencing tool, into Moodle™ to better streamline learning delivery and connect students at a distance. It is integrations and opportunities such as this that have helped cement Moodle™ as a go-to option for flexible and convenient learning management.

Whatever the challenge or new project that might arise, eThink offers clients ongoing support for Moodle™ and guidance to help them continue to meet their goals as they evolve.

Reasons to Moodle™ with eThink

If you choose to use Moodle™ LMS, you have several choices for how to host it. eThink has established itself as one of the largest Moodle™ providers thanks to our high-quality support and customer-centric service model.

Southern Oregon University went online during the middle of winter term finals. There was an early issue with some tests caused by scaling usage without scaling the implementation. eThink was able to fix the issue overnight, ensuring a completely smooth finals period.

Amherst College reported similar successes, especially during the implementation process. By relying on eThink, they were able to get Moodle™ up and running in a hosted environment in a timely and streamlined manner.

To learn more about about each of these institution’s experiences with Moodle™ by eThink, check out the recording of the panel webinar below.

The stories and thoughts shared by the representatives of these two eThink clients exemplify the benefits of choosing eThink to host your Moodle™ instance. Contact eThink to learn more about eThink’s fully-managed Moodle™ solution or request an individual demonstration.

By January 21, 2021
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