A few years ago, while attending a Moodle Moot, I realised that the Moodle community had a serious underdog complex. The mere mention of Blackboard raised emotions reminiscent of an Orwellian hate rally. But even then, I had the impression that Moodle was taking hold and becoming more commonplace, and I was forced to consider: what happens when Moodle is no longer the underdog?
When I first started working at Moodle, I had to explain to my friends and family what Moodle was. Some of my former university-related colleagues knew about Moodle, but weren’t sure how I could be working for Moodle.
Of late, I’ve been frequently encountering random people who know what Moodle is (and have opinions about it), which gives me cause to believe that Moodle is no longer just a small competitor in the LMS game.
- While at the recent Australian Moot, while in a hotel elevator I was wearing my Moodle shirt; I was asked by another guest if I was here for the “Moodle Conference”. I said I was and asked if she was also. Apparently she was not, but had heard that the conference was happening in town and went on to tell me that her school was using Moodle and she thought it was great. All this in a few floors.
- At a barbecue with my son’s swimming club, I was asked where I worked. When I mentioned Moodle, several people spontaneously started sharing their Moodle experiences – submitting work online, discussing ideas in forums and monitoring children’s homework. The scientist in me made me sit back and gather evidence, which turned out to be positive.
- I’ve had similar fleeting experiences on trains, at church gatherings and with old school friends.
It’s even more surprising to hear random people mention Moodle when schools and universities usually re-brand their instance of Moodle, calling it “Study Desk” or “iLearn” or “Wattle” or something else. People are starting to recognise that the underlying system is Moodle, which is the same system their colleagues are using elsewhere.
In truth, Moodle has been mainstream for some time. In some parts of the world, Moodle has reached saturation at the university and vocational training levels. Even Moodle’s competitors are recognising this and attempting to buy into Moodle.
Why has Moodle become mainstream?
There are a number of reasons I can think of that have caused this shift in status.
- Teachers want the LMS to do what they want it to do. Moodle, with it’s treasure-trove of plugins, allows them to do more of what they want, and there’s always the potential to create another plugin. Moodle gains much of its strength from the Developer community.
- People are becoming more accepting of open-source software. With the successes of Firefox, OpenOffice and others, people are starting to see the value in such software and the quality a community effort can produce. Talking to people involved in other open-source projects, I know that Moodle is one of the most organised projects around. The structure and funding model set up for Moodle is very sustainable and ensures Moodle will not disappear for many years yet.
- Being open source and free, Moodle is making inroads into smaller educational institutions, and this is something commercial LMSs have not been able to do. Not being pigeon-holed in higher education means Moodle is becoming more of a household name.
- Moodle is open about its flaws. In my position I can claim to know all the blemishes on the face of Moodle, but you can see them too at tracker.moodle.org. Users now realise that no software is bug free and when a commercial product is presented to them as flawless, it is greeted with scepticism.
Perhaps the biggest reason Moodle is shifting into the mainstream mindset is because of the community sentiment that surrounds it…
This is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it is clear that public sentiment about Moodle is high.
This is not infallible evidence, but I dare you to try this test with other LMSs.