free moodle hosting

Which Free Moodle Hosting Service to Choose?

Training and Education Technology

When you first get started with Moodle, free hosting can help you test the waters. While there are myriads of the options available, MoodleCloud and Gnomio are two main free moodle hosting services, used more frequently. The former is from the makers of Moodle and the latter is a work of Moodle fans. Both have their own benefits and drawbacks. So, when choosing a Moodle hosting service, you must keep few important things in mind, like the number of users, available plug-ins, ease of setup, appearance, and themes and the support available. To make things easy for you, we’ve compared both the free moodle hosting services on a number of parameters:

1. Number of users

Moodle web hosting on MoodleCloud is limited to 50 users. Gnomio, on the other hand, does not have a specific user limit. They do, however, say that they are not a company, but rather a group of Moodle fans working together. You can choose either of the two depending on the number of students. However, if your class gets large, for example, 100 or more, you may wish to switch from these free Moodle hosting sites to a paid Moodle partner account.

2. Advertising and associated costs

Both MoodleCloud and Gnomio are ad-supported and both use ads from Google AdSense. You can turn ads off on both platforms by paying a small fee. The fee on MoodleCloud is AUD 5 per month while Gnomio charges as high as USD 20 per month. However, if you make an upfront annual payment of USD 150, it comes down to USD 12.45 per month.

However, you get some additional perks in exchange for your donation to Gnomio, such as:

  • automated backups for every course.
  • faster email sending. Emails for donors are sent every 15 minutes, as opposed to every two hours.
  • more leeway with idle courses. If you are a donor, your course will not be disabled and deleted, even if you do not log in for over 30 days.

MoodleCloud accepts both credit and debit cards. Donations on Gnomio are taken via PayPal.

3. Number of courses supported

If you want to offer multiple courses, Gnomio makes a better choice. MoodleCloud limits you to one course per phone number. On Gnomio, you can create as many courses you want to. However, remember that if you are using Gnomio for multiple courses and are not opting for the ad-free hosting, you will need to keep those courses active. If you don’t log into a course for a period of 30 days at a stretch, it is deleted.

4. Deletion of idle courses

On Gnomio, courses that have not been logged into for 30 days at a stretch, and are not supported by a donor are deleted. The exceptions are courses with no content, which are deleted after seven days. MoodleCloud gives you more wiggle room on deletion; they will delete a class with no user logins after 60 days. They attempt to notify you seven days before your course is set for deletion, so you can log in and save the course if you would like to.

5. Course versions  and features

If you want access to the latest Moodle features, such as the new file handling system and the expanded quiz question styles, MoodleCloud is your best bet. MoodleCloud runs on version 3.0 while Gnomio is still using 2.9.3.

6. Plugins

MoodleCloud only offers plugins that are supported by MoodleHQ. Gnomio offers access to third-party plugins. On the surface, this can look like Gnomio is the better pick. However, MoodleCloud’s choice to go with only MoodeHQ supported plugins means that you have more assurance that your plugins will always be updated and work properly. If you don’t mind the possible sacrifice of some stability, Gnomio can give you what you want. But, those who want to be 100 percent assured of stable plugins may be more comfortable going with MoodleCloud.

The Certificates plugin is one of the most popular Moodle plugins that is not supported by MoodleCloud. If offering a certificate is important to you and your learners, this is a feature that could make Gnomio the better pick for you.

7. Appearance and themes

MoodleCloud only offers basic Moodle themes. This can result in a course that has a generic Moodle look and feel. Gnomio allows you to use third-party themes, giving you more flexibility than you would have by going with MoodleCloud.

8. Ease of setup

It’s easy to set up your account and your classes on both MoodleCloud and Gnomio. Simply provide a username and an email address and you can start designing your courses. None has an upper hand here unless you feel overwhelmed by Gnomio’s number of plugins or stymied by the smaller selection on MoodleCloud.

9. Support

Gnomio makes it clear on their website that they are not a business; they’re just a group of Moodle fans who want to make the platform accessible to more users. Because of this, they refer users to to visit the online community or look at the official docs. On the other hand, MoodleCloud is from the makers of Moodle. So, users of both the hosting services would be using official resources for support in case of questions or issues.

In the end, if you’re new to Moodle and battling Gnomio vs. MoodleCloud, you may wish to experiment with each to see which suits your needs better. And while testing these out, don’t forget that both are free options. Once you have rolled out a couple of courses and worked with a number of students, you will be able to understand your requirements better. Probably, you would want to switch to a Moodle partner or other enterprise site. These will give you access to the perks like custom domains, more stability, and a more robust platform for the success of your online courses.


Shivani Sharma

Content Manager at WizIQ. A writer, editor, planner and executor by the day, and a reader during commute to and from work. Skilled at writing simple. More than anything, a FOODIE!

12 thoughts on “Which Free Moodle Hosting Service to Choose?

  1. Moodle Free hostings sound good, but for optimal performance, such services have their drawbacks like for example even factors such as high downtime can have a very bad impact on any website. For these reasons I prefer Moodle based cloud hosting by cloud, its fast, reliable and affordable.

  2. Thanks Shivani, this is very useful. I noticed that when visiting the Gnomio site for the first time there was a tweet from @GnomioNews saying that all sites have been upgraded to Moodle 3.1.2. This might sway things for me.
    Thanks again.

    1. Thank you, Vijay. Glad you found it useful. I will try comparing the and Coursera. Let’s see how the comparison turns out to be.

      Stay tuned for more.

  3. One plug-in you do not mention is BigBlueButton, which has been, for me, the easiest virtual classroom to use and the largest (free) capacity. MoodleCloud offers it for free. Gnomio does not offer it at all, the last time I checked.

    1. Thank you very much, Bruce, for bringing this up. Yes, MoodleCloud supports BigBlueButton. WizIq VC can also be integrated with Moodle. Have you tried that? It’s a great tool for delivering high-quality live sessions.

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