Moodle vs Google Classroom [Updated]

Updated 2015/04/22: Google fixed some stuff!! – see below in red – I will be writing about them soon.
Updated 2015/06/30: Google introduced more features – including an API. See applicable changes below in red.

I have been using Moodle for more than 6 years and have been using Google Classroom in seven of my classes since the start of 2015. Classroom has a great user interface and with Google behind it, it can only get better. However, I did get a distinct impression that Google did not try to learn from Moodle and chose to instead find out the issues the hard way. A lot of the problems I will be mentioning are well-documented and publicly accessible issues (and solutions) that Moodle had to over come. Google chose instead of reinvent the wheel. They are also less transparent (a lot less) on how and when issues will be fixed. Hopefully that will change in the future. Here are what I think could still be improved in Classroom. They are the reasons why Moodle is still my preferred LMS currently. Note that Classroom gets updated all the time and some of what I say here may already be out of date.

Distribution of Google Docs

Classroom makes it really easy to create separate documents from a single shared Google document. It also changes the permissions for you depending on what you want. This saves a lot of time if you want to use Google documents as your primary format. However, I normally ask my students to convert their final work to PDF for submission –  so this wasn’t really a useful feature for me. I have tried to use it for group work where students co-edit the same document which worked brilliantly. However the inability to create groups in Classroom (discussed later) is really a letdown if you want to use share-editing in your class. Couple this with the extension bug – this makes it a pain to use it as a submission system. (The extension bug: on the due date, permission of all Docs revert by to the teacher, but this permission is not automatically reverted if you extend the due date – leaving you to have to change them manually)

Downloading of files to mark

I teach computer programming and my students submit their programs to be marked (edit: amongst other activities). They either submitted multiple files or one zip file. They all have to be downloaded in order to be executed and mark. There is currently no feature to download all files without losing the submission information. Instead one had to click on each individual file to download. The web interface (for Classroom and Drive) are something that Google should shine at, but it really sucks at telling you whose work you are marking. The students’ work should ideally be placed inside a folder with their name – instead they are all in one folder. I have seen suggested solutions where students are asked to named their file with their name but this is really a hack. A feature whereby all files can be downloaded and zip up with each students file renamed to contain their name (the system know who they are) or at least placed in a folder with their name would be more useful.

Multiple teachers for a single class is not supported

I wonder if Google actually worked with actual teachers. In the real world, multiple teachers are often involve in the marking process. Either many teachers are splitting up the marking load or there’s a need for one or more teachers to moderate other teachers’ marking process. Classroom does not allow for there to be more than one teacher accessing a class. In Moodle, you can set up multiple teachers and even have some assigned as ‘non-editing teacher’ meaning that they could only mark assignments and not add or modify resources. [Updated 2015/04/22: Google has added the ability to add other teachers but it seems only those in your own schools. Updated 2015/06/30: Google again mentioned that they will be rolling out allowing trusted App for education domain to access another but it still sounds like this is a site-wide option. ]

Inability to lock assignments

There is a need to either lock assignment from further submission or the system should notify the teacher when a student submits late. It is also not possible to easily figure out if which files in an assignment folder has recently been submitted or updated. The current system requires the teacher to keep this information somewhere offsite in order to fully figure this out. Locking an assignment will usually solve this problem as students would then have to ask for it to be unlocked before they can submit again (thus informing the teacher in the process).

Inability to pre-create an item and then hide it

I don’t know many teachers who are able to set up assignments and share resources right at the start of each class. I also know that there’s the right time for assignment or resources (e.g. maybe at the end of the lesson like asking them to look at something before class the next day). Classroom forces you to create everything on the fly. To save time, I would, on Moodle, pre-create all the items in hidden mode so that when its the right time. This feature would really be valuable on Classroom. Instead, what I do now is to create the items in the different classes and leave the final creation process to be started at the right time. However, I then have to make sure I don’t close that tab by mistake. [Updated 2015/04/22: There is now a draft mode for announcement & assignment that you can pre-make and only post later]

Lack of groups

This feature must be one of the most requested. Just how Google expect there to be no group usage at all is really mind-boggling. Sure there are a number of workaround (including creating multiple classes with the same students!!) but they are just hacks.

Lack of customisation

There is general lack of customisation ability in Classroom. You cannot really deviate from the standard format which in itself is really strange in places (e.g. getting course resources and material from the about section is a bit counter intuitive). I think most teachers would want things to be either arranged chronologically or in topics – both formats are available on Moodle. [Updated 2015/06/30: Google released a set of APIs which seem to have been more aimed at admin. They makes it easier to create classes, add students and teachers and share content from other site (which must add a Classroom specific button). The API doesn’t seem to really make a teacher’s job easier, but will have to look at this in more detail.]


5 thoughts on “Moodle vs Google Classroom [Updated]

  1. I agree totally! A great deal of resistance to Moodle comes from staff who tried it several years ago and found it boxy or too difficult to learn. Moodle is way more user-friendly now, and has real power under the hood. I find Google Classroom, and Edmodo for that matter so much lighter and ill-suited to real educational purposes – I’m always left wishing I was using Moodle for whatever class I am guinea-pigging with! I get the feeling the moment Moodle adds a Facebook style front page it will take off.


  2. Classroom is inferior when it comes to posting all your materials for a course. It is very messy. Heaven forbid you want to change the order of something. Not possible. Just send it to the top and make a mess!! This is possible in Moodle. Moodle is superior in that you can use it from year to year. Classroom you have to post it all over again. Moodle you can hide stuff until you want it to be seen with the eye closed. Classroom you cannot. You can also highlight the topic at hand in moodle. You cannot in Classroom. It is hard to see the whole topic as it spans so many pages. In moodle this does not occur. In Classroom you can use your app on the phone, with moodle you cannot. This is the only advantage together with being able to hand in work on classroom and see who handed it in easily.


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