The definition of Decision Support System may not be hard to guess. By presenting data in a clear, actionable way, a DSS can be a critical tool to help organizations move forward and make complexity navigable. Arguably, the value of a DSS does not lie in how accurately it can estimate a future outcome, but how quickly it allows leaders to manage and correct course.
Could Moodle be seen as a DSS? Technically, yes. But when it comes down to how useful Moodle is today as a DSS, and whether or not it is on par with the current landscape of features and expectations they enable, it is easier to argue that Moodle has a long way to go than the opposite. However, this is true of most systems, including those explicitly designed as a DSS. Enterprise Resource Planning software is often the only existing alternative, including DSS components along a larger platform, but its cost can be prohibitive. A final, obvious opportunity is associated with the industry-specific nature of the most successful DSS today, among which health care and clinical research are good examples, but education and learning are not.
So what is the road ahead for Moodle, should anyone be interested in framing and pitching the open source LMS as a DSS? The literature offers five areas of development in which a system can either specialize or tackle all at once. As it turns out, some of the technological progress of Moodle in recent years coincides with movement in these dimensions:
Communication and collaboration: One of the most visible transformations of DSS in the last few years is its ability to analyze information and make decisions collectively. Many systems come from a tradition of trying to be the only tool needed, which can conflict with the idea of bringing others on board for the decision-making process. Conversely, Moodle has always been a collaboration-first system. Recent enhancements in its messaging and notification platforms, not to mention the wealth of live streaming and resource sharing plugins available, bode well for Moodle as a path for further development.
Data-driven decision-making: The value of data is no longer in doubt, and a sprawling market of analytics reporting and solutions is hard to match as proof of it. Data has necessarily become a major concern for those who handle it and, among learning organizations, LMS Data is a cornerstone for the next generation of products. This means that users, from students to top leaders, will expect their systems to bring quantitative evidence whenever possible. While Moodle has made progress in learning analytics, mainly thanks to its built-in prediction engine, this area arguably deserves more attention from Moodle HQ.
Interface: Design has finally been recognized as a leg in the stool. As poor design can be factually correlated to subpar performance and bottom-line results, all sorts of platforms have worked continuously to enhance the relationship with the user and are more willing to explore areas such as responsiveness and speed, personalization, and ease of use. As Moodle HQ prepares to deliver Moodle 3.5, the second release under the self-claimed “usability period” where experience becomes more important than new features, right now is the perfect moment for the LMS to be stacked against its ability to let users make better and better choices, perhaps through radical and daring UI innovations. ■
This Moodle Practice related post is made possible by: eThink Education, a Certified Moodle Partner that provides a fully-managed Moodle experience including implementation, integration, cloud-hosting, and management services. To learn more about eThink, click here.