Moodle vs. Canvas: Key Features and Services Comparison

Moodle and Canvas are two learning management systems (LMS) that provide flexible deployment options for the educational market. In addition to being in the cloud, both solutions offer an open-source platform.

We’ve reviewed both Moodle and Canvas as well as compared them to other LMS solutions in our comprehensive LMS Comparison Guide. In this post, we’ll discuss both solutions in more detail to help you make the right purchasing decision.

Comparing Products

Here are excerpts from our Moodle and Canvas reviews that summarize each solution:

Moodle: Moodle is an open-source learning management platform designed to help schools educate their students. Moodle is based on a modular design that lets teachers and administrators build their own curriculum using plug-ins for various workflows, content and activities.

Users have a choice of installing their Moodle accounts on their servers or in the cloud. The cloud-based platform, called MoodleCloud, has several benefits, such as accessibility anytime, scalability and a very short implementation process.

Canvas: Canvas is a learning management solution created for educational institutions. Developed in 2011, Canvas was designed to better engage users in the teaching and learning processes. It can be used for grades K-12 and higher education. With Canvas, teachers also have access to Arc, an inclusive video platform for online teaching. Arc can be used with Canvas to easily upload and share videos to a digital classroom, as well as let students and instructors comment on videos to create conversations.

Two Core Differences

1.) Pricing

Moodle: Moodle’s open source platform is free to download and install. However, its cloud-based deployment, Moodle Cloud, comes in two packages: Moodle for Free and Moodle for School. Moodle for Free can be used for an unlimited amount of time. It’s limited to 50 users and 200 MB of file uploads. Other features include a mobile app, unlimited activities, customized account, video and screen-sharing, and immediate product upgrades. The Moodle for School package is comprised of three paid plans:

  • The Small plan costs $500 AUD or $380 USD and includes all of the features in the Mini plan, but accommodates up to 200 students and up to 400 MB of file uploads.
  • The Mini plan annually costs $250 Australian dollars (AUD) or $190 in American dollars (USD) and is intended for up to 100 users. It includes two additional features: an advanced theme for the account and an extra plug-in pack.
  • The Medium plan costs $1,000 AUD or $760 USD and allows up to 500 users and up to 1,000 MB of file uploads.

Canvas: Canvas offers two ways for users to try it for free. First, there’s a two-week free trial account that includes built-in course content. Second, there’s an unlimited free account for individual teachers. Schools with multiple teachers who want to use Canvas, however, would have to pay for it. There is an implementation fee (based on various factors such as school size and any training or support needed), plus a subscription fee that’s based off the number of users. And finally, Canvas offers an open-source option for users who wish to install it on their own servers.

Bottom Line: Because Canvas determines its implementation and subscription fees based on several factors, there’s no set price. Prospective clients will have to contact Canvas directly for a price quote. Canvas does note on its site that once the solution is implemented, there are no additional fees. Moodle, on the other hand, doesn’t charge implementation fees for its Moodle for School packages.

2.) Features

Moodle: Moodle offers many features, such as a mobile app, content authoring tools and multiple language support. Some of the features in the Moodle for School package include the BigBlueButton for video/web conferencing, Quizventure for gamification of quizzes and tests, another gamification module called LevelUp that includes progressive checkpoints, Word Count for writing assignments, Chemistry Editor for chemistry projects, Group Choice for group projects, and Checklists and Attendance tracking.

Canvas: Canvas also includes a video conferencing feature called Arc, as well as a mobile app and web-conferencing functionality. Here is a glimpse of Canvas’ other features:

  • Outcomes –  Also known as standards or competencies, Outcomes describe what a learner should be able to do and are used to measure knowledge and ability.
  • MasteryPaths – MasteryPaths allows course content to automatically be released to a learner based on performance, providing differentiation to students.
  • Speedgrader – With the Speedgrader app for iOS and Android, teachers can preview student submissions, provide feedback and annotate homework submissions in a single frame.
  • Mastery GradeBook – The Mastery GradeBook helps instructors assess the Outcomes being used in Canvas courses and measure student learning for accreditation or standards-based grading.
  • Canvas Parent – Canvas Parent allows parents to engage with their children’s education by reviewing upcoming or past assignments, checking grades and receiving course announcements.
  • Canvas Polls – Canvas Polls is a mobile app that gauges students’ comprehension of material without “clicker” devices.

Bottom Line: While Moodle and Canvas share a few similar features, the main difference lies in content creation. Moodle offers content authoring tools through its plug-ins, while Canvas doesn’t offer those tools at all.

Comparing Offerings

Customer Service

Moodle: Moodle maintains a community site where users can find information on product upgrades, download the latest releases, access documentation on software features and communicate with other users in a forum. MoodleCloud users who need further support can contact their designated Moodle Partner.

Moodle also hosts user conferences called MoodleMoots that allow users to network with Moodle developers and partners, as well as learn new things about Moodle.

Canvas: Canvas’ parent company Instructure has a support page where users can find their own answers, join community groups and share ideas. The vendor’s customer service representatives are available via email and phone.

Canvas also has its own user networking conference called InstructureCon where users can learn new information about both Canvas and education technology in general.

Bottom Line: Both vendors offer a community forum and networking conferences for users to meet and exchange ideas. While Canvas provides additional support in the form of phone and email, Moodle Cloud users can only contact their Moodle Partner. And finally, the open-source platforms of both solutions don’t provide additional support.

Shortcomings

Moodle: The Moodle for School plans only accommodate up to 500 users. This may be an issue for those who require a solution for over 500 users.

Canvas: Customers have mentioned Canvas has limited customization capabilities. Others have reported that quiz-building is tedious. They’ve also mentioned that instructions for getting started with the solution are difficult to find.

Bottom Line: The highest tier of the Moodle for School plan has a limited number of users, while Canvas doesn’t have such limits. Another shortcoming is that Moodle is available for both schools and businesses, while Canvas is only for schools. Instructure’s other LMS solution, Bridge, is available for businesses.

Takeaways

Both Moodle and Canvas share certain similarities (e.g., open-source option, user conferences, community forums), but also have their differences. The key is to evaluate each solution to determine what best fits your school’s needs.

If you need more information on LMS solutions in general, our buyer’s guide can help. In it, we discuss benefits, features and what to look for when purchasing a solution.

If you’re looking for alternatives to either system, head over to our Reviews page for detailed reviews on various LMS solutions.

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