When it comes to selecting a Learning Management System (LMS), institutions have multiple choices. But when the choice is between two viable open source options, Sakai and Moodle are what comes to one’s mind.
Sakai, got its start when four institutions (MIT, Princeton, University of Michigan, and Indiana University) got together and decided to collaborate in writing a learning management system that would replace each institution’s current and aging home-grown course management software. From the beginning, Sakai was intended to be a well-organized framework that would grow and scale well and that would meet the needs of large institutions as well as smaller ones.
Part of the initial funding went to endow the Sakai Foundation which oversees the development of Sakai today. The Sakai Foundation is small but it serves a critical role as the focal point for all Sakai activities around the globe. The Foundation does not “control” Sakai but provides a central repository for development work, the coordination of development work and quality control of new releases, and direction-setting for product development in the future.
Where Sakai has a structure and a framework, Moodle is a much looser collection of parts and pieces. Hence, Sakai more enterprise-ready and Moodle more applicable to small, independent applications. The other difference between the two LMS are as follows
- Users: While Moodle is certainly used by larger institutions, it tends to be used in smaller installations, such as K-12 schools or by individuals or departments within a larger organization. Sakai is clearly focused on institutions and on higher education.
- Scalability: Sakai was designed to be a framework into which pedagogical tools could be independently developed and installed. Hence, while Sakai modules (or tools, as they are referred to) are developed semi-independently by contributors around the world, those same tools appear seamless to the user in terms of how they operate.
- Development Community: The Moodle development community tends to be more based on individual efforts than on institutional or collaborative projects, while the Sakai Foundation coordinates the development being done around the world.
- Quality Control: The Sakai Foundation serves as the clearing house for bug reports and bug resolution during the quality control phase of each new release and must give the go-ahead before each new version of Sakai is released.
The question to ask is whether the institution desires a comprehensive Learning Management System for the entire institution, or does it desire a system that can be implemented in small pockets here and there. If the aspirations are smaller, perhaps for a single department, Moodle is a fine choice. But if the desire is for a truly institutional system, Sakai is the way to go.