What is Moodle?

Moodle is a “Course Management System”.

“Learning Management System” has taken over a bit but Moodle is a Course Management System.

It’s for managing a Course.

For me, a Course is when you have a community of learners trying to learn something.

It’s not about a teacher teaching students.

It’s about a teacher facilitating a group to learn something.

Moodle has always had this very collaborative social aspect.

It’s about the students being encouraged to demonstrate and practice their learning by constructing artifacts for each other in a social constructionist environment.

You make forum posts.

You upload assignments.

You make videos.

You make sound recordings.

Whatever it takes two to make yourself think about the subject and then demonstrate your learning.

All good.

So a lot of our tools are all very much focused on creating this safe space where this happens.

Most Learning Management Systems are very much oriented towards this transmissionist approach where you’re dumping a bunch of information on people and then testing them at the end.

And that’s different.

That’s one reason why Moodle is probably different.

It has that approach.

What is a Moodle Partner?

A lot of people ask if Moodle is Open Source and free.

How do developers get paid?

How does it work?

We have a business model.

My company is the main Moodle company that does the core development of Moodle and we have a number of Moodle Partners for business partners and those companies do services around Moodle.

While you can get Moodle for free, and run it yourself –and you’re quite free to – if you need help, if you need support or consulting or training or hosting or certification — or things like that –then you go to a Moodle Partner company.

There’s one here in Vancouver.

Lambda Solutions.

We have about 54 Moodle Partners in the world.

They do those services as a Moodle Partner.

We promote them and they’re allowed to do these services under the banner Moodle.

In return they pay a royalty back to the main Moodle company to support the development.

About ten percent of their revenue goes back to Moodle development.

By using a Moodle partner for middle services you are in fact supporting Moodle directly.

That’s how the model works.

Everyone wins.

How did Moodle get started?

I was involved in Distance Learning from a very young age.

My early school years, until I was around 12, was mostly spent online.

I was on shortwave radio.

We have something in Australia called School of the Air.

The school was in a town called Kalgoorlie and that was something like a thousand kilometers from where I was living in a little town called Warburton.

There wasn’t a school for me there.

In the morning, I would get on the radio for an hour or so, talk with my class – the kids are like all hundreds of kilometres away – and my teacher as well, and the rest of the time was a lot of Self-Paced Worksheets

Every two weeks we’d have a plane come — a six-seater Cessna — it would drop off my homework and pick up my last package of homework and it would go back.

That was how I did my early schooling

When I came back to the city I was a whole year ahead of all my peers so I just jumped a grade.

All through high school I was a year younger than everybody else.

It just goes to show it was at least as effective as being in a school – probably better – because I could just focus on things.

It’s important, in that environment, to have parent’s support. My parents were very involved as well.

I wasn’t just purely plugged in, I had my parents helping as well.

It was only much later, after I’d really started developing Moodle, that I kind of realized yeah it probably had something to do with it.

What’s next for Moodle?

The major thing happening now is that we’re going back to the roots of Moodle.

I did a lot of research in education at the beginning.

I was a computer scientist.

I wanted to develop this software and I figured I should spend a lot of time thinking about it first. So I went and did a Masters and a PhD in education – and was developing Moodle at that time.

Since then it’s all been follow through.

The last 10 years has basically been about making Moodle scale to large numbers, or work better on different hosts and web browsers, and adding more little features – lots of features, but smaller things.

Fundamentally, Moodle is pretty much the same product it’s always been — at its core.

The phase we’re at now is really a kind of a watershed moment where we need to get back to the real research.

The teacher I mentioned before is making discoveries about the nature of online learning.

What really works.

That stuff has got to bubble up into the design of the software – so that every teacher using it is guided into this optimal way of using it, so that we improve the quality of education.

Moodle’s always had that focus.

There’s so much research going on.

The focus for me personally is to enable that by improving the information that people have.

We improved the logging, we improved the analytics, we improved the data that people have — so that they’re able to do that research.

And we get the results.

We can improve the product for everybody.

That’s what it’s all about.

What’s next for Moodle 2.5 and later versions?

We have a new release strategy which is based on time

We do releases at a certain time.

First week of May, I can guarantee there’ll be a release –2.5.

What I can tell you is punctuality.

I can guarantee punctuality.

What that means is that the features that are in it will depend on what’s finished at that time

We’re obviously queuing things up and scheduling them but it’s not always as you expect

So the two to the two major things we’re working on are this logging and data collection, analytics that I mentioned

The second one which is a very big one is about competencies.

Tracking outcomes.

You have a list of outcomes which may be from the state or some curriculum and you want to use those outcomes as a way to structure or scaffold education.

When a student has shown they can achieve some competency against one of those you record it.

And you can show it.

You use that for the course design.

You use that for portfolios.

ou can turn those things into Open Badges, which goes onto CVs, resumes – I’m not sure what word you use here in Canada

Maybe both.

That then becomes evidence of their learning.

It also becomes an indicator for further learning.

That’s a very important framework.

We have one — an outcomes framework — in Moodle –but it’s very basic and where we’re working now to improve that.

The mobile app is another big feature.

I think it doesn’t take a genius to see that in a couple of years everything’s going mobile.

I mean, as soon as you get a tablet, you don’t use your laptop so much.

We’ve just developed a new mobile app using html5 technology – which means it works on all platforms.

We previously had an iOS one but it was very hard to develop and as a result didn’t do very much.

The new one is open-source html5 and supports plugins to extend its functionality.

We’re getting the Moodle community involved in a new project which is this mobile app – a mobile Moodle.

It’s being released as a beta on the Android store today, this week, definitely.

And that will be rolling out over time so we’ll be improving that.