Moodle vs. Canvas LMS: Compare Core LMS Capabilities and More

Moodle and Canvas LMS are two learning management systems (LMS) with robust capabilities to help schools and organizations track their learning programs. In this post, we’ll compare both solutions on several factors.

What is the Main Difference Between Moodle and Canvas LMS?

  • Moodle displays its pricing on its website, while Canvas LMS offers custom quotes to clients.
  • Both solutions have similar features. But Moodle has an optional, fully-branded mobile app, while Canvas LMS offers more robust collaboration features.
  • Moodle has a community forum, but organizations will need to contact their Moodle partner for additional support. Canvas LMS has more robust support.

Product Overviews

Here are excerpts from our Moodle and Canvas LMS 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 either installing their Moodle account on their servers or in the cloud. The cloud-based platform, called MoodleCloud, provides several benefits, such as accessibility anytime, scalability and a very short implementation process.

There’s also the Moodle Workplace solution that allows companies to customize the LMS to fit their unique needs. It includes features such as the ability to build learning and compliance programs, organization structure, multi-tenancy, a report builder and social learning.

Canvas LMS

Instructure is a software provider focusing on dynamic learning management systems (LMSs) that streamline teaching tasks for various settings. One of those systems is Canvas, which was created for educational institutions. Developed in 2011, Canvas can help teachers to better engage their students in the learning process. It includes many features, such as mobile learning, content delivery, unlimited file size, SpeedGrader (adding grades to a gradebook), and audio, video and chat collaboration tools.

While Canvas is intended for schools, Instructure offers the Canvas for Corporate Education tool for organizations that want to develop employee training programs.

Features Comparisons

Content Development

Moodle

Users can set up personalized learning paths for individuals or teams. In addition, they can add on several of Moodle’s plugins for creating and saving course content, such as the lesson and SCORM modules, a feedback module, the Level Up module for gamification and a quiz module for tests.

Moodle Workplace includes all of these content development features, plus the ability to add files from Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive, and integrate with third-party content providers (e.g., LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, OpenSesame).

Canvas LMS

In Canvas LMS, teachers can create personalized learning paths with the MasteryPaths feature that specifically targets content to the student based on their learning skills. Another content development feature is the integrated Canvas Studio solution that lets teachers record, upload and share video content, and students can complete their assignments by video, too. Then, there’s the Module feature, where teachers can organize their assignments, quizzes and other content by subject, weeks or other factors. Once a course is created, teachers can publish it via their dashboard, and the software can then notify students the assignment is ready.

Bottom Line

While both software solutions have similar content development features, Canvas LMS doesn’t have built-in content authoring tools aside from the Canvas Studio software (although it can integrate with content developers).

Collaboration

Moodle

Moodle has several collaboration tools. First, learners can send messages to teachers or peers, and they can also participate in forum discussions. The Workshop feature allows learners to submit their work for peer reviews, and the Blogs tool lets them write, publish and share blog posts. Additional collaboration features include a calendar and notifications.

Canvas LMS

Teachers can send messages to individual students, the whole class or parents, and students can collaborate together via messaging, chats or video. The Collaborations feature allows students to work together within the same document simultaneously. In addition, students can work together on Google or Microsoft docs directly in Canvas LMS, as the software supports LTI integration with Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365.

Bottom Line

Moodle doesn’t have native capability for students to collaborate in the same document at the same time, so users that want this feature will have to integrate Moodle with Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365. This feature is already included in Canvas LMS.

Virtual Learning

Moodle

Moodle has a built-in video conferencing solution, BigBlueButton, for virtual classes and meetings, where instructors can share audio and video content, add notes on a whiteboard in real time and create breakout rooms. Learners can also interact via chat individually or in groups. For institutions that want to use a third-party virtual tool, Moodle developers can add a Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet plugin.

Canvas LMS

With the Canvas Conferences feature that integrates with BigBlueButton, teachers can host virtual classes, have office hours for students, allow students to practice their presentations or connect with other teachers for professional development. They can also record classes so students can view them later. Note that Canvas LMS recommends up to 100 participants per meeting. While teachers can create and host conferences within BigBlueButton, Canvas LMS can also integrate with other web conferencing solutions via Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), such as Blackboard Collaborate, Google Meet, Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Bottom Line

Both Moodle and Canvas LMS work with BigBlueButton, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet.

Mobile Learning

Moodle

With the dedicated Moodle app, learners can access course content, even offline, send messages and receive push notifications. While the app is free, it has additional Pro and Premium plan features that cost extra for the open source version (free on MoodleCloud and if an organization works with a Moodle Partner). The Pro plan includes additional features such as QR code login, multimedia push notifications and custom search results, while the Premium plan adds on basic custom branding. Institutions with multiple sites can opt for a fully branded Moodle app with unlimited access and advanced features like a separate notifications server, Google Analytics, mobile app support via email and full app branding.

Canvas LMS

Canvas LMS has a dedicated mobile app for Android and iPhone/iOS users. Teachers can manage courses, edit content, grade submissions or send messages, while students can see their grades, check out any announcements and send messages to their teacher. There’s also a Canvas Parent app where parents can see their child’s assignments.

Bottom Line

Moodle offers users optional advanced features (e.g., QR code), while Canvas LMS does not. And although, Moodle allows parents to see their child’s assignments, it doesn’t have a targeted app for parents, whereas Canvas LMS does.

Pricing

Moodle

Moodle as an open source software is free to download. MoodleCloud has a 45-day free trial that includes 1,000 users and 5 GB of storage. Then, there are five pricing tiers that include all the features of Moodle, such as unlimited courses and activities, a mobile app, a personalized site name, session recording and web conferencing with BigBlueButton. Pricing is in U.S. currency.

  • Starter: $110 per year for 50 users and 250 MB of storage
  • Mini: $200 per year for 100 users and 500 MB of storage
  • Small: $360 per year for 200 users and 1 GB of storage
  • Medium: $850 per year for 500 users and 2.5 GB of storage
  • Large: $1,620 per year for 1,000 users and 5 GB of storage

Moodle is now providing Premium and Enterprise hosting plans for organizations with over 1,000 users, with higher storage requirements or that want more customization and flexibility. Pricing for both plans isn’t available, so companies will need to contact Moodle for a quote.

Moodle Workplace is only available via the Moodle Certified Service Provider network.

Canvas LMS

Teachers can use Canvas LMS for free with the Free-for-Teachers plan, even if the school isn’t a Canvas LMS customer. The Free-for-Teachers plan provides educators with features such as content creation, personalized learning, grading, the Canvas mobile app and integration with third-party software solutions. It also provides access to parents, students and administrators.

There are some features that are only available via Canvas LMS paid plans, such as course templates, the ability to upload Student Information Systems (SiS) data, multiple grading periods and a customer support ticketing system. Instructure doesn’t publicly release its pricing information, so prospects will need to contact the vendor directly for a quote.

Bottom Line

MoodleCloud has a 45-day free trial, while Canvas LMS has a free plan for teachers (schools will need to purchase a paid plan for upgraded functionality). Prospects can see pricing up front on MoodleCloud’s site, but they’ll need to contact Instructure for a price quote on Canvas LMS.

Customer Support

Moodle

Moodle provides a community site where users can find information on product upgrades, download the latest release, access documentation on software features and communicate with other users through a forum. MoodleCloud users that need further support can contact their designated Moodle partner.

Moodle also hosts user conferences called MoodleMoots that allows users to network with Moodle developers and partners, as well as learn new things about Moodle. MoodleMoots are held throughout the year at various locations.

Canvas LMS

Users can click on the Help button through their Canvas LMS Dashboard, which leads them to a Community portal that includes troubleshooting guides, a product roadmap and a Question Forum for asking and answering questions from the community.

Canvas LMS provides additional standard support to IT administrators with paid subscriptions, such as a ticketing system and phone support during regular business hours. Its initial response time is within two business days. Note that teachers or students that experience technical issues should contact their school’s IT administrator for support.

The vendor offers three optional support plans for an additional fee:

  • 24/7 support – This plan adds on 24/7 phone, email and live chat support to administrators and an initial response time of within 12 hours. Up to three administrators per school can contact support.
  • 24/7 + Faculty Tier 1 support –  In this plan, Canvas LMS provides Tier 1 support directly to faculty and staff. Faculty and staff members can contact support via phone, email or live chat. Canvas LMS has a targeted one-hour initial response time to web/email tickets and a five-minute response time for phone calls and chats.
  • 24/7 + Tier 1 support – Canvas LMS provides Tier 1 support to all users, including students. Users can contact support directly by phone, email or live chat. The initial response time is the same time frame as in the previous plan.

Bottom Line

Both vendors offer a community forum for users to meet and exchange ideas. However, additional support for Moodle is limited to its designated partner, while Canvas LMS provides additional support in the form of phone and email.

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