What it’s like to influence the world’s leading open source LMS

I was interviewed by a fellow Moodle Users Association member for a feature on Moodle.com/news. I have followed to Moodle Project closely since the beginning of my educational career. In fact, my first full time job in a high school was in a classroom where we had a netbook for each student. We used Moodle quizzes regularly as part of our assessment routine.

When I was at Wells College, I found that I needed a network of other open source users. When you go the open-source route, you don’t have a commercial helpdesk you can call when you get in trouble, but instead you have a community of volunteers, community forums, and stack overflow to help you. I was introduced to a great and innovative group that met monthly organized by the crack team at UCLA.

Eventually, the group organized through UCLA combined their meetings with the Moodle Users Association (MUA). At first I just lurked at the meetings, but eventually I made a decision to join the group and pay the annual membership. Being part of the MUA gave me the opportunity to suggest a project that would be developed by Moodle HQ developers and funded by MUA members like myself.

My project was ambitious, probably overly ambitious! I wanted Moodle to rewrite the forums module, the oldest piece of Moodle, to create a modern and accessible layout that could be used by students who use assistive technology. I also wanted many features added to the forums. The top of my list was the ability to grade a forum holistically using the “Advanced Grading” features that were built into the Assignment module. I wanted an instructor to be able to see all of a students contributions on one page, and be able to assign a quick grade or use a rubric and a marking guide.

The first time my project was submitted, it came in second in voting and was not funded. The second time I resubmitted, the Moodle Users Association of Japan came on as cosponsors and we were able to get it into Moodle core.

As a supporter in open source technology, I really believe in finding how these organizations run and finding ways to influence and support the developers. You don’t have to be a coder to sign up to be a Moodle Quality Assurance Tester, and you don’t need to know computer science to be able to write a detailed feature request. I’m thankful that I can be part of many communities: Moodle, Pressbooks, WordPress, and Commons in a Box.

Check out my 15 minutes of fame! (Maybe 2 minutes, it’s a short article!)

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