A Comparison of Two Online Learning Systems


  • Mark Nichols The UK Open University


distance education, iQualify, LMS evaluation, Moodle, online education, Open Polytechnic, student preferences, user experience, UX


Open Polytechnic is a single-mode provider of distance education with a rich history of print-based provision. Strategically, the institution is rapidly adopting an online-only approach, with some exceptions for programmes that require student contact. A recent and internal review of Moodle, the Open Polytechnic’s learning management system (LMS) indicated concern about the likely student experience for an online-only format, so an internal system called iQualify was developed. iQualify was developed specifically from a user-experience (UX) perspective to optimise the online-only learning experience. As part of the drive towards online-only education, Open Polytechnic courses are being purposefully redeveloped for iQualify, moving away from print-and textbook-based materials, and towards textbook-independent and online-only study. This article uses a UX perspective to compare student outcomes, high-level course evaluations, and student perceptions of the two approaches—Moodle, with print and textbook; and iQualify online-only. Findings indicate that while students tend to prefer printed materials, actual withdrawal and pass rates are not affected by an online-only approach. Respondents also indicated a significant preference for the new iQualify platform over Moodle, and openness to online-only study. 

Author Biography

Mark Nichols, The UK Open University

At the time of writing this article Dr Mark Nichols was Executive Director of Education Design Services at Open Polytechnic. In February 2016 he began work as Director, Technology Enhanced Learning with The Open University, United Kingdom.






Articles - Primary studies