Moodle is a platform for creating learning management systems. If you want to write a course to learn PHP to put it on the web, Moodle is one of the best ways to do it. But Moodle requires a lost of hosting power. So in this article, I’m going to drive into what Moodle is and help you find the right host for it.
What Is the Best Host for Moodle
What Is Moddle Hosting
Normally, CMS refers to an online Content Management System. But when referring to the foundation for a learning site, CMS becomes Course Management System. And one of the most popular is the Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment or, more simply, Moodle.
Moodle is an open source platform for the production and distribution of e-learning material. It’s used by colleges and training departments because it can be adapted to many purposes, and it’s also secure, so results and coursework stay private.
Martin Dougiamas, an Australian programmer and teacher, has built a loyal following for his software since Moodle was first released in 2002.
Dougiamas’ learning theories and development work underpin thousands of courses all over the globe, and he works full-time on the project.
Moodle stands for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. It’s one of many virtual learning environments (VLEs) used to deploy courses online.
These courses are aimed at people who are already studying in the classroom, rather than people taking their entire course online. It is built for interactivity.
How to Choose a Moodle Hosting Provider
While Moodle hosting isn’t technically a type of hosting, there are some things to take into consideration and some specific features to look for when choosing a host for a Moodle site.
And while many hosts do offer those features, there are also some who are dedicated to Moodle site hosting. Either way, knowing what you need from a host in order for your educational site to function properly is paramount in that decision.
The first thing to consider is capacity. How many students will be accessing and using your site simultaneously?
Too many, and without a good host, and Moodle can run quite slowly, resulting in a poor user experience for your students. Make sure your host can accommodate multiple users on your site at once, and at peak usage times.
Compatibility with Moodle
Next, check which version of Moodle you’ll be using. All versions of Moodle work best in a standard Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP, or LAMP infrastructure. Check that your host not only offers LAMP, but updates it on a regular basis to keep up with new versions of those components, but of the CMS you’ll be using.
In addition, select a host that will allow you to customize the PHP and MySQL configurations to accommodate Moodle. Not all hosts will let you do that.
Control Panel and Compression
Choose a host that offers a control panel through which you can compress files of 20 megabytes or more. This will make it easier for you to switch hosts in the future, should you ever decide to do so.
Also, make sure your Moodledata folder is not stored in the public folder, also for future ease of migration.
If all this seems a little confusing or just a lot to keep track of, look for a host that offers dedicated Moodle hosting. That way, you’ll know they’ve thought of everything, and all you’ll have to worry about is creating high-quality educational content for your students.
Student Working, via Pixabay
Many Good Host Options to Choose From
When you’re considering what web host provider to choose for your Moodle hosting, you’ll want to look at what kind of installation options they include. Many host packages from companies include one-click installs of applications such as Moodle. For example, Bluehost and A2 Hosting have one-click installs of the app. This will make the set-up process much easier for people who are less technically-inclined.
Moodle Hosting Example: A2 Hosting
Many web hosts will support the features necessary to run Moodle. For example, A2 Hosting provides some of the best additional features that Moodle hosting requires.
As Moodle can sometimes run into issues with performance, it’s best to choose a hosting provider that can supercharge the application with high-speed servers. This is where A2 Hosting will provide you with some of the best performance specs for the lowest price.
In fact, A2 Hosting can speed up your website’s load times by as much as 20 times faster than the competition. They offer Turbo Server options for a slightly higher cost that results in these speed boosts.
Another great thing about A2 Hosting is their unlimited resources. With unlimited storage and bandwidth, the e-learning software shouldn’t run into problems with performance when traffic demands increase.
Types of Hosting for Moodle
Shared hosting plans may not provide the power needed to host large websites for online learning, such as university courses that experience large enrollments. Though, they will be adequate for smaller online learning services. For more power, you’ll want to check out VPS plans from host providers.
Like A2 Hosting, Bluehost also has shared plans with unlimited resources. And, if you want to be able to send emails with Moodle, your hosting provider will need to give you e-mail support. Specifically, you’ll need access to an SMTP mail server which most hosting companies provide.
Many hosting plans include multiple, if not unlimited, email accounts with them. Bluehost is just one provider that does this. With the company, you’ll have access to other e-mail solutions like forwarding rules and account filters as well.
To make sure emails are processed correctly, you’ll need to set up the cron jobs from your Bluehost control panel. This can be done by following instructions in the Bluehost knowledge base or by taking advantage of their 24/7 customer support to get help with this.
Dedicated Moodle Hosting
Some web hosts are Moodle partners, meaning they are certified providers of Moodle services. One of these is Moonami Learning Solutions. They provide Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud hosting to run your Moodle website on.
Because they use AWS, your cloud-hosted website is scalable, making it able to handle everything from 500 to 10 thousand students. Moonami includes free zero-downtime site migrations and a dedicated project manager to help you out with everything.
If it’s a dedicated Moodle host that you’re looking for, check out TMD Hosting. TMD is another Moodle partner, offering certified hosting of the platform. They provide fully-managed Moodle hosting that is backed by an impressive 99.99% uptime guarantee.
The company will take care of Moodle installation and will migrate your existing learning management system (LMS) to their servers for free. They also provide you with additional plug-ins and modules that you can use to enhance the e-learning portal for your students. The best thing about TMD Hosting is that it’s extremely affordable.
Another option for specialized e-learning platform hosting is InterServer. They give you optimized hosting for Moodle on their standard cloud Linux OS.
This plan also comes with a free CloudFlare CDN to decrease load speeds on your website for users all over the world. Cloud hosting allows hosts to offer cheaper solutions which still deliver the power that e-learning websites need.
The main focus of the software is online collaboration, helping active learners to take in courseware more easily, and ensuring online course delivery is secure.
In addition, Moodle has some other sophisticated features that are vital for e-learning deployment, such as plagiarism detection and a mobile-friendly output.
Students are assigned a username and password and can securely enroll in courses, set up their profile and review their results; teachers can be made administrators on their courses.
Moodle can also be used to submit assignments and view pre-recorded content, such as lectures, as well as live interactive lectures and discussions. Additionally, with add-ons like Wimba, students and teachers can record voice commentaries and download audio content.
These features are designed to support oral assignments, and better engage learners who prefer auditory learning to reading.
The most recent versions of Moodle support most mobile devices, including Android, iPhone and iPad. In terms of browser compatibility, Google Chrome is recommended; some features do not work in older versions of Internet Explorer.
Moodle is designed to comply with SCORM, which stands for the shareable content object reference model. SCORM is a standard used by most major e-learning tools, plus supporting software; it lets these tools exchange data with each other. Find out more about SCORM on the developer’s website.
Some tutors train in Moodle and achieve certification that proves their knowledge of the tool. The current version of this certification is called the Moodle Course Creator Certificate (MCCC).
Moodle Themes Page
Like any modern online system, the basic platform within Moodle can be extended with bolt-ons and upgrades. These packages can be installed alongside the central Moodle software to enhance its functionality.
Moodle Customization Options
Customization options for Moodle come in the following forms:
Themes are template packages that change the way the course looks
Plugins enhance the functionality of Moodle by adding additional features written in PHP
Language packs help tutors to provide courses in their learners’ local langugages
Dreanweaver is a proprietary web development suite that can be used to create and manage Moodle pages
Moodle is open source so you can alter its underlying code.
The open source nature of Moodle makes it very flexible and extensible. Most changes can be made in the administration panel; those that cannot can usually be hacked together using PHP.
Themes are one of the most powerful options for customizing Moogle. Themes can also change the look of an entire site, letting companies add their own colors and branding. Some organizations develop their own themes based on bootstrap content, so it’s easy to customize the theme for your own use.
The fact that plugins are written in PHP helps a lot. It not only helps in creating your own, but it means there are a lot that have been contributed by the user community.
Servers via Pixabay
If you’re looking for a web hosting account for Moodle, you’ll need Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP for a smooth installation. Moodle’s own documentation states that this is the “safest” way to install it, and there’s a huge amount of support for the LAMP stack. Moodle can also be installed on Windows or Mac as a standalone piece of software – ideal if you want to give it a test drive before handing it over to your system admin team.
One-Click vs. DIY Installation
If you want to install Moodle to a hosting account but your provider doesn’t give you one-click installs, the process will be slightly more complicated.
Many hosting companies provide helpful customer support to walk you through this. If you aren’t so good with the technical stuff, then you might want to switch to a hosting provider that integrates simple application installs.
Databases and PHP
But, if you still want to take this on, there are a couple of things that must be done before starting.
First, you’ll want to make sure that your host provides a database such as MySQL or MariaDB. The host will also have to support PHP. You may have to configure PHP in your control panel.
In order for your Moodle website to work, you will also need a variety of PHP extensions installed.
If you are unsure if you have these with your host service, don’t worry. Moodle will check for these extensions while installing so you can install necessary scripts before continuing.
You can also talk to your hosting provider about their included script installations.
Final Installation Tasks
The rest of the process can be completed by following instructions on Moodle’s website. Though, inexperienced web users will find it much easier to pick a hosting company that provides a one-click install of the application.
A bare minimum of 160MB storage space for core files – but remember that you need space for your multimedia and content uploaded by students
Linux or Windows
A backup location with sufficient space (preferable in a remote location)
256MB server RAM (again, a bare minimum – Moodle recommends 1GB for every 10-20 concurrent users)
MySQL, PostgreSQL, MSSQL or Oracle support (MySQL or PostgreSQL recommended)
Remote backup provision to store copies of your students’ work
A web server
A modern web browser.
In summary, here’s what Moodle needs at a minimum vs what it needs to run optimally:
Anything that runs the software listed below
Apache, IIS, lightttpd, nginx, cherokee, zeus, and LiteSpeed
Apache or IIS
Most recent (stable) release
MSSQL, MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL
MySQL or PostgreSQL
Firefox 4, Internet Explorer 8, Safari 5, Chrome 11, Opera 9
The latest version of the browser of your choice plus the necessary plugins for your content
You may be tempted to get the most inexpensive hosting for your Moodle setup, but keep in mind that as your student body scales, you’ll need to scale your website as well. Best to keep that in mind when selecting your web hosting package.
While many web hosting companies offer Moodle as a 1-click installer, not all of them will meet these requirements on their cheapest plans. The remote backup provision is rarely offered on any web hosting plan, and will require a more complicated setup than a regular website.
We recommend opting for a virtual private server (VPS) or dedicated server, but have a chat with your host before committing.
Pros and Cons
All software has it’s good and bad points and Moodle is no different. So here is a list of the best and worst things about it.
Moodle is completely free to use
Since Moodle was developed as a CMS for the education community, it excels at providing the desired services for this audience.
Users have to customize Moodle heavily for it to be useful.
Moodle is not considered a turnkey platform, or one that is ready to go after installation.
This last con is perhaps a biggy. Unless you are fairly technically inclined, you may find yourself in the position of having to hire a tech to set up your system. This still may be a good solution. There are a lot of Moodle experts around, and they can usually get you up and running in a small amount of time (and cost).
Our Picks: The Top Three Hosts for Moodle
It can be very hard to know where to start looking for a Moodle host. That’s why I am providing my three favorite hosts to get you started. You can compare them with other hosts and both look at a lot of hosts and narrow down your list of hosts you are interested in.
By far the most cost-effective Moodle hosting option is iPage. The company has some of the cheapest hosting rates available, and they throw in a free domain name and Google marketing credits with the mix.
Though iPage provides 24/7 customer service which can be helpful when setting up Moodle, they don’t offer an uptime guarantee as other hosting providers do. This might be a problem. It is definitely worth looking into.
iPage Home Page
For some of the fastest hosting speeds and a 99.9% uptime guarantee, InMotion Hosting may be the best option for your Moodle website.
The company has higher-performing plans than iPage, with fast SSD drives powering their services. You can even choose the location of the server your website is hosted at. And, they make it easy to install Moodle with a one-click installer.
They’ve even got your email and database needs covered while providing a fantastic, 90-day money-back guarantee.
InMotion Home Page
For optimized Moodle hosting, InterServer has options for this.
They also provide some cheap VPS cloud host plans if your Moodle website needs higher performance than shared plans provide. These VPS plans are easily scalable if you find that your websites are requiring even more resources.
This will give you higher performance for your Moodle website than iPage plans. But, this will also cost more than iPage’s hosting.
InterServer Home Page
Other features in Best Educational Software Services 2019
Moodle is a free, open-source program designed for making online courses. Its name is an acronym. The letters stand for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. Moodle is a learning management system, or LMS.
What does Moodle do?
Moodle lets teachers create private online lessons for any learning environment. The software is very customizable, and can be used to assign specific lessons to students, create online courses, or even create training for businesses.
How much does Moodle cost?
Moodle is free. It is licensed under the GNU General Public License.
Does Moodle have to be used in a classroom?
No. Moodle can be used for distance learning too.
How do I install Moodle?
The Moodle LMS is very similar to a CMS. It’s installed the same way: either manually, or using a one-click installer, if your host provides that facility.
Do I need technical knowledge to use Moodle?
No. Moodle has a drag-and-drop interface. If you’ve used a CMS, you should be comfortable with it.
Is Moodle secure?
Moodle is as secure as any other web application. You can harden security by purchasing and SSL certificate for your Moodle server, and encouraging teachers and pupils to create strong passwords. To limit abuse, it’s a good idea to regularly audit administrator and teacher logins, removing any that are no longer required.
Can I brand Moodle with my school logo?
Yes. Moodle has a theme system, so you can quickly change the appearance of your e-learning site. Themes can be downloaded from the internet, or created according to your own color and branding needs.
What are resources in Moodle?
Resources are files that can be added to Moodle lessons to provide background information or research material. Moodle supports file attachments (including pictures and PDFs), HTML content, IMS packages, and URLs.
You can organize resources in folders, and add labels to describe or categorize them.
What is an IMS package?
IMS packages are containers that include a mixture of learning materials. These content packages can be created by teachers, purchased from vendors, or built in an application such as Udutu. These packages can be imported directly into Moodle.
What is SCORM?
SCORM is a standard for packaged learning materials. It can store quiz scores and grades in a format that Moodle can interpret.
What are plugins?
Plugins add extra features to Moodle. There are well over 1,000 plugins available at the official repository, https://moodle.org/plugins/.
Are there any drawbacks to Moodle?
Moodle works best when it’s used for one class, or one organization. It may not scale well for large organizations unless you invest in a dedicated server.
What are the requirements for Moodle hosting?
Moodle can run on a Linux shared hosting plan, but this is only really suitable for a few classes or a small online course. It’s a good idea to pick a host that offers an easy upgrade route if you find that shared hosting is not adequate.
If you expect your entire school or college to use Moodle, start with a VPS, and be prepared to move to a dedicated server as site traffic increases.
What are the alternatives to Moodle?
Alternative LMS software applications include Blackboard, Schoology, Edline, Canvas, Edmodo, Lore, and iTunes U.
About Ji Guo
Ji's background is in journalism, digital marketing, and internet startups. He has studied at various places, including Yale University. His work focuses on digital marketing, growth, and internet startups. He has written widely for publications including Newsweek.
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Who's Best for Moodle Hosting?
We think SiteGround is the best choice for Moodle.