Is Moodle under threat from Microsoft Teams?

There’s been a lot of excitement recently surrounding “next-gen learning” and Microsoft Teams. I know of a few organisations who are making the switch from Moodle to Teams, so I’m on a mission to find out how a communications platform built around chat, meetings and storage has slowly become recognised as a Learning Platform. And whether or not Moodle should be worried.

From my experience, Teams seems to fit well with organisations who have already adopted Microsoft into their ecosystem as opposed to say Google. Many organisations running their email, cloud storage, intranets (SharePoint) and office docs via Microsoft naturally see Teams as another weapon in the arsenal. It often has the buy-in from internal company stakeholders such as the IT team, senior leaders and just about everyone else in the organisation, and it’s cheap, sometimes free.

So what exactly is Microsoft Teams?
According to their website, Teams allows users to create and make decisions by “bringing everything together in a shared workspace where you can chat, meet, share files, and work with business apps“. So it’s a bit like Facebook Workplace then, and certainly nothing like an LMS, so why is it being used as one? Keep reading to find out.

Microsoft Teams is billed as a “Digital Hub that teachers and school leaders have been waiting for. Where teachers and students can experience a personalised, vibrant learning environment, as well as having many of the classroom basics, like assessments, assignments and notebooks“.

Now to most of us, this is just marketing speak. But when you are evaluating your LMS or considering a new one, then this marketing drivel is music to your ears. And Microsoft is a well established and widely known tech giant, and they’re cool, right? Well, er… no. But we’ll come onto that.

Organisations love the way that Teams integrate everything, so switching between a chat, video conference or document sharing is all done in a few clicks, all from within the same platform. Teams has changed the way organisations run a business, but I still fail to see how this can transform online teaching and learning. Where are the custom grading options and plagiarism tools? How can you use a quiz engine that only supports the most basic of question types? How do you structure a course and monitor completion tracking, course start dates and end of year rollovers?

Where are the learning plans, competencies and open badges? Where are the marking workflows, outcomes and rubrics? How can you create enhanced learning interactions from a word doc? It seems to me that most of the course content is derived from cloud services like OneDrive, favouring the creation of office documents to build up a course page as opposed to say lessons, databases, wikis and glossaries. But does the modern organisation actually need any of this old Moodle stuff? Is it still relevant?

In Teams, courses don’t exist in the traditional sense, instead, Teams uses workspaces. It is possible to add “tabs” to a workspace and link to or embed content from a popular cloud-based application, such as Trello, Asana, YouTube, Power BI or SmartSheet. At first, this sounds exciting, until you realise that we haven’t built an LMS, we have built an intranet. Tabs are like topics in Moodle. In each tab (page) you can include links, documents, embeds and tap into the other tools offered by the Microsoft suite.

So, in response to my early question, how does Teams become an LMS? Simple. Organisations are changing their needs and requirements for online learning. Perhaps they don’t need all the “teaching and learning tools” provided by Moodle. Perhaps they were never using them in the first place. Let’s be honest, how many corporate Moodle users use advanced grading, or set up the Workshop activity? How many organisations have gone beyond SCORM, a forum and a certificate? So maybe setting up a course like a modern intranet page is the way forward for them.

If this is the case, and we are no longer building courses in the traditional way, and it’s all now about document collaboration and cloud storage, meetings, chat, video and email then Moodle does feel out of place. But only in the way it’s marketed, positioned and perceived.

Moodle can do all of the above and more, if it’s configured to. Moodle has 365 integration, single sign-on, powerful forums, chat tools and social tools. And with a slick “Microsoft-style” theme, it could be made to look and feel every bit as “cool” as it’s Redmond rival. Unfortunately, Moodle isn’t seen as cool (I’m not sure Microsoft is or ever was, especially if you remember using Windows ME, and Bill Gates on-stage dance at the launch of Windows 95). However, a switch to Microsoft from Moodle can be seen as cool, innovative and “next-gen”. Organisations could be seen as trailblazers and trendsetters, going against the grain and challenging the very essence of the LMS.

Of course, if you are an institution who has used Moodle for a lot of years, then anything new and shiny will quickly become adopted. Out with old and in with the new does create a buzz, and the whole internal L&D culture can be changed overnight. “This is how we are going to build courses from now on” is the tune played by the senior leaders. A move that would be difficult to deploy if still using Moodle. “This is the way we’ve always done it”, would be the call back from disgruntled Moodle users when forced to make Moodle work like Teams.

So, should Moodle be worried about Teams? Well, the answer is yes and no. Moodle has released “Moodle Workplace”, which rivals Totara and other established corporate LMS platforms. But Moodle Workplace, nor Totara is not a direct competitor to Teams, it’s a different product. Microsoft Teams is like Facebook Workplace, I feel that these two platforms are competitors.

Essentially, it’s all down to the culture of the organisation. If an organisation can change the way they teach by using chat, video, office docs and collaboration then they will, and social business platforms will flourish. This culture change is a threat to Moodle, and to Totara and other LMS platforms (although Totara does offer Totora Social).
If an organisation still feels the true value of online teaching relies on the very foundations of what Moodle provides, in terms of pedagogy, teaching tools, course formats and reports then Moodle need not be worried.

If it were me, I’d be pitching to both camps and making sure that Moodle can respond to the culture change that is happening in L&D, the tools are there, it’s just nobody is positioning them to this new uprising. It’s all about positioning and “educating” new and existing Moodlers that there is plenty of life left in the LMS, and with Moodle you can get the best of both worlds. I’m calling it, Moodle Teams.

MoodleMoot 2019 – Short Reflection

OK, I’m officially old as I’m now in double digits for the number of Moodle Moots I have attended. Having just returned from the UK Moot in Manchester.

And for once, this Moot was local to me.  As always, it was great to catch up with familiar friends and faces from the UK and across the globe.  It’s been an interesting few years for Moodle, especially since the organisation has become more commercial in both its thinking and its operations and this was evident in the opening keynote by Moodle founder, Martin Dougiamas.  He now has to worry about paying the wages for some 70+ staff alongside building the worlds best LMS and nobler efforts such as figuring out how Moodle as an entity can help solve bigger worldwide humanitarian problems.  Not a small feat.

Here are my top 3 highlights from the keynote.

  • Moodle Workplace is almost operational, with some really amazing features coming to Moodle core over the next few releases
  • Deeper integration with H5P
  • The possibilities of embedding quiz questions in other content (formative).

The group photo proved challenging, due to the sheer amount of Moodlers in the audience, if you look carefully you can find me! This just shows you just how popular Moodle is, so if there are any doubters as to Moodle’s dominance in the UK LMS space, just take a look below:

 

moodlemoot 2019

My Pico Presentation:

This year I presented a short pico presentation on MoodleCloud theming, using CSS.  I’m not sure anyone understood why I presented this so let me briefly explain.  With MoodleCloud, users cannot install themes, and some users complain that they struggle to make MoodleCloud look good.  So I thought it would be good to show just how far you can go with CSS on a standard Moodle theme, and prove the cloud critics wrong.

bakery

The slides will become available shortly via the Moot website (I think).

Partners and exhibitors:

All the usual crew attended the 2019 Moot, however, not all of the UK partners had a stand, which I found quite interesting. Anyhow, my friends at Titus Learning were there in full force and it was great to meet the newest UK Moodle Partner, eThink Education.

The presentations:

As always, I attended a range of presentations delivered by other Moodlers, in particular, I found the Moodle app presentations extremely useful.  The Open University delivered a fair few of these.  The guys at Weizmann Institue of Science showcased some amazing things they have been doing with Moodle that improve the student experience, which is refreshing to see.

One of my main criticisms of a Moodle Moot (and many of the attendees ), is that there is too much focus on making Moodle better for educators, teachers and administrators.  And not enough focus on the student.  Maybe we need to get students and end-users there next year.

Take a look at the wish list below, these are what was suggested.  Notice how the focus is on the Moodle backend, and not on the front end. I think we need a more student-centric focus personally but as the majority of the audience were admins, developers or teachers, then I can understand why.

brainstorming

 

The Moodle party!

As ever, the party was great fun. Who doesn’t like free beer, live music, trapeze artists and entertaining Monkey people?  Just check out the twitter stream with hashtag #mootieuk19 to see what I mean.  Each year my hangover seems worse than the last.

Final thoughts:

Moodle Moots are amazing,   I’ve come back with a stack of new ideas and enthusiasm, now all I have to do is find the time to implement some of them.
There is a global Moot this year in Barcelona, and it’s extremely tempting.

What if the Moodle UX was like Netflix?

moodle_netflix

Having spent the past few days in London with a colleague trying to figure out the future of “digital learning”, I couldn’t stop thinking about what an LMS (such as Moodle) would look like if it adopted a truly simplistic design and setup.  A design that “encourages”, nay… damn right forces you to love it.

Imagine if the image above was your dashboard.  And your courses were nothing more than “covers”, like movie covers on Netflix or Amazon. And the course you last viewed was bigger than the other tiles and highlighted, and when you clicked on it, it resumed where you left off.

When you click on the course, you get one single, simple page.  The course may be just a single activity, whether an H5P Project, a SCORM package or a video. It doesn’t matter.

“But one single activity isn’t enough, I hear you say”.

Well, why not make lots of single activities?  Like a library, whereby each course is in fact just a placeholder for an amazing resource. So we stop building long topic driven courses that look they are trapped in 2009 and actually build courses that offer personalisation where the user can chose what they want to learn.  Like we chose what we want to watch.

Users could simply “add courses” to their library (think self enrolment), they can keep the course (if they like) or un-enrol when they are done.

“But we need to tell learners what to learn, I hear you scream!”

Netflix don’t explicitly tell me what I should watch, but they certainly sway my hand. It’s all in the presentation, and tagging. Something which Moodle can do really well.

No messy course formats, no ugly Moodle hacks, no specialists blocks, just a clever Moodle Theme and a change of culture (a revolution, if you will). We could turn off all the bloat, hide all the settings and have a front-end more akin with the tech we use daily.

I can hear screams of Moodle admins and teachers crying that “this wouldn’t work in our organisation“, but in the same vain, I can hear cheers from learners who don’t give a damn about the backend, the gradebook, the pedagogical workflow of the course, or how clever an API is.  They want to log in and learn. That’s it!

Sometimes, less is more.

I believe this type of approach (although admittedly not suitable for all organisations) would perfectly suit the casual learner. Those who are time precious, who need to dip in and out of content..and who knows.. if done right…may “binge watch” your course resources like a box set of Game of Thrones.  You never know.

I haven’t built this yet, as I’ve been insanely busy, but the more I think about it, the more I can’t stop thinking about it. It could be crazy enough to work.

Moodle Moot 2016 Day 2 of 3

moodlehelmet

Day 2 kicked off with the annual keynote by Martin Dougiamas.  It was interesting to see how Moodle Could has been expanded to include ad-free , higher user packages. This makes Moodle Cloud an attractive solution for schools looking for a low-cost SAAS Moodle.  The Moodle Association which was announced this time last year is now fully under way and it was great to see this gaining traction.  We were also taught the valuable lesson of not “Moodling whilst Driving!”.

The roadmap for Moodle 3.1 is exciting.  When Moodle 3.0 was released, it felt more like 2.10, and it was met with little fanfare.  However, 3.1  is really the version to look forward to, and the version I’m sure HQ wanted to release if it wasn’t for versioning numbers getting in the way 🙂

Learning Plans and Competencies (due in 3.1) have been a long time coming but one of the most exciting things coming to core I’ve seen in a long while. The possibilities with this are amazing, I can think of so many use cases.

I spent the rest of the morning watching some fantastic presentations in the “Adoption” strand of the conference followed by “Decision Making”  where we saw how the OU have redesigned Moodle, driven by focus groups and student feedback.

After lunch was the Pecha Kucha (rapid fire presentations), and at 3pm I delivered my talk on Instruction Design and the Moodle Lesson Activity.

The final keynote from the OU showing their last 10 years with Moodle was insightful (and nostalgic) but at the same time demonstrated their commitment to the project, not just for the tremendous efforts over the last decade but their future plans too.

The OU’s continued commitment to Moodle sends out a very powerful message.

And that for me was the theme of day, Moodle isn’t going away.  There are plenty of new LMS platforms on the block, all with their own “whizz bang” and feature set.  But they will never have the community that Moodle has. This is what drives and evolves the platform. Not tools for salesmen but tools for educators.

Many people in the industry tend to judge an LMS by its cover. This year we are finally getting the cover to go with the pages.

 

 

 

Moodle Moot 2016 Day 1 of 3

London Moodlemoot 2016

What a great conference thus far.  Some familiar faces, and some real faces I can actually put to Twitter avatars.  Officially we have not even kicked off yet (today is the hackfest) and it’s already awesome.  I spent the morning in the Mobile App Session and I am in awe of the work that has gone into the Moodle Mobile App and what is to come in the future.

We were lucky enough to be given a sneak peak into quiz support in the app, and to be told that ALL core quiz question types will be supported in a future release!

Mark Aberdour chaired a superb interactive session, which encouraged us to compare and contrast the mobile app experience vs the Moodle Mobile App experience, and having the core Moodle App developers explain some of their design decisions was extremely insightful.  We spent the morning creating Moodle activities and analysing the mobile user experience which was intertwined with roadmap sneak peaks.  Another discovery was planned support for assignment uploads within the app. Proving that the official Moodle Mobile app is the best in its class.

Lunch was fantastic, the venue is fantastic.  We are 4 floors underground which is starting to feel like the start of a Zombie movie, I expect the world to have ended when we finally go upstairs back to civilisation.

I spent the rest of the afternoon in the developer hackfest, where Juan Leyva went through Moodle API’s in quite some detail.

Next up is the drinks reception.

Tomorrow I shall blog Day 2.

Follow the conference using the hashtag: #mootieuk16