Moodle or Canvas - Which LMS is better

Moodle vs Canvas 2021 – Which LMS is better?

Moodle or Canvas? It can be tough to choose the perfect LMS for your e-Learning program.

A couple of weeks ago, we were trying to glean some insights from Moodle forums where we stumbled upon the following concern by a fellow Moodler: 

“Why should users choose Moodle over Canvas if they are starting to look at an LMS platform? The complaints from Moodle users is that it looks too stale whereas Canvas looks modern

Did this particular thought cross your mind too? If yes, you’re about to read an article that intends to clear the air.  In this article, we’ll discuss both the LMS in a well-rounded way to help you make the right decision. 

Let’s bring the facts to the table to understand what’s better. 

Moodle vs Canvas 

#1 Basics

Moodle – Moodle is the most used LMS around the world for its modular design and open-source technology.  It is a free, open-source solution that lets you build a powerful learning environment from scratch with high functionality and a very high amount of personalization in both teaching and learning. It offers educators across multiple domains (schools, colleges, universities and huge corporates) with a highly functional, flexible, and interoperable digital learning solution through open-source technology.

Canvas – Canvas is an LMS by Instructure specifically designed for schools and educational institutions to build an engaging digital learning environment. Although Canvas offers a free, open-source cloud-based learning platform, it also has a paid version to suit your premium LMS needs.

#2 Interface

Moodle – The concern mentioned above clearly highlights Moodle’s interface as one of the top concerns of several Moodle users. The truth is, it can be a little unintuitive to work with. However, the best part is that the interface is 100 percent customizable. You can completely change the look and feel of your Moodle LMS with the help of a plethora of free and paid Moodle themes. 

The course structure and presentation can also be improved too. You can use a wide range of free or paid course formats to organize your Moodle courses in the best possible way for your students. Moodle also gives you a chance to explore and experiment with different Moodle themes on the Moodle demo sites. There are free themes available for download and some of them are even built into core Moodle. 

Pro Tip -: To give your Moodle LMS a bit of advanced level transformation, you can even play with several paid Moodle themes available in the market. Some of them are Edwiser RemUI , Klassroom  and Lambda.

Canvas – Canvas, on the other hand, definitely has a modern and fresh-looking interface. But when it comes to teaching, assessing and learning tools, Canva is good but far less powerful than Moodle. However, Canva has a user-friendly interface which makes it easy to understand and use. So, it can be a great pick for beginners who need a simple LMS to work with.

#3 Ease of use

Moodle – In Moodle, teachers can build the entire course curriculum right from scratch as Moodle supports plenty of content authoring tools. Moodle also provides parents with access to the grades of their wards. However, this task needs a bit of effort on part of the teacher or the admin.

Apart from this, Moodle provides attendance tracking, videoconferencing through BigBlueButton, plenty of gamification modules, enables gamification of tests and quizzes etc.

To make sure, learners stay on track and do not drop off,  viewing trends of participation, submissions and other data makes sense. It improves the overall e-Learning experience, vastly helping retention rates and student successes. 

Moodle scores higher when it comes to e-Learning analytics and reporting. The Reports tab in the Course Management panel gives instructors access to tools that can be used to edit dates and groups for activities or resources, or run reports on course activities at different levels

Both Moodle and Canvas offer multi-language support and can be run on multiple device types. However, there is no offline learning and support for content authoring tools in Canva. 

Canva – In Canvas, sometimes too many ways for students to communicate can be confusing or overwhelming. Multiple messages from comments on assignments, quizzes, discussions, etc., or from email can be too much to process at a time. The options for setting the frequency for messages (daily, weekly, immediate, never) can not be specified per discussion board.

Canvas gives no control over the local discussion boards. So it is very likely that you will get a flurry of daily updates for all discussion posts from all discussion boards from all courses. This is not an issue in Moodle as Moodle allows you to exercise better control.

Although Canvas has a very simple interface, it can be a bit difficult to make complex uploads. In Canvas, you also cannot connect through live video resources and must use an alternate program to do so.

However, on the flip-side, the user-friendly system of Canvas is a great plus. In Canvas, your learners can easily access the courses on the Dashboard, it just takes a quick log in and your learners are able to get a systematic overview of all the courses. Your students won’t have to go through the pain of looking for the right classroom.

To ease the process of sorting, the student dashboard segments courses by semester/segments. Also, other staff members can effortlessly explore the whole program and access assignments and grades with ease. The students can use the inbox for connecting with teachers in just a few clicks without the need to access an outside email server. The course information is simple to follow through and can be guided with minimal clicks. 

Pro Tip -: The Canvas Parent feature allows parents to review the upcoming or previous assignments of their children, monitor grades and stay updated with course announcements. This way, parents can have observer accounts to monitor their ward’s progress. 

Another good feature of Canvas is ARC – an inclusive video platform for online teaching accessible to all teachers. Arc can be used to easily upload and share videos to a digital classroom. With Arc, students and instructors can also comment on videos to create meaningful discussions to foster active learning.

#4 Ease of customization 

Moodle – The more control you have, the more powerful Moodle is – This is said by a lot of Moodle folks. And it’s true. Moodle allows you to have a lot more control over multiple aspects of your e-learning program. This control is much deeper. It is not just limited to visual appearance but also extends to the overall performance and functionality.  

Apart from Moodle’s interface, Moodle functionality can also be extensively customized to your liking and preferences. 

Canvas – Canvas is a good LMS for efficient and customized course management and organization. It allows you to customize the interface, the learning content and profile to your liking. But in comparison to Moodle, it has limited customization capabilities

#5 Grading 

Moodle – When it comes to grading, both Moodle and Canvas have good grading tools. However, grading is much more refined and diverse in Moodle as compared to Canvas. Moodle supports more than 12 types of assessments. There are multiple grading alternatives available to grade different assessments in different ways in Moodle.  Moodle’s Gradebook is simple to use where the grades get recorded automatically since all the assignments are integrated.

However, grading forum posts in Moodle can be harder as Moodle does not automatically provide a list of all posts for one student. For students who haven’t posted, you have to then go into the grade book and type in zeros for those students.

Pro Tip -: Grading in Moodle can take some time as every question of every student is required to be graded in a new tab. To speed up your grading and improve efficiency, you could use Edwiser RapidGrader to bring down the grading overload in Moodle. 

Canvas – In Canvas, this process is much simpler. You can assign a forum as an assignment.  While grading the forum posts, you get a list of students. On each student, you automatically get a list of all of their forum posts for that particular forum assignment.  You can then easily post feedback and give a grade.

Canvas also has a gradebook to grade student assignments. The Grades can be imported or exported manually or automatically in a CSV file through SIS (Student Information System) integration. Canvas also offers Speedgrader for effective grading.

  • The Speedgrader app is available for iOS and Android users currently. This helps you to preview student submissions, provide feedback and annotate homework submissions in a single frame
  • The Mastery GradeBook is another feature that can help you to assess the Outcomes being used in Canvas courses and measure student learning for accreditation or standards-based grading.

You can use rubrics in both moodle and canvas, but after using the Canvas rubric, you still have to manually enter the grade for the assignment, while in Moodle the rubric score is the assignment score.

#6 Integration

Moodle – To enhance the learning experience, Moodle also offers several free and paid integrations.  Some of the certified integrations for Moodle are – BigBlueButton, Bongo, Intelliboard, SimCheck, GO1, JFusion, Joomdle, and Promoodle. Programs such as Respondus, StudyMate, BigBlueButton, Turning Tech, Turnitin2, Certificates, Attendance, Tegrity, Questionnaire, Virtual Programming Lab, and Badges work right in with Moodle.

Instructors can even use Camtasia and Snagit software for effective in-screen capture, recording and video editing. 

Moodle has also developed integrations with other education systems, such as Student Information Systems (SIS’s). You can even integrate Moodle with WordPress and WooCommerce for selling your Moodle courses via multiple payment gateways on WordPress powered by WooCommerce plugins. 

Canvas – When it comes to integration, Canvas performs equally well. Its integration with third-party tools makes it easy for the admin to keep the platform regularly updated with the university/school requirements.

Apart from that, it offers Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) that helps to integrate third-party tools with your course. LTI integration can be useful for creating digital lessons and activities so that other digital tools can be embedded within your canvas study materials. But most LTIs are only accessible via an actual course. Here’s the list of all the integrations supported in Canvas

You can even improve your course with other web applications and internet resources. Canvas integrates with third-party vendors extremely well.

These integrations allow you to use additional tools such as McGraw-Hill Connect, Kaltura, Box, Office 365, Google Drive, and many more to deliver course materials and pass grades back to the Canvas grade book. Along with integrated learning resources, you can also enjoy the benefit of integrated media reporting in Canvas LMS.

#7 Pricing

Moodle – Moodle is an open-source platform that is free to download and install. If set up on a dedicated server, you will have to bear the configuration, set up and overall maintenance costs. In case, you don’t have enough resources to manage a separate server for Moodle. There are three options offered by MoodleCloud as well:

  • Moodle for Free (No trial, no credit card, 200 MB storage space for maximum 50 users)
  • MoodleCloud Starter (AUD $80/year with 200 MB storage space for a maximum of 50 users, ideal for a single class)
  •  Moodle for School(has 3 sub-packages – Mini, Small, Medium, perfect for multiple classes and workplaces)

Moodle for School does not charge any implementation or set up fee 

Canvas – In the case of Canvas, you can try its open-source version for free. This version can be installed on your own servers. In order to get the hang of the LMS, you can either opt for the two-week free trial account that includes built-in course content. Or you can go for the unlimited free account for individual teachers. 

However, if you’re running a school or an educational institution with multiple instructors and a huge staff, you will have to opt for the paid option.

Canvas charges a one-time implementation fee to get the LMS up and running in your school. This fee differs from school to school and depends on the school size, training and support requirements etc. The subscription fee is based on the total number of users of the platform.

There are several factors considered for the entire set up of Canvas for your educational institution. So, it is advisable to communicate your needs to Canvas directly for an exact price quote.

#8 Hosting

Moodle – Moodle offers both cloud (MoodleCloud) and server solutions for e-learning. There are three alternatives:

  • Do It Yourself (Unlimited users and free forever)
  • Start With Us (A free trial, a limit of 500 users and has paid plans too)
  • Find a Partner (Complete setup and e-learning support with the help of certified Moodle partners)

MoodleCloud offers three options:

  • Moodle for Free (No trial, no credit card, 200 MB storage space for maximum 50 users)
  • MoodleCloud Starter (AUD $80/year with 200 MB storage space for a maximum of 50 users, ideal for a single class)
  • Moodle for School(has 3 sub-packages – Mini, Small, Medium, perfect for multiple classes and workplaces)

Canvas – Canvas offers a cloud-based open-source platform. You can contact the company to get your e-Learning program directly hosted by them for a one-time setup fee. 

Moodle’s both cloud and on-premise solutions work perfectly well. However, with Canvas, it might work great when it is hosted. There can be some performance discrepancy between the hosted and the open-source versions of Canvas. The open-source version could be more challenging than Moodle.

#9 Target audience 

Moodle – Moodle’s modular design makes it a very versatile LMS. It can be tweaked to suit learning needs outside academic context . Moodle LMS can be customized to suit the requirements of K-12 schools, colleges, universities as well as corporates. Moodle also offers a separate, dedicated LMS called Moodle Workplace. It’s upgraded and refined to comply with all your corporate needs.

Canvas – Canvas is more suitable for use in schools and universities as it provides a seamless course management platform for both students and teachers. It helps in bridging the online education gap between instructors and students as the interface is easy to use and navigate with all materials available in one place.

It is a good LMS for universities and schools who are looking to move their curriculum online with basic capabilities for attendance, quizzes, assignments, and notifications to be provided all online. Instructure’s other LMS solution, Bridge, is available for learning management in businesses.

#10 Support 

Moodle – The Moodle community provides 24×7 free technical support. It may be a little difficult for beginners to understand Moodle. So, it offers the assistance of Moodle certified experts to help you get started. These experts provide you with all the technical support and other services if need be.

Moodle Cloud users can contact their Moodle Partner for any extra support or customer service. But the open-source platforms of both LMS don’t provide additional support.

Canvas – The open-source Canvas users are not eligible for any additional support. They can access a support page where users can find answers to their questions, join community groups and share ideas. The paid version of Canvas provides dedicated and more personalized support through email and phone

Both Moodle and Canvas offer a community forum and insightful networking conferences for users to meet and exchange ideas. Similar to MoodleMoots, Canvas offers something called InstructureCon where users can connect, network and learn new information about both Canvas and EdTech in general.


Go for Moodle if you want more control and advanced customizations in your e-learning program. You could choose Canvas if you don’t mind spending on the premium LMS along with its setup and implementation. And also if you want a modern, prettier interface for your students to interact with.

So, have you decided on the right LMS for your e-learning program? If not, the parameters detailed by us in this article will surely give you a better idea of how to go about choosing the perfect LMS. 

Have anything else on your mind that could be a great addition to our take on Moodle vs Canvas? Drop a note in the comments section below

3 thoughts on “Moodle vs Canvas 2021 – Which LMS is better?”

  1. Another angle to consider: implementation technology. It’s important when open source contribution is part of a product’s evolution. Moodle is mostly PHP, which has a somewhat negative reputation for web development. A lot of moodle was designed by teachers who learned PHP but didn’t understand software design. The question bank is a great example of something that works but is crippled (sharing, reusing is very limited). It hasn’t evolved in years, because it needs a redesign, and (in my opinion) young, motivated developers are not interested in PHP enough to attack the redesign.

    Canvas, on the other hand, is based on Ruby and Javascript, arguably more popular technology. It can change faster.

    Furthermore, Moodle doesn’t prune features. Its codebase has become huge and difficult to maintain. Canvas seems to focus more on the most popular features (which shows up in your comparison), but being more conservative means the software code is theoretically easier to manage. This is likely one reason why the user interface is nicer.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *