Initially we chose Moodle 1.9 to act as a courseware repository to support our classroom training. Once we started focusing on online asynchronous learning, we realized that Moodle 1.9 was not going to solve our problems.
About 6 months back, we decided to commit to Moodle 2.2 for being our primary LMS and started working on customizing the same. It took us ~4 months to change Moodle as per our requirements. I think choosing Moodle over our own custom implementation helped us quickly migrate to a new system, kept our development time and cost under control and helped us focus on real customer pain points. If we had developed our own system from scratch, I am sure that based on customer review, the first implementation was not going to be approved.
I have benchmarked our implementation against the other ones (typical implementation done by a well-funded company in quite some time) and I think that the following features match the best:
Re-skinning of the themes
We created our own theme based on the default set of themes available, and started to understand how the theming in Moodle is being done. The idea was to assume that the people who contributed to Moodle’s code would have built-in methods that somehow abstract the programmer from the nitty-gritty and give him an easier way (other than brute forcing) to get things done. Sadly, here we found that some of these awesome features are simply not documented enough and you have to hit the code or the Moodle forums for finding this!
Cut out the non-essential features
After studying our own usage of Moodle, we realized that there are a tonne of features which we are not using (we do not have teachers logging in to grade students, the grading is calculated as a report based on quiz and test performances), so no grading, no teachers logins, etc. Moodle has a rich set of features, in fact, more than any of the other open source learning management systems.
Treatment for different resources
In Moodle, all the items that you upload in one course is treated as either an activity or a resource. We thought that since our resources are specifically excelled sheets, videos and pdf files, each of them should get special treatment. Keeping all the resources on one page can lead to a lot of confusion for users. So we added a new feature wherein the student could choose specific resources and view all the videos in one filter, all the quizzes in another.
Re-defining the Content Granularity
In Moodle, within a course you have sections/topics and within those you have resources. However, most of our courses had three around each other (a video explaining a concept, an excel sheet demonstrating the concept and a quiz testing the concept). Thus, the smallest learning unit in our course was a mix of three resources. Using filters we redefined the learning units and combined multiple resources to deliver better understanding for our users.
Removing the forums
The forums offered in Moodle are not as stable as other open source forums easily available. We integrated the popularly available phpBB with Moodle so that the discussion around each course directly shows up within the course.
Search Suggest feature
Since most of our courses had more than 100-150 videos, we decided to implement a strong search feature with auto-suggest.
Reporting and Grading
EduPristine provides training for financial certifications such as CFA®, FRM and PRM. These exams have relative grading. We decided to implement relative grading for our students, based on the scores they achieve in the course quizzes and tests.
Most of our video-based courses are asynchronous courses (where it’s not according to a batch), wherein a clear plan needs to be provided to the student as to how a course is going to pan out over the next few weeks and what are the actions expected by the student. For each of our topics, we added course planners where the user gets clear instructions on how to tackle that particular topic.
Modification is still not complete. We continue to experiment, introduce and remove features. It will take some more time for us to understand what is the best way to teach financial courses. We were also featured on Moodle News recently.