By: Christina Gomez Echavarria

Dublin, Ireland

Moodle may be one of the open source software with the biggest community surrounding it. Hundreds of people who don’t work with Moodle, still contribute towards making Moodle a better tool every day, simply because they love it. Since the community usage of Moodle is so widespread and diverse, there was a need within the community to come together and share their experiences, what they have learned, and where they have failed, so others can learn from that too. These practice sharing gatherings by the community that began initially in Oxford, England is what we know today as MoodleMoots.

Gavin Henrick is the Community Projects Manager at Moodle and helps run some of the MoodleMoots which take place worldwide. Before working for Moodle, Gavin was in fact one of the people who make up the Moodle Community. He had also used Moodle for over ten years at work and even created a blog in which he wrote plugin reviews and gamification, amongst other topics. His blog touches on the similar topics to MoodleMoots including what is new in Moodle, and basically reflecting and sharing experiences. After years of being a community member, he started working for Moodle, and now organizes the MoodleMoots and has  published his reviews on Moodle’s official website.

Normally, the Moodle-ran MoodleMoots have the same format: the first day is a professional development day consisting of training workshops; and the two main days involve presentations, panels, and keynote speeches from people in the community who are sharing their practices. There are specific topics that are touched upon regularly in each MoodleMoot; for example, it may focus on mobile learning, learning analytics, online course design or administration.

MoodleMoots are a great way to keep, strengthen and grow the Moodle Community. Someone who is running their own Moodle site has the opportunity to talk to like-minded people face to face.

MoodleMoots help the community to come together and learn from each other. Gavin recalls a story in the UK MoodleMoot where one institution showed how students were becoming mentors and Moodle helpers for various lecturers. A year later, a different institution made a presentation on how they had adopted that same idea. So you have this feeding and sharing of ideas between institutions and organizations and that is what makes the MoodleMoot special. It’s about practice sharing and learning from each other, adds Gavin.

MoodleMoots are a great way to keep, strengthen and grow the Moodle Community. Someone who is running their own Moodle site has the opportunity to talk to like-minded people face to face. Additionally, preparing and sharing a presentation builds a social construct of contributing something to reaffirm their own learning.

Since Gavin Henrick has been hosting MoodleMoots for the last number of years, his knowledge about Moodle and E-Learning is definitely expansive. E-Learn Magazine asked him three main questions about it.

E.L.M: What do you personally think about E-learning, how it’s evolving in the world, and what future you see for it?

G.H: There’s a lot of change going on and there’s a lot of different research in the area about how people are using learning in general. There seems to be a move in industry towards more bite size learning or nano content catering to where people’s attention span and concentration has changed. Very short pieces of content which are more familiar and that work within social media is what is new. People get the information they want in a short span of 15 minutes, or sometimes a lot less. So I do think that a kind of personalized learning is really important and becoming more important as time goes by. This is also facilitated by gamification where you can have different game aspects brought into the learning and consumption from the user point of view. Also interoperability, so the aspects of learning tools integration where you can take one Moodle tool and plug it into your learning management system. So that’s another area that has been developing in the last few years and will develop more into the future.

E.L.M: Do you think traditional schools and colleges are going to diminish and that E-Learning is going to take over traditional learning?

G.H: Most colleges have been using some sort of online learning system to provide some sort of blended learning or to supplement face-to-face delivery. Many colleges have been doing online delivery for quite a while. So I think that there is just learning. One type isn’t replacing another. I think they can chose to deliver differently to different students, be it face-to-face or completely online. So I don’t think that E-learning will replace anything else. I just think that there are more options for teachers to deliver good courses.

E.L.M: How do you think E-Learning can expand to third world countries and start teaching people other things? And do you think that the current model of E-learning needs changes?

G.H: I think the most important and basic thing is to have the software in different languages. Moodle for example is available in over 100 languages. Being open source allows people to customize that to their own local culture. At its core, Moodle is a pretty flexible framework, so it’s just about the content and activities that people put into it, so people don’t need the fastest bandwidth to make it run. The fact that it is open source also means they can host it locally so they aren’t paying for international bandwidth. The other important aspect is that the mobile apps can keep content offline. So even if in a school, a student can go online with Wi-Fi they can chose to download a content from the courses and be able to read at home when they have no Wi-Fi or while they are walking or traveling. That feature works in countries where there is very little connectivity or in situations where there is no connectivity. I think that is where Moodle stands out in the learning platforms.

Next year there are plans to have MoodleMoots in India and South Africa, to keep helping the Moodle Community around the world. Gavin believes that MoodleMoots are not only vital to keep the community alive, but also cherishes the potential for feedback and learning that go on in these spaces.

*Gavin Henrick, Community Programs Manager at Moodle

*Photo by: AFP Paulo Nunes dos Santos