Desire2Learn or Moodle: Which Learning Management System Should I Choose? (UW-Madison)

Both Desire2Learn and Moodle are learning management systems available at UW-Madison through the Learn@UW suite of teaching and learning technologies.

What are Desire2Learn and Moodle?

Both Desire2Learn and Moodle are learning management systems available through the Learn@UW suite of teaching and learning technologies. (Desire2Learn, which has historically been synonymous with “Learn@UW”, is now referred to by its specific name, or sometimes abbreviated as “D2L”.)


Desire2Learn is a commercial LMS provided for all campuses in the UW System.  Moodle is an open-source LMS that is available on the UW-Madison campus for all credit-bearing courses and some non-credit courses.

What do D2L and Moodle have in common?

Both D2L and Moodle are supported learning management systems on the Madison campus and both systems have extensive documentation in the KB (knowledge base).

Both D2L and Moodle provide tools that allow instructors to:

·      Communicate with students via email and web conferencing

·      Host online discussions

·      Collect assignments

·      Manage grades

·      Customize appearance of course pages

·      Share course content and multimedia with students

·      Easily enroll students in credit-bearing courses

·      Comment on assignments

·      Create instruction and assignments in foreign languages

·      Create instruction and assignments utilizing mathematical notation

(Both systems support foreign languages and mathematical notation.  However, the details of these features vary.  Please check with technology consultants, if foreign languages or mathematical notation are important elements in your class.)

Both learning management systems share similar core functionalities; however, there are important differences between the two. As a general rule,

Features of D2L

D2L is designed to support many fundamental, online needs for teaching and learning such as distributing class materials, hosting online discussions, collecting assignments, and administering quizzes and grades. D2L course sites offer a design that is familiar and consistent across most courses.

In addition to the tools/features described in the introduction, D2L allows instructors to:

·      Import scantron exam grades

·      Use one-click final grade submission to ISIS/Faculty Center

·      Incorporate portfolio-based activities in to student assignments using the integrated ePortfolio system

·      Automatically have a course generated for all credit-bearing courses

·      Create non-credit continuing education or employee training courses

Features of Moodle

Moodle was designed to support a collaborative and participative teaching and learning environment. Because Moodle is an open-source system, local technologists have some ability to customize it to meet new teaching and learning challenges. (We have limited resources for customizing Moodle. Moodle development projects are prioritized by the UW-Moodle Platform Team in conjunction with the Moodle Steering Committee).

In addition to the tools/features described in the introduction, Moodle allows instructors to:

·      Extend capabilities for student collaboration, including student self- and peer- evaluation.

·      Have greater flexibility due to Moodle being open source:

o   New features/feature requests can be implemented more quickly

·      Use Case Scenario Builder with the Moodle gradebook

·      Use Feedback Manager to efficiently provide feedback to essay-style questions in large classes

·      Create activities based on a course wiki

·      Use specialized features supporting foreign languages and symbolic mathematics (check with learning technology consultants for details)

How Should I Choose?

A number of factors should be taken into consideration before deciding on D2L or Moodle, including:

  • Moodle is available for all credit-bearing and some non-credit courses – see KB 9515 .  Non-credit courses where Moodle is not available will need to use Desire2Learn
  • Availability of features and their match to your teaching objectives
  • Amount of interaction desired between students and instructor(s)
  • Support available within your department
  • Personal preference for interface design

You may be wondering whether Moodle or D2L is easier to use.  Naturally, the answer to that depends a lot on who you ask.  Considering that, it is a good idea to think about who you would ask for help when you need it.  If your school or college’s instructional technologists, or even your colleagues across the hall, are more familiar with one system or the other, that could make a big difference in the experience you will have with the system.  Instructional technology consultants are available to help discuss your use of both learning management systems (see links below). 

Next steps

To set up a D2L course:

All credit courses are automatically created in D2L. If you are the instructor of record, you will see these courses upon login. If you want to teach a non-credit course in D2L, request the course here: (

To set up a Moodle course:

If you are in the College of Engineering, the College of Letters and Sciences, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the School of Education, the School of Human Ecology, or the School of Law, you can create your own Moodle course. Click here for step-by-step instructions ( If you are in another department, contact your UW-Madison Moodle contact and they can create the course for you (


Getting Help

If you would like to further discuss your use of a course management system at UW-Madison, you are encouraged to contact one of many instructional technology consultants at UW.

Other resources:

Keywords:learn@uw learnuw d2l desire2learn brightspace moodle LMS   Doc ID:43277
Owner:Learn@UW Madison .Group:Learn@UW Madison
Created:2014-08-28 12:26 CDTUpdated:2017-03-16 13:03 CDT
Sites:DoIT Help Desk, DoIT Tech Store, Learn@UW Madison, Moodle, School of Education
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