We did some word crunching magic to find the underlining topics, ideas, and concerns from our readers and followers during the course of the year. Admittedly, there were some surprises, especially about the ideas we personally thought would gather more interest. For example, applied educational research or competencies and CBE.
Nevertheless, below you’ll find the ten most popular motifs in Moodle, Open Source, and EdTech.
Honorable Mention: Chatbots
The work of Matthew Porritt from Moodle Partner Catalyst IT, the first clear development for a possible smart assistant or even tutor from within Moodle, came to light only months after our own analysis of our “recipe” for a sustainable chatbot. The work generated a lot of buzz, but it came to a halt halfway through the year. Still, it would not be surprising if 2018 brings new developments, either by Porritt or another Moodler.
In its second year of activity, MUA is an undeniable force of influence in the future of Moodle, both as a promoter of modern features and as an effective way to make users’ voices heard. While initiatives like Virtual Town Halls and attendance at MoodleMoots, not to mention the energizing twice-yearly Project Development Cycle, were already in place before the new steering Committee was announced, Emma Richardson deserves credit for making MUA’s initiatives better known by Moodle users and engaging the base.
Monthly themed plugin roundups
In addition to our regular review of interesting new plugins and updates to crowd favorites, our plugin reviews seem to have found a place in our readers’ hearts. Each month, we provided interesting plugin updates, often grouped into similar use cases. We also received positive feedback when we had the opportunity to tell the stories behind their development or implementation, something we hope to continue to do next year. (If you are on a Moodle plugin development or management team, we’re really hoping to hear from you!)
Integrations, partnerships, and specifications
As a subset of the tech world, announcements about partnerships were the market’s bread and butter. There was the controversial EFP with Blackboard, Moodle’s own debate involving office suites from the likes of Microsoft and Google, and lately Linkedin Learning with a set of small LMS, among some of the year’s highlights. The last one resembles a more general trend with Open Educational Resources (OER) companies with platforms and large educational institutions.
Many of them involved sharing information or access to content using standardized specifications, such as LTI or xAPI, which brought attention to organizations that focus on promoting standards. Mainly, the non-profit EdTech consortium, IMS Global, and the US Secretary of Defense’s ADL. However, almost paradoxically, despite the preference for the newer protocols even by its own creator, the admittedly antiquated SCORM might live to see another year.
Whether you think Canvas is a sign of Moodle’s impending doom, that Canvas will have a hard time achieving the non-monetary impact of Moodle worldwide, or that they are two different products for different audiences that can peacefully coexist, there is no denying the Canvas-versus-Moodle match was a popular topic throughout the year. For Instructure, Canvas parent company, it was a good year, as they reached a stock market valuation of a billion dollars for the first time.
The Moodle Learning Analytics engine, formerly Project Inspire, was the only news to top a hectic year of analytics in terms of new solutions and approaches. Short of more widespread hiring of data scientists at learning organizations, there seems to be an increased in attention to and professionalization of analytical practice. Hopefully Moodle’s new capabilities will reach more underserved corners of the world to make analytics a more universally valuable practice.
MOOCs: Another shot?
While for promoters of Massive Online Education, 2017 could be seen as a “track back” year which put the other “O” (Open) into question, Moodle HQ seems ready to double down. The semiannual “Learn Moodle” continues to gather larger critical masses with each new iteration. In the second half of the year, Moodle HQ announced the launch of a complete “Learn Moodle” curriculum for 2018.
The game changer across industries is also doing its deed in learning and, just like everywhere else, its impact is seemingly only beginning. In Moodle, the efforts to make up for a subpar experience from the first incursions in mobile are paying off, despite the fair share of hesitant users out there. Moodle Mobile is now updated with the regularity of the Moodle core and recently it achieved 100% compatibility with the default activities. Its offline capabilities have also been instrumental in taking Moodle to extreme use cases, including those by organizations who have acquired the “Branded” Moodle Mobile app service.
Gamification: New standard or key differentiator
Gamification was already in the mainstream when the year began. Announcements of game-based solutions in Moodle plugins, third-party interconnected apps, and even a whole, new “gameful” LMS, are signs that the approach is becoming the expected thing in EdTech. Gamification has several benefits, but at least one downside: a rushed implementation of the most rudimentary principles (coins, points, badges, scoreboards) could undermine resources for practices that are more closely knit to specific subjects and student personalities. After all, the true innovative power of gamification lies in the ability to deliver timely feedback that builds intrinsic motivation.
User Experience-Centered Moodle (at last!)
To remain the best LMS in the world, Moodle needs to become better at reading the users’ tea leaves, rather than limitedly adopting modern trends with a 6 month embargo. The creation of a UX team at Moodle HQ is a step in the right direction, with plenty of visible actions, such as the months-long Moodler Usability Study, and a recent shift towards a “user-centered design” that is visible in Moodle 3.4 and will continue to define the future major updates.
Moodle Themes: A new golden age?
Thanks to the new default “Boost” theme, designers have had an easier time adding interesting features to the already proficient new look of Moodle, which doubles as a theme development framework. Proof of this is the several “Boost children” that are part of this year’s best themes, all younger than a year old.
What’s next? With an embedded, highly customizable machine learning engine in Moodle, we could witness in 2018 the rise of “smart themes” that prioritize or adapt navigation options according to student behavior and performance.
H5P, to rule all interactivity
As the Scandinavian project in open source interactivity design started to gain prominence and fans, the Moodleverse began to embrace its many features along with its philosophy of ever-usable, customizable, and shareable interactive content. The team continues to enhance the plugin, now more properly thought of as a platform, and increase its content types, leaving little reason for educators and instructional designers to learn something else. Beyond Moodle, H5P is a global phenomenon. Last September it held its first H5P Conference.
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