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Choosing a suitable MLE

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Started by Monika Kern 25 Mar 2012 12:31pm () Replies (29)

Hi there, I'm fairly new to VLN but trying hard to get up to speed :)

I work at a Decile 1 Intermediate in the Far North. I would like to run my computing class web based, and advice in a different group was to look at moodle or similar. The MoE website lists three providers for MLEs, KnowledgeNET, Ultranet and Moodle. We have also received information from a 'new to NZ' firm offering EduSpot.

How do we choose the most suitable MLE??? Money is an issue (goes without saying). Any advice would be MUCH appreciated!!!!!


By the way, EduSpot run a webinar on Wednesday 28 March 12:00

Link: https://promo-manager.server-secure.com/ch/7360/r9nb4m/484293/3a1199zcm.html

Meeting Number: 620 618 844

Meeting Password: eduspot

Many thanks in advance, Monika


  • Monika Kern (View all users posts) 10 May 2012 9:03pm ()

    Just wanted to give an update on what has been happening re LM at our school since the start of the term:

    We have been trialling EduSpot with two small classes plus a group of teachers for PD. This particular platform is cloud based, is easy to use and provides a safe environment as all content has to approved by teachers before it can be shared. I have found a few issues that need improving, e.g. your communication with the students works through messages under discussion and files the students download where it might be easier to have some sort of portal site for the class where everyone straight away sees what's on for today. Your own files can be organised into your own folders but this needs to be extended to subfolders and into the space of a group (at this stage all my task sheets and the kids' finished work sit in one space and that will get cluttered easily). I have communicated with their support team, and the suggestions have been passed on to their development team. They have a neat MovieMaker like programme called MyWorkSpace which were are yet to utilise. EduSpot supports pretty much all files formats I have come across, there is an app for iPad I think under construction. One thing they are lacking is the ability to collaborate like th sharing of docs on Google docs.

    Our free trial runs until mid June, so I will know more by then. The cost is $8 per student / year when you're on a 3 y contract. I am not sure if our school will adopt it, mainly because we're having a change of principal, so I am not sure if a decision will be made before the current principal leaves and then I don't know if the new principal is interested in it.

    My students are loving working online, no paper and pens on my class this term (had to borrow a pen from a kid to do my paper roll!!). They are slowly getting into the fact that they can access this from anywhere (a large proportion has no internet at home, and they much rather use their free Internet Time at the local library for FB after we blocked it at school ;-)).

    I will still look into other options, now that I know a bit more what features I like and what I can / want to do. Heaps of people keep on recommending Google - I just found out last week that our students aren't allowed to access their email at our school (one year in, that's a bit embarrassing for me!). I'll definitley investigate it though, rules are there to be broken changed (oops, strikethrough won't come off on the iPad!)

  • Jane Armstrong Bos (View all users posts) 11 May 2012 12:13pm ()

    Hi Monkia,

    Thanks for the update and please keep us posted on your decision and the outcomes following your free trial.

  • Monika Kern (View all users posts) 23 Apr 2012 8:19pm ()

    Thanks so much to everyone contributing to this. Your contributions have raised a lot of qutions we as a school still have to ask ourselves and find an answer for.

    One thing I am certain on is that a cloud hosted service is a better solution for us than keeping everything on our server. I personally am reluctant at this stage to choose Google for this as our students are below gmail age and I feel we need to stick to the rules.

    I liked what EduSpot had to offer in their webinar, especially their 60 day free trial for one class. This gives me a chance to try out what they have to offer without any cost to us. During this time I will hopefully find out what exactly it is that I need to run my programmes.

    I have had at let a quick look at most of the suggestions, some very extensive knowledge here on VLN.

    Thanks heaps again, Monika

  • Barbara Reid (View all users posts) 23 Apr 2012 8:32pm ()

    If you have a Google Apps for Education account, student emails are sitting inside the school domain and age restrictions no longer apply. 

  • heugumper (View all users posts) 15 Apr 2012 6:49pm ()

    Monica, a couple of leads you might follow:

    • Flick through some older presentations: While at the Ministry I was involved in an area of work we called MLE. Together with Ian Munro (still there and good value to call (04 463 7629) we presented on this domain often and you can see the first presentation on slide share (click on the more options to see later presentations).
    • Consider how you can use MyPortfolio.school.nz as a component in your MLE, as it is fee-free to us, has free taster sessions, is widely used (many schools and users) and a good place to explore use by both studewnts and staff. Accoutns can also remain with the user when they change school.


  • Monika Kern (View all users posts) 28 Mar 2012 8:12pm ()

    is there a character limit on comments?!?! My comment has been chopped!!!

    cont. from above:

    Also I need to get the buy-in from other staff, but do they really have the knowledge and understanding, and do they care, about the finer point in difference between different systems?!

    So back to my conclusions about LMS so far:

    * MoE specially mentions Ultranet, Moodle, KnowedgeNet

    *other LMS around include LAMS, edmodo, EduSpot

    *Google offers solutions that can work as LMS, e.g. Google Sites, Apps for Education.  No cost

  • Nick Ford (View all users posts) 29 Mar 2012 10:50am ()

    Yes folk in your position have an important role to play in schools in researching, trialing and evaluating emerging technologies and then in working with fellow teachers, IT staff and management in creating a business case for implementation.

    The business case would address all domains i.e. pedagogy, IT infrastructure, resourcing etc. This needs to be a whole school team effort led by the schools e-Learning lead or e-Learning unit.

    For me an important aspect of the e-Learning lead role is to function as a translator and “glue” in the school, unifying the various stakeholders and ensuring that everyone is talking about the same “thing”.

    Part of this role also involves managing expectations. You are correct in pointing out the shortcomings of an uncoordinated approach based on the preferences of individual teachers. Experience shows that teachers are busy folk and often do not have a full picture of the resource implications of the implementation of new technology.

    Having said that teachers know the business of teaching and learning and improving learner success is the goal. As such it is important that teachers have the freedom to “play” and explore with technology. A bottom up (bubble up from early adopter teachers and learners) and top down (formalized support and processes from management) approach works well. 

    Free stuff
    Technology usually involves a range of dependencies of which teachers are largely oblivious e.g. will the LMS integrate with the student management system, what are the impacts upon other systems in the schools MLE, what are the training, support and administration implications?

    Dependencies usually have resource implications and in the ICT game nothing is completely free. Even the free “stuff” costs when you want to implement on a larger scale or if tighter integration with other systems is required.

    For example, Moodle LMS is a free open source LMS application but if implemented school wide resourcing would be required for a server, staff to administer the system, training for teachers, support for students, integration with other systems e.g. SMS, timetabling system and what about backing the data up … etc.

    Detailed worked needs to be done in identifying requirements and associated resourcing across all domains. If this is not done the danger is that a school could end up painting itself into an expensive technological corner the only way out of which incurs further expense. This work also needs to consider the scalability and sustainability of any solution.

    Google Apps, Moodle, UltraNet, KnowledgeNet, LAMS et al.
    With respect to your summary Google Apps is free however there are other costs that need to be considered depending on the scale of implementation and degree of systems integration.

    The KnowledgeNet, UltraNet and Moodle solutions mentioned on the Ministry of Educations web pages (http://www.minedu.govt.nz/NZEducation/EducationPolicies/Schools/Initiatives/ManagedLearningEnvironments/LearningMgmtSys.aspx) are hosted services i.e. the infrastructure, support, training and administration is undertaken by a commercial company on behalf of the school. The cost pertains to the provision of these services.

    Some schools may have resourcing to manage solutions in-house while (many) others will not and a hosted service may be more appropriate. Requirements, scale and available resource will ultimately inform any decisions.

    As an aside I do not advocate for any specific LMS solution. Upon evaluation I have found many of the LMS choices to be similar in form and function.

    Each and every school is a unique community and as such schools need to identify their own requirements and solutions.

    One of the aims of the VLN is to provide support for schools engaged in such processes through the sharing of information and resources.

    I do advocate for a systematic, coordinated and collaborative approach to the identification of needs and the implementation and on-going management and support of any solution. I also advocate that solutions need to be scalable and sustainable in the context in which they are deployed.

  • Darren (View all users posts) 29 Mar 2012 11:32am ()

    A lot of wisdom in there Nick, but I am going to challenge you on a couple of fronts.

    Once again the assumption here is that this school and schools in general need an LMS and that simply isn't true.  If we base our actions purely on the needs of learners (including teachers) what are we actually trying to do at the end of all this?  Surely this is about ubiquitous learning.  Being able to learn no matter where you are.  The implications of this sort of learning for schools is enormous, because it challenges the very foundations of the traditional model of schooling.  Why do we want to recreate our schools as little (or big for some) silos online when we can do things so much differently and for the benefit of our learners.

    There is no need for one school to invest in a server to host "in house" as you say.  We here have an online environment (Modle and Mahara) that runs across around 30-40 schools.  Each uses it to a different extent, but all they need to invest in is developing one or two people to act as admins and the rest goes to developing teacher capacity.

    I would challenge Monika to go back to school leadership and say  - why don't we do this dffierently?  How could we work with other schools in our region, rather than try and do all this "in house"?  All it takes is some initiative and leadership.

    And if all else fails they already have google apps for education, which while not an LMS will  allow the development of online spaces, rich collaboration, ePortfolios, blogging, the ability for learners to social network or connect online.  What else do you need?   All the school needs to do is develop teacher capacity on the learning front and a couple on the admin front.

    One of our schools, Akaroa Area School (160 students) does everything using google apps for education.  Where a teacher or two want to travel the LMS route they can with the CantaNet environment, but otherwise the needs of their learners are perfectly met with what they have.  

    It is all about developing teacher capacity in taking learning online any way.  The tools don't actually matter - but the teaching and learning does.  I hear endless debate about which LMS is better and that schools need to consider their choice carefully. Not true in my opinion (and that is all it is).  There is no single LMS that is more suited to a certain group of learners (teachers as well) than another.  Just get the learning online and examine the pedagogy.  That is what makes the difference, not the choice of tool.

    Anyway, as I said why not work with other schools?  The N4L is going to challenge us to do this anyway.  Well I hope it does.

  • Nick Ford (View all users posts) 29 Mar 2012 12:00pm ()

    Hello and thanks for the challenge Darren Cool

    Re the need for an LMS.

    Personally I agree with you here. My only assumptions are in the context of Monika's question.

    Re the provision of LMS shared services. 

    A fine collaborative model and yes it makes sense to spread the cost between schools. Does one specific school in the “cluster” manage the Moodle server or is this an outsourced service? How is the LMS integration with the different SMS's the various schools have managed or do all these schools have the same SMS and/or is there no LMS/SMS integration?

  • Darren (View all users posts) 29 Mar 2012 1:05pm ()

    It is externally hosted and managed with two main admins and then admins based at a school level where needed.  The uptake is variable as I said, but school readiness for a blended approach to learning is variable as well.  It at least provides an easy way for schools to launch into things.

    There are negatives with a shared environment.  Many schools use an LMS to get a lot of admin online and it is more difficult to do that with a shared environment.  I would argue that a content management system (sorry to throw another term at you Monika) is better served to do that.  Some schools also like to brand and again that is difficult in a shared environment.  Does it really matter though?  The positives outweigh the negatives in my opinion.

  • Monika Kern (View all users posts) 28 Mar 2012 8:05pm ()


    Good reminder, Nick, thanks, to not muddle up all these different acryonyms! As a teacher I am probably most interested in a Learning Management System LMS, but as e-Lead Teacher I am also keen on learning more about a suitable Managed Larning Environment MLE that LMS should fit into.

    At Mark Osborne's Whangarei workshop on Monday quite a few teachers I talked with mentioned the adhoc approaches some schools have taken, a discontinuity in systems, often dependendant on who is in charge at a particular time and what 'fad they are into' - this is not meant to put anyone down, I realise that all of us are doing their best. I can already see in my case that I would love to get a lot deeper into a whole lot of issues, but when?!?! I teach fulltime (1 CRT / fortnight) in 3 different curriculum areas and there is not enough time in the day or night to do it all and well. [Did I mention the long-suffering family?!?!].

    To combat a future "this was Monika's fad in 2012 and nothing elseat our school  fits with it" I want to get an allround understanding of what is out there before I can make a recommendation to SLT - thanks heaps to everyone who has contributed so far, I have learnt a lot already and found out how much I don't know

  • Nick Ford (View all users posts) 28 Mar 2012 12:30pm ()

    For me decisions such as the one you pose require the consideration of a couple of separate but related domains before specific choices can be made.

    The domains are:


    How will the use of this technology support and or extend learner success and/or your professional practice.

    From the information you have shared in this forum I have the sense that you already have contemplated this and have a vision of what it is that you wish to achieve.

    Technology form and function

    In order to make an informed choice an understanding of the form and function of the technologies under consideration is required.

    The only real way to do this is to get your “hands dirty” with each potential solution. This has resourcing implications for yourself and your school.

    Once one has a sense of technology form and function this can be mapped to the pedagogical goals.

    Having a sense form and function also enable’s direct comparison between the possible solutions. However care is needed here to compare “apples with apples”. As such a direct comparison between Google Apps and an LMS like Moodle can begin to get tricky without having a clear sense of what it is that you wish to achieve and at what scale (as an individual teacher or school wide).

    As an aside in you post you refer to Moodle, KnowledgeNet and UltraNet as MLE’s. These systems are not MLE’s. They are LMS’s. 

    Google Apps is not a LMS (it could be used as one with the implementation of Google CloudCourse http://code.google.com/p/cloudcourse/) whereas Moodle, KnowledgeNet and UltraNet are.

    An MLE is defined as “a collection of software tools and digital content that supports learning” and as such LMS’s and other apps/services such as Google Apps can be considered to be components of a schools MLE but in them-selves are not a MLE.

    I know it may sound pedantic however the language is important when these types of choices are being made as solutions should be sustainable and scaleable.

    For more on MLE’s check out http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Ministry-initiatives/Software2#software_schools

  • Klaris Philipson (View all users posts) 26 Mar 2012 8:15pm ()

    We have a Google domain availabel to our Yr 5 student through to Yr 13.

    If you create a domain for the school you can seperate the uers into 'organisations' you can then enable or disable certain google features per orgnaisation.

    We have disabled Gmail for Yr 5 & 6, they get access to their email in yr 7.

    The can search for each other and share documents using their 'email' addresses but the actual part of the domain in inaccessible to them.


  • Monika Kern (View all users posts) 26 Mar 2012 7:44pm ()

    13 useful replies in just a day wow! I will need a lot more time to investigate all the suggestions further, there are a lot more options out there than I would have thought. BTW, is there any place that shows me cost comparison?!

    Today I have attended a course presented by Mark Osborne from ASHS on Engaging Learners through e-learning - heaps of food for thought! Like some of the suggestions to the discussion, ASHS use Google for most and freeware for pretty much all of the rest of their applications (I hope I got that right, apologies if I misunderstood). My problem with using Google is that all students need a Gmail password which now is only for ages 13+, and my intermediate age students are 10 - 12. Has anyone found a legal way to get around this, or is use of Google simply not available to teachers of students under high school age?

  • Carolyn Stuart (View all users posts) 26 Mar 2012 7:59pm ()

    Google Apps resolves all your age issues.

  • Darren (View all users posts) 26 Mar 2012 2:22pm ()

    Hi Monica,

    Your school is roughly 200 students so do you even need an LMS?  And if so why not share an LMS across schools.  More cost effective and opens up interesting possibilities on the collaboration front.

    The reality is google apps will do everything you need and more, without any huge costs involved (all that would go into professional learning).  As a long time user of Moodle and google apps, the only reason I persist with Moodle for an online space is that I teach fully online classes (i.e. no face to face) and the ability to track student participation is very useful.  Otherwise it would be all google apps and other web 2.0 technology.

    So my advice is to either share an LMS across schools or just leave them to the big schools and go with google apps.


  • Chris Le Cren (View all users posts) 26 Mar 2012 3:14pm ()

    Hi Darren, Monica and others reading this discussion. I think the most important thing is to be clear on what you want the LMS to do. Different people have different experiences and even different interpretations of what an LMS is and can do. You may end up needing a combination of tools, e.g. Google Apps in conjunction with an LMS such as KnowledgeNet or Ultranet. Google Apps on their own may not be enough. Different LMS provide different features ranging from email communication, collaboration and document sharing; to online course generation; e-portfolios; and even securely managed social networking for students, parents and teachers (who may or may not be in the same school, or even the same country). For the schools I work with, the key factors in deciding on what is required has been the services provided by the LMS to meet identified learning and organisational needs. Roll size doesn't come into it. There are schools using MoE accredited LMS with rolls ranging from around 30 to over 1500. 

  • Darren (View all users posts) 26 Mar 2012 3:31pm ()

    We have had this discussion before in another forum Chris.  Unfortunately, because you work for a provider you have a vested interest in making sure an LMS is seen as something worth investing in.  My advice to Monica comes purely from a teacher pespective (I am not selling anything) and unfortunately I'm not sure your advice can be treated in the same way.  You are right though, roll doesn't come into it.  No school needs an LMS.

    All the functions you listed can be performed by google apps and in many ways better than any LMS I have used (and I have used most, including Ultranet).  And all that comes at a cost of domain hosting, which is a pittance.

    Our schools have enough of a struggle with resourcing without wasting it on things they don't actually need.  I have no problem with those schools who have an LMS, but Monica was after some advice and I have given it.  Happy to continue the conversation in private if you would like.

  • Glen (View all users posts) 29 Mar 2012 11:15am ()

    Having been involved in the LMS area for many years I have to agree with Darren. In the majority of cases Google Apps will do most of what you want - particularly in a smaller school and especially if you combine it with something like TeacherDashboard (which I don't sell by the way in case you are wondering).  

    For a school to worry about Google Apps and an LMS in most cases is pointless - but decisions around this need to be tied back to what you are actually wanting to achieve, your year levels, etc. as others have already well noted.

    To be perfectly blunt Moodle and most LMSs currently on the market are 20th century tools - they are small scale, local, and not scaleable. In this day and age if you are taking learning online then why wouldn't it be in a global and scalable way - Google Apps provides both of these (as do some other cloud based tools of course, don't let me stop you taking a look at Office365). 

    Of course, make sure you don't get caught in the trap of 'Google Apps is free' so got to be good - yes it is free in terms of cash outlay if you have somebody to do the initial technical setup for you, and if you don't add in pay for services like TeacherDashboard - but there is obviously a cost involved in the ongoing management, PD, etc. that needs to be factored in up front if you want to utilise it effectively.


  • Gerard Macmanus (View all users posts) 25 Mar 2012 10:22pm ()

    Also Monika have a chat to the Far North Custer leader, looking at the information available on the vln, your cluster leader is Diane Henederson /pg/profile/dianesh, they are looking after your school with the ministry ICTPD contract /pg/groups/37491/kaiorohoki-cluster/ they may be able to assist you with the information and funding to get what you are after.

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