Moodlerooms: Open for all

Brad Koch and E-Learn Team
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Indianapolis, IN, USA 

Brad Koch, Senior Director of Product and Services Management for Moodlerooms, speaks with e-learn about openness in Moodlerooms and the main developments that ensure the accessibility of online education for all.

Can you describe what openness means for Moodlerooms?

The key to openness is providing the opportunity for everyone in the educational community to access information, collaborate, and share knowledge and ideas. You have to contribute and practice openness – that’s what it’s all about. We think bigger than just our products and customers and aim to stay transparent, collaborative, and keep a dialogue with the entire educational community. It’s not just about openness for Moodlerooms and Blackboard; it’s about the openness for the entire educational community.

What contributions and tools has Moodlerooms made to promote openness and accessibility?

To start, Moodle is an inherently open and accessible platform that’s built around the community. We extend and enhance Moodle, and constantly contribute to the community and participate in Moots.

We’ve contributed many plugins that extend Moodle capabilities such as seamless integrations with Google Apps and Microsoft, Office 365, the entire Blackboard integrations portfolio, IMS Common Cartridge import and export, IMS Learning Tools Interoperability for external content repositories, and innovative, practical course formats and rubric checklists.

In terms of recent tools, Snap is a user theme that’s easy to use and entirely accessible and responsive for everyone. We’ve also contributed a plugin for Ally, which works with open source Moodle and Moodlerooms. Ally evaluates the content of your courses and can update the content to be more accessible. It also provides information about what areas you need to improve on to deliver a more accessible, and improved learning experience for your students.

Can you explain what Moots are and the purpose of them?

We co-sponsor global Moots, which are gatherings of Moodle users to discuss certain topics. The topics really depend on what’s relevant at the time; it could be new plugins, roadmaps, releases, and the educational community as a whole.

We also run virtual Territory Moots on a regular basis, where we invite the Moodle community to talk to us about Moodlerooms, Moodle, and the open community in general. On a yearly basis, we also contribute significant funding for Moodle headquarters. These funds help the sustainability of Moodle and makes sure that all users are able to take advantage of its benefits.

How has the Moodlerooms user experience improved over time?

Our user experience is about being accessible, efficient, and easy to use while still having all the functionality that you could possibly need. The biggest recent improvement is the Snap user theme, which is a modern, streamlined interface that completely simplifies the user experience. We also extended Moodle with our Personalized Learning Designer, which allows for automation of customized learning paths and personalized feedback to students as they move through their course materials – it’s pretty much like a personal assistant for instructors.

Another example is the standards and Outcomes system that Moodlerooms develop and added to Moodle core.

How does Moodlerooms manage its product feedback?

The goal is to create a dialogue, not just one-way communication. We review the Moodle community site and then the Moodle product management team surveys client advisory boards and works with our internal sales and support teams to use external surveys to gather data in terms of what the community would like to see of us do to help deliver a better product.

We appreciate the Moodle community because it’s a space where everyone’s voice is heard and conversations happen that bring us to that next level. We’re always listening, learning, and evolving.

We also extended Moodle with our Personalized Learning Designer, which allows for automation of customized learning paths and personalized feedback to students as they move through their course materials – it’s pretty much like a personal assistant for instructors.

How does working with IMS ensure more transparency in the educational technology ecosystem?

IMS Caliper is a way of exporting data in a standard format that makes it easier for clients to analyze student performance. We are also LTI certified (Learning Tools Interoperability). LTI enables institutions to plugin external learning tools into the learning management system. Blackboard’s Moodlerooms product is certified to support IMS Calipers 1.0 and LTI 2.0. This certification means that we pass IMS standards tests that validate that our integrations pass data the way the IMS standards were defined. This ensures the interoperability of data between systems that are IMS certified.

What are the next steps for openness in Moodlerooms?

Openness is a philosophy and we develop our roadmap around this.  We add additional functionality to our products to help institutions improve the entire learning experience for all of their users. We’ll continue to plan, develop, build, and implement everything with this open philosophy. As always, as we continue to add and perfect functionality, we’ll contribute that functionality back to the open source community. Whatever the customer and community needs are, we aim to contribute.

*Brad Koch, Senior Director, Product and Services Management, Open Source Solutions for Moodlerooms.

*Photos by: AFP Kelly Wilkinson

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