Martin Dougiamas Keynote at Moodlemoot Canada

Today Martin Dougiamas presented the keynote at the Canadian Moodlemoot in Edmonton.  As he went to the stage he was introduced as the Linus Torvalds of the LMS world.

Martin started off by explaining that in the Moodle project he has the role of guiding the project and taking people’s feedback and making them happen in the software where possible.

“There is a lot of exciting stuff going on.”

Martin updated us with the current stats on Moodle

  • 54,000 verified sites worldwide.
  • 41 Million users
  • 97 language packs (17 fully complete, the rest are in various states)
  • 54 Moodle Partners who fund the project and its going very well ensuring the project will continue into the future. (such as Remote-Learner who I work for)
  • USA still has the highest raw number of installations and Spain has half of that with much less population.
  • Brazil is now 3rd in the world and has overtaken the UK now in total installs.
  • 3 of the top 10 are English speaking
  • per head of population, Portugal has the largest number of Moodle installations.

Martin then gave a few examples of schools, universities and corporates using Moodle including University of Alberta who
recently made the decision to move. – One interesting aspect was the use of Moodle by BP, Shell and other oil companies who could afford anything, but choose Moodle.  One wonders why they choose it, perhaps it is the flexibility.

As many may have seen before, there are 10 steps of pedagogical usage of Moodle, which is outlined on Moodle Docs. It details the typical 10 step progression which looks like:

  1. Putting up the handouts (Resources, SCORM)
  2. Providing a passive Forum (unfacilitated)
  3. Using Quizzes and Assignments (less management)
  4. Using the Wiki, Glossary and Database tools (interactive content)
  5. Facilitate discussions in Forums, asking questions, guiding
  6. Combining activities into sequences, where results feed later activities
  7. Introduce external activities and games (internet resources)
  8. Using the Survey module to study and reflect on course activity
  9. Using peer-review modules like Workshop, giving students more control over grading and even structuring the course in some ways
  10. Conducting active research on oneself, sharing ideas in a community of peers

He focused on the different potential of uses of the Moodle roles and access permissions-  “a lot of people find that giving
students the ability to teach is a valuable learning process” – Martin Dougiamas.

However, he found that 90% of what he sees in Moodle courses is the bottom 3 steps, which he used to see as a bit of a problem,
however he posed the question, is it?

A lot of people want that secure private place in the LMS with big gates, with students needing to gain competencies and
knowledge.  Many people really want this “Content Pump” focus, becuase it is what they need. Others use it as a community of practitioners, connected activities, content created by students and teachers alike and many methods of assessment. These are the two ends of the spectrum of usage.

A lot of people are talking about PLEs too, of which there are a lot of different viewpoints and concepts of what it is. Everyone has their opinion, and Martin’s opinion is that it is selection of devices that a user has and connects to and this leads into the relevance of the LMS into the future.

Martin proposed that “Its going to be a very long time before schools and corporates decide to not have their own environment
because they want to retain what they are as an institution”.

He referred back to the plenary and the discussion on what institutions are especially in relation to openness, and that it is
very much in discussion but he recognises that the LMS will still be around as part of that PLE for a long time.

Moodle has two roles:

  1. to be progressive and integrate with things coming up, and a drag and drop UI, with innovate workflows and improve media handling and mobile platforms
  2. to be conservative and improve  security and usability and assessment , accredition, detailed management tracking and reports and performance and stability

Both of these are needed and important.

Martin then provided and update of the Moodle HQ team, which is growing and improving, and he mentioned they are going to be
adding a tennis table soon. He explained what they are doing in managing the core of the product. Martin “I discovered that during the making of Moodle 2, and in developing a million lines of code in the project, that some processes hadn’t changed much in a while. However when you develop a big project it does not scale that well, especially with numbers of features that we are adding in.”

He continued to explain that HQ has taken the opportunity to build a workflow for the way forward and they feel like an efficient
“Sausage Machine”.  This helps ensure stable releases which can happen weekly. (2.0.3 comes out at the end of this week).

Martin also explained that they have switched to a dual team setup using scrum. A stable team on a 3 week cycle tackling the backlog
of work and a triage team which handle incoming bugs. The development team works on a 6 month cycle tackling the issues from the roadmap. This helps ensure that on a release date some things are finished.

This way HQ can draw a line under a release with finished items on that date. This has improved metrics and performance which operates in a better way all around – “Everyone is happier about it” which as a result release dates can be predicted rather than a pin on a dartboard.

Since Moodle 1.9 came out three years ago,  March 2008 and most are still using the three year old code which has had fixes applied
since then (1.9.11 is the current release.) The support for 1.9 will continue until the middle of 2012 as it is understood
that it will be a big move to Moodle2.   “If you are going to Moodle2, you may as well go to Moodle 2.1 as it is better with 6 months more work” .

However, the ongoing support for each release will be 1 yr moving to the future. Moodle will be released every 6 months which enables the organisations to plan their upgrade times ahead of time.

Martin asked the attendees about their plans to upgrade to Moodle 2 this summer and about 50% of people confirmed that they would be.

What will be in Moodle 2.1?

  • Performance
  • Restore 1.9 backups
  • Quiz/question refactor
  • Page course format
  • Interface polishing
  • Official Mobile app (there now is a Mobile division)

People will need to retune their environment for Moodle2 “when we upgraded we spent weeks testing and checking scenarios on the system level.” “You can’t expect it to work the same way performance wise on same hardware”.

He talked about the different aspects of Moodle  including that there are a number of mobile projects which talk to Moodle, which either do web services (some of which are a bit insecure) so thats why HQ are working on an official app which uses Moodle 2 built-in web services. This provides a secure access to the data in Moodle 2 for people who have accounts in Moodle which greatly benefits mobile apps.

The webservices into Moodle  have multiple levels to ensure the high level of security and if people want to let students use the HQ mobile app, they will need to enable the web services.

Moodle HQ has looked at what is Mobile really good at and identified them one by one and implemented them.  This includes messaging, list of participants in your course, marking attendence (in class roll call). This will be for the iPhone first and then someone will make it for Android so it will lag behind, but will be the same.

What is going to happen in 2.2 and beyond?

Martin showed a slide and explained all the following areas which will be some of the focus in the coming development cycles.

  • Grading and Rubrics
  • Competency Tracking (from activity level, course level, outside courses to generate a competency profile)
  • Assignment (planning to combine all 4 into one type and simplify it)
  • Forum (big upgrade probably based on OU Forum)
  • Survey (to include feedback/questionnaire – being rewritten currently)
  • Lesson
  • Scorm 2
  • Improved reporting
  • IMS CC (although it is in 1.9 needs to be redone)

Moodle also has rolled out the Moodle course hubs as part of Moodle 2. It was first dreamed of 6 years ago. It is about sharing courses and communities of practice. This will change how people share courses, enabled private and public repositories of courses. Check out MOOCH

As this develops Martin hopes that it will encouraging sharing of best practice through Creative Commons – “Why should you need to reinvent the wheel if someone else has?”

The current plugins database on is not as strong and detailed as its needed. There is a new module being built which will go onto which will have version control and official reviews of the modules to help track what customisations are going on. Martin explained a lot of Moodle partners already do security reviews currently so these could be in the database too. A user will be able to search in list of modules better, on version of Moodle, security rating rating etc… This is written and working already.

Within your Moodle site you will be able to produce a report to check for updates of the new modules (sounds very WordPress like!!).

Moodle Docs is being split which will have one wiki per release: One for 2.0, one for 1.9 – this is like separate reference manuals. This is really good to keep people referring to the features of their current version.

We are going to have more non-volunteers. The front page will be a table of contents and HQ are reworking the documents to fit into this new structure. is being updated and will be next (Martin doesnt want to do the design anymore so HQ have a design house handling it).

Martin ended saying that Moodle 2 is growing up!


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