For the online learning world


Moodle in 2032 (part 2 of 2)

Joseph Thibault, Founder and editor of Moodlenews, recently posed this question.

Joseph asked a number of our staff to contribute to his report ‘A look at the past, present, and future of Moodle’ (you can find the full report online). https://www.moodlenews.com/moodle-in-2032-the-past-present-and-future-of-the-worlds-most-popular-lms/

Here are some interesting extracts from our ElearningWorld staff when Joseph asked about the next 15 years of Moodle.

  • What do you think the Moodle community will look like in 15 years?

Gareth: “Depends if Moodle survives and adapts to the unexpected challenges of the future.”

Justin: “How the Moodle community evolves is going to be a function of how Moodle evolves. I think that more Moodle development will take place in commercial entities. I think that one or more forks of Moodle will develop and compete. I think that a large corporate will become involved. The question “What is Moodle?” will be harder to answer. Because of this the community as we know it will splinter accordingly and become less focused on Moodle the thing, and more focused on pedagogy, usage and sharing. And we will all be wearing metallic jump suits.”

Stuart: “I am always reticent to gaze into the future and make predictions. History is littered with predictions that seem so ridiculous in retrospect, and especially when they are related to any type of technology, which moves so quickly. However, let’s not let history put us off!

The Moodle community has indeed changed over the last 15 years. The early days were dominated by enthusiastic open-source developers and teachers, all keen to get involved, have input, and share. To some extent, the Moodle User Association has professionalized this group, and provided a more formalised network for this type of user.

The Moodle.org community has grown to millions of registered users. And the forums often feel like the wild west, with questions from newbies and experts intermingled. There are some amazing PHMs (Particularly Helpful Moodlers) who do a stunning job of supporting others, for free in their own time.

But we also have to remember that many users of Moodle are consumers with little or no emotional tie to the platform. They treat Moodle like they treat their Word Processing application or Email client, and just want it to work, and get frustrated when a menu item changes location, or a term such as Home, becomes My Home, becomes Dashboard.

So, the Moodle community isn’t just the enthusiasts and evangelists, importantly it’s also the teacher at the coal-face who just wants to get things done quickly and easily. Can we engage these people more? Some of them, maybe. But we also need to accept that the user community is extremely diverse, and just wants a tool that works.”

  • What challenges have remained insufficiently dealt with or unaddressed by Moodle and other LMS?

Gareth: “For Moodle: Over complicated UI with more than one way to do the same thing. Under the hood code feels like it needs to be optimized through analysis of function calls to ensure most efficient operation. Not quite ‘OO’ so elements cannot be easily overridden like the login page (might be addressed soon) etc.

For other LMS: Good question, probably not having the ability to keep up with the pace of change in social media that drives the way the UI is used and therefore people expect the same ‘ease’ of use. All: Not completely knowing what Moodle and others are, so a VLE or a CMS or a classroom replacement or a classroom compliment, therefore if we don’t really understand what it is and what it solves then it cannot be designed as well as it can equal user frustration. Additionally, a need to educate course creators to use the full power of the software rather than using it like the old-fashioned directory / file network drive methodology.”

Justin: “I think Moodle and other LMSs are doing pretty well. However, I do think that no LMS has yet developed a user interface that appeals to very young learners, i.e. pre-literate children. Similarly, illiterate learners could benefit greatly by interfaces that rely less on text.”

Stuart: “That’s a big question isn’t it? If I take the perspective of an end-user, a consumer of online education and training, I might be reasonably happy. I can access my courses from just about any computer with a browser, and doing the same on my tablet or smartphone gets easier almost by the month.
Although Moodle has a strong set of built-in activities, I think it needs more. Although a highly skilled teacher might integrate SCORM, LTI, and HTML5 in their courses, for 99% of teachers they just use the tools in Moodle. Moodle has made mistakes here.

No core Certificate module … really? In a learning environment!

Feedback module included in core but hidden by default for years.

A project to combine Survey, Feedback, Questionnaire to create what would be a stunning activity … still in discussion after many years.

A Chat system that seems old-fashioned compared to our modern-day experiences on mobile phones.

A fantastic Quiz system, that can’t share questions with the equally fantastic Lesson activity.

The point is, for many teachers, the core activities of Moodle are ‘why they love it’. So new activities, maybe one a year, could help the average teacher
make the average course more flexible, varied, and engaging.

Oh, and Moodle needs a better reporting engine built-in. Although some people will be able to use plugins, SQL queries, and other ways of extracting data, Moodle would benefit so much from a reporting overhaul, generating site level reports easily and flexibly, without the overhead of integrating another software application to do this.”

  • What are future needs/requirements that the community and developers should know about? Or reworded: what are upcoming challenges yet to materialize in full force?

Gareth: “The impact of changes to the education system. Thinking that the tool is the solution and can be used to replace directed learning rather than complement it which is a threat as education is a human / human process as one brain educates the other with software being only a tool to help facilitate that but never replace.”

Justin: “Those who know me will be waving their tissues and rolling their eyes (“here we go…”). I think that Moodle is now such a vital component in the operation of educational institutions and organizations globally, that the scarcity of commercially supported and developed plugins is surprising. Institutions have to rely on plugins that may or may not support new versions of Moodle and have no recall in the event of a bug or urgent need. As a result, there is reluctance to use plugins and heavy reliance on Moodle partners for plugin development or provision.”

Stuart: “I’m sure most people will refer to mobile learning here. And for those with small budgets, expensive or restricted internet access, and limited to smartphones, then this is indeed vital. However, I think the real challenges are still around the concepts of how we make online learning as engaging, successful, and meaningful as traditional face-to-face, on-the-job, and other forms of more traditional social learning.

For Moodle, one of the challenges is certainly how it responds to the competitors. Even though in most cases the products they have are lesser, the reality is they have marketing machines and drivers which operate in the commercial space far more successfullythanMoodle. It’s a sad reality that many company Directors and HR managers are influenced in their decisions by ‘what looks good’ (because they often don’t have the time to scratch below the surface or dig down into what the LMS is really going to deliver). Moodle ‘out-of-the-box’ still looks plain compared to others, even after all these years and many theme overhauls and changes of direction.

So, is Moodle going to continue to be successful over the next 15 years? Of course it is. Will it remain the dominant LMS? Maybe. But we should remember that competition is actually a good thing. It forces the product to develop, to change, to react, and to be proactive. Ultimately Moodle will continue to be the best choice for most situations, and maintain its market share, in an ever growing LMS market.”

Stuart Mealor
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Stuart Mealor

Stuart is interested in all things e-learning, with specific interests in Moodle, e-learning strategy, and business development. His experience in education over 30 years, MBA in International Business, and knowledge of e-learning systems implementation, together with graphic design background, give him a unique skill set for e-learning projects.

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