Question: Many school districts in our area are licensing Blackboard as a course management system for professional development and even online classes for students, but I have heard that free, open source alternatives are available. Are any of these viable for school districts to use?
The IT Guy says:
Absolutely. One of the best and most popular is Moodle. Moodle is in use by thousands of schools and educators worldwide, and offers functionality that many consider easier to use and even more powerful than expensive commercial options like Blackboard and WebCT. Now that Blackboard and WebCT have merged, it will be interesting to watch what their “next generation” course management systems will look like. Whatever the case, open source alternatives will continue to present strong challenges to these commercial options. NiceNet and WebGUI are other free CMS solutions to check out and consider. The Sakai Project is a major collaborative development project for an open source CMS between universities, but may not be as well suited for K-12 environments as other options currently.
Blackboard and WebCT are certainly not the only “players” in the commercial CMS field. Another viable, commercial contender to check out is StudyWiz. Programs like StudyWiz can provide comparable functionality to more expensive CMS options at less cost, with the benefit of easily available phone-based technical support (not always an option with open source solutions.)
When comparing CMS options, the CMS Matrix can come in handy for comparing available features and functionalities.
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