I had a chance to talk candidly with Ron Olsen, CEO of Remote-Learner this week at the MoodleMoot in Minnesota and he provided me with some insight behind the decision to not renew the Moodle Partnership that Remote-Learner had held since essentially founding the Moodle.com Partnership program nearly a decade ago: it was not a decision that the organization made lightly.
As reported here, Remote-Learner has undergone some considerable changes in 2015: divesting from its UK business, bringing in new fresh leadership, and most recently eschewing the Moodle Partnership program for a likely spot as one of the first Moodle Association members once that initiative is kicked off.
Remote-Learner has long been a supporter of Moodle and it was clear from my conversation with Ron that their intent is to continue supporting Moodle through direct development, further innovation of the Enterprise Learning Intelligence Suite (ELIS), and sponsorship of events and Moot which enhance the community. In a sense, even without the Moodle Partnership “tag” nothing has really changed.
In the past few years Remote-Learner, under the radar of many, consolidated three Moodle Partners; OK Tech, Pteppic and Remote-Learner creating one of the larger partners worldwide. Their work in the interim was to integrate the varied systems and approaches of each organization into a cohesive company of developers and support staff into the entity that they are today. During that time it became evident to the leadership and the board that they needed to make a decision on the European operation, either double down and invest heavily in marketing to compete in the crowded marketplace (both Moodle Partners and non-partners have a strong presence in the UK and Europe, ULCC is a state-funded organization that provides top-notch hosting/support already without the partnership mantel).
After substantial consideration RL decided that rather than pursuing a flooded marketplace they’d focus on their US and Canadian clients and found a buyer in Moodlerooms/Blackboard for the UK division. With the additional funding they’re now poised to invest heavily in innovation which they hope to ride to new heights with their current clientele in the US and Canada.
Around 60 people work for Remote-Learner which is fittingly a remote workforce spread across North America with presence in the Midwest (CO), Mid-Atlantic (Research Triangle), Ontario and elsewhere. They are a self-funded organization without outside funding and are keen to be known as a provider of Remote-Learner services rather than just another Moodle hosting provider.
So what’s the future hold for the organization which has new leadership, no partner status, and a bit of Blackboard money in its pockets? Innovation. Through the Moodle Association they hope to focus on driving usability improvements, in their own development they hope to continue supporting their employees which are considered their key competitive advantage, and hope to make a major push to support learners who are engaged with their current/future clientele.
While the partner status might be gone, they’ve already taken a step to continue supporting Moodle officially by becoming a founding member of the Partners of Open Source Educational Technology (POET) which is working to streamline the vetting and approval of 3rd party commercial plugins for Moodle-based companies (along with Moodlerooms/Blackboard/Netspot, Nivel Siete, and Lambda Solutions).
Ron Olsen, CEO, posited that they are the same company they’ve always been and have the same DNA that the founders did when helping to setup the partner model. They just aren’t a Moodle “franchise”. In his words, “Remote-Learner doesn’t sell Moodle services, it sells Remote-Learner services which happen to be based on Moodle’s platform”. And if Moodle is just infrastructure for the digital age of education then RL is working to be the best distributor of education technology services that it can be.