Opinion – Why a delayed Moodle 2.0 matters

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I can’t stress enough how much I value the work and efforts of the Moodle community to bring Moodle 2.0 to fruition.  Without their work, you definitely wouldn’t be reading this blog and I’d have nothing to write about.  I am also not pointing fingers or appointing blame for why Moodle 2.0 has taken so long to be released. The facts are: Software development can take a long time.  Moodle 2.0 is a huge undertaking and redesign.  Open source projects rely, at least in part, on volunteer efforts.  I have a few current projects that are indefinitely delayed (and it’s not for lack of effort).

WIRIS

Colin Matheson commented a little while ago that there’s a good quote at Moodle.org that sums up the delay:

As someone said on the moodle.org forums, “Users will quickly forget, or never know, that Moodle 2.0 was late by a few months. However a bad release will be remembered for a long time.” [link]

But the fact that Moodle 2.0 is not released yet does in fact matter (at least in my humble opinion).  Here’s why:

The current landscape (battle?) of learning management software has not reached it’s peak usage rates.  There are billions of people who’ve never experienced online education on any web-based platform.  Which means that the Learning Management Systems market collectively remains in a growth phase (where the rate of change, perhaps, has not yet even met it’s steepest trajectory).  While Moodle remains at the top of the LMS market (arguably), the playing field is increasingly crowded.   Some of these new players have fancy new gear, are built from the ground up with more social features in mind, and are rapidly prototyping their new features with 1st adopters (all marks of innovation in the standard view of an LMS).

Granted Moodle has a large current user-base and a long track record of growth with it’s pre-2.0 releases.  The absence of a new release may cause new adopters to opt for one of the newer, fresher, more flashy Learning Management System (despite any inferiority they may have compared to Moodle 1.9 or even 2.0).  Therein lies the problem.  As the market matures and more and more educators consider web-based instructional tools they often compare other available learning managements systems to Moodle 2.  It’s unavailability (in a stable release) automatically puts it at a disadvantage to the Edu2.0’s and Edmodo’s of the world. Anecdotally I’ve read of teachers opting for another LMS because “I don’t know when Moodle2.0 will be released”.  For new adopters, once that 1st LMS is chosen it has an inherent leg up against any future competition (familiarity and comfort make it hard to move).  Furthermore, once a school has locked into a LMS decision, it’s a much harder task to lure them to another LMS (no matter how much better or even cheaper).

For Moodle, I think that growth = success (but I’d be curious what other metrics might be used).  With the release of 2.0–no matter how delayed–I believe there will be a marked increase in adoption.  Total registered sites and total worldwide users will increase.  And the ease of use will be markedly higher with a vibrant community repository of courses.  The direction Moodle and the community are headed in now is definitely the right one to be on.  But there are more cars on the highway (and they aren’t all orange).

What do you think?