I work in a 6th form college and just have managed to install and configure Moodle on our intranet and was intending to put it online.
However, a VLE by a company called Fronter is suddenly being pushed by the LGFL.
If I have to be perfectly honest, the whole deal just seems so dodgy for the following reasons:
- LGFL doesn’t mind which VLE we get, as long as it is Fronter (because then they get a group discount)
- Fronter presentations are vague and have poor detail. Actuall tehnical details are really being discussed nor they are mentioned on their website. They basically can't stop giving the salesman’s talk about how simple Fronter is, and what great features it has, and that it can work with SIMS (which is awful anyway) which basically only appeals to the school Heads who usually are IT illiterate and just want to please the teaching staff who have the same level of knowledge.
- LGFL is paying for a free 1 years installation and trial, which means low-tech capable people will get hooked on it and find it almost impossible to change over to a different VLE if Fronter is no good - follow the example of Edutrack and SIMS, which are both poor
- Any details involving costs are always discussed last and not present on Fronter's web site; i.e. year cost, upgrades cost, cost of the machine needing to run Fronter (if its ran on site rather than online), costs of additional modules
I might be wrong about all this as I haven't used Fronter myself, so I need opinions.
Where are you based? I am based in havering we had all the sales pitch - I have to say the product looks good and I know of schools that really rate it as single school VLE solution.
Having said that I agree more details are needed as this is a big project; an London wide sims integrated solution that allows students to move seamlessly from school to school and even LEA to LEA; and one that is going to be a bumpy ride at times I imagine.
I am currently developing a moodle site for my school. I find it simple and easy to use - in fact it is too simple for me really, as i would rather FTP alot of my files to the site directly and then configure. The fact is, it can be used by none IT professionals.
Out of interest, how much is your school being charged for hosting for Moodle or your other VLE?
Moodle and Fronter are different ... you need to start putting in ELGG (I mean EduSpaces) and maybe Plone / Zope to get the full effect.
However ... for most schools Moodle is all you need.
The thing to be careful of (and this is where I get flamed by people) is that by going seperate to the main group (ie LGfL) you risk missing out a heap of educational resources and opportunities. There are times when you have to accept that you are not using the best software but you are using some of the best resources.
It all depends on how much your school (and the teachers in it) want to share with others (ie steal resources from other schools in the area / collaborate!)
We're based in harrow. Have you had a look at Moodle at all?
It's free, and it pretty much does the same thing.
I have already implemented a moodle VLE at my current site, I have to admit it would be nice to get it off the current server as it is installed on windows 2000 member server that needs decomissioning really.
The ICT department like it and I believe it has helped with tracking of coursework / homework quite effectively. Not mention cut down on some of waste caused by excessive print outs.
Not everything in moodle is straight forward though, eg linking up to AD took me 2 days.
We are looking at all options currently and had Fronter in this week. They were very vague but answered most questions with 'yes'.
As Grumbledook says it may be better to go with the group and share (steal) resources than have your own setup.
One thing that springs to mind is what happens if your moodle/frog person up sticks and goes. Can their work be carried on.
Another + point for Fronter was the remote hosting, no additional expensive server purchases or hardware downtime that you can be blamed for. Not saying that we are looking to go the Fronter route, just one of its + sides for us.
The question should be what is suitable for users.
Users I mean staff, parents and students not the IT department.
Learning platfroms are the foundation for us to change the way in which learning will develop not about which is preferable from the teckie perspective.
Sorry to be harsh its the facts of life. Grumbledock is right.
Think about this we can all cook a meal for a couple of people and it will be good ( install moodle) but can we cater for 600 ( federation of schools) ndifferent ball game folks. We may not have a varied choice or even the most exotic but hopefully its warm, delivered on time, plenty of it and we have some wine at the end
I would further expand it actually to help point a few things out.
Imagine that you believe that your schools can do best with providing the right nutritional elements to your students and so you have your own catering firm with people with the right skills. You have Moodle.
This has been done because the county catering group just want to ram turkey twizzlers down the throughts of kids because it is a cheap way of getting something hot to students that looks ok to them, appears to be tasy but is just full of crap!
The difficult bit is to get a company that can do the good food as well as fitting it to a lot of schools ... even helping schools with their own staff to share reciepes ... and even swap chefs / cooks when needed.
Fronter is pushing its ability to link up with SIMS. Well SIMS is MSSQL, and there are free converters available to get it converted to MySQL. Besides, has anyone here had a pain free SIMS experience? That software package and their support is so poor. We're considering replacing it here.
I had some tough time figuring out IIS, MySQL, PHP and the whole Moodle installation and setup, and it took me weeks, but in the end I did figure it out, and Im not an IT expert. Fronter would mean easier life for me, when I got someone else to do most of my work.
However, I must be mad for thinking that taxpayers money should have some value to it.
It's not as if it's coming out of our pockets.
We bought our own web server, and we intend to run it from here. It can also be ran over the network alone. We're just gonna make use of our 100mbit (synchronous) internet connection. I do not know how much we're paying for it as I think that the harrow council is taking care of that.
Moodle is free.
Fronter is not. It costs thousands.
Moodle software is free, but the system as a whole is not. You need hardware, staff time for installation and maintenance, training. I am a great advocate of Moodle (we use it here in our ICT dept and plan to make it school wide soon) but it certainly isn't free.
Isn't Fronter just a re-branded Digital Brain?
(I loathed Digital Brain with passion and it's one of the reasons I left my previous job. I'd spent 2 years developing the use of Moodle in the ICT department with support of the Head of Dept and Deputy Head in charge of ICT only to be told that I had to scrap it all because the school was now going to use Digital Brain in line with the County. That was 2 years ago, I think the school still doesn't have a VLE implemented!)
Fronter is *not* Digital Brain. They are 2 seperate companies with 2 seperate ways of dealing with Online Learning. LGfL will be running both as this is the method they prefer at the moment (and that is a seriously lengthy discussion!)
Dagza's site (www.e-subjects.co.uk) is wonderful and show what can happen when people share resources ... imagine what happens if hundreds of schools share resources. We wouldn't all be here if that wasn't the case ... and like Moodle this site is not free ...
There are always costs that get missed. Staff training, hardware, consumables (presuming you back things up!) ... a lot of these costs are part and parcel of what you buy into with a learning platform.
If a Moodle Solutions Provider (MoodleRooms, etc) had managed to get onto the Becta list do you think that it would have been free? Nope ... the costs would have been based on hardware, training, support and consultancy ...
Would it have been any cheaper that other providers? Possibly ... we don't know since those LAs / RBCs that are having Moodle as well actually roll some of the cost into other funding.
I am a Moodle Advocate but I would not say it is better than any other platform purely on cost ... it has to be decided on functionality. It has to be about what it does for your school and the staff & students in it.
I agree with what you're saying. Moodle costs hardware and staff time.
However, for that money gets invested in a server that's here to stay for a while at least and can be used for other things if something better than moodle comes along.
With fronter you just pay for a yearly license. Nevermind the installation costs and paying for extras.
As for staff time, I'm the e-learning coordinator hired to work with an VLE. I could take fronter and train staff on it and then watch the shiny lights blink on our new piece of kit.
I however prefer to use the option that moodle gives you, which is to figure out stuff for yourself. I suppose most people prefer clockin on, daily grind, clocking off.
Yes there are companies that provide moodle consultancy, but you dont have to take it, everything is online, you just need to spend some time browsing, asking questions and learning things for yourself.
I'd also suggest anyone to spend some time creating comprehensive video tutorials for staff. They save loads of time on training.