Is Moodle Workplace For You? Find Out With This Video Primer

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A massive effort, under wraps for a long time and most of it still behind a veil, underscores the anticipation for Moodle Workplace, the non-Open Source effort by the company behind the most popular LMS in the world to catch the corporate sector’s eye.

Fortunately, Moodle Partners from the UK Titus Learning have published the first official video playlist on the LMS to give us a slightly bigger bite before it’s available (through selected Moodle Partners). Additional info has also been made public on the Moodle Docs, under the “Workplace” category.

For comparison, you can also take a look at the features Totara provides for the corporate sector. Practically every new feature shipping with Moodle Workplace can be found here. Comprehensive documentation for all active development versions of Totara are available at help.totaralearning.com. Comprehensive and free training with guides and videos can be found at Totara Academy.

According to the documentation on Installation, Workplace will always be based on the latest minor (or second point) version of vanilla Moodle, usually scheduled for release every 2 months. Moving from regular vanilla Moodle to Workplace is possible and its process similar to an ordinary upgrade, with the exception of some manual changes required afterwards. (Moving back from Workplace is technically possible, yet risky and costly.) It includes different out-of-the-box default settings and core modifications which may or may not become available for the Open Source core at a later date. This includes the new “Workplace” themes and a series of Workplace plugins. Seemingly every feature not available on vanilla Moodle is a Workplace plugin. Workplace also has a separate language pack.

So what’s in store? Let’s take a glance:

1. What is Moodle Workplace?

A brand new visual experience and a host of enterprise level features on top of the core Open Source Moodle LMS make of Moodle Workplace an attractive solution for learning organizations. It is ideal for those with comprehensive training and professional development offerings.

It is clear that Moodle Workplace attempt to challenge the growing number of corporate-focused LMS. In particular, it can be seen a response to the Totara project, an LMS originally based on Moodle. Totara still shares similarities, is compatible with some of Moodle’s plugins and themes, but it offers features that vanilla Moodle did not offer, at least until now.

Both LMS remain close. Many Moodle Partners are also Totara Partners, simplifying the customer’s ability to test out or switch LMS.

The challenge for both is whether they will be able to strike that delicate balance between modernity and familiarity, to make for an effective learning experience that stands out without losing natural intuitiveness. For now, Moodle Workplace seems to play safe by following the standards set up by its corporate predecessors, as well as vanilla Moodle.

2. Multitenancy: Many organizations, one Moodle

A long-standing request for Moodle, especially for companies who build and deliver a full experience for customers, from platform to content and performance, has been Multitenancy.

A multi-tenant architecture provides a core LMS that can cater to any number of organizations and their specific needs. Each one may not realize there are other tenants, as it can enjoy a dedicated login page and site-wide branding. Higher-level admins can control every tenant and allow resource exchange, while tenant-specific admins enjoy most permissions a normal admin would on an ordinary, single-tenant Moodle.

Multitenancy has been one of Totara’s most distinctive attributes for years. As the documentation explains, organizations can cater the user bases of several organizations on the LMS; but multitenancy also allows for large enterprises to keep several training and professional development programs separate but tidy and under one roof.

For vanilla Moodle, the most common workaround is IOMAD, a Free and Open Source customization by Scottish Moodle Partner E-Learn Design. The company promises to keep supporting the solution free and open source, which offers handy complementary features including licensing and hierarchy-based reporting. Check out a demo.

Since Moodle 3.5, the Cohorts functionality provides limited capabilities resembling multitenancy, including custom themes and cohort managers.

Multitenancy at docs.moodle.org

3. Hierarchies: Your Organization Structure reflected on your elearning

Through departments and sub-departments, the organization can determine roles and permissions through relevant position. This allows global, department and sub-department level managers, who can only control and access information on users within their jurisdiction, as well as reporting capabilities. They can also assign learning “jobs” to users, who then are responsible to report to the admin. Templates or classes for departments, roles and positions are called frameworks.

Totara provides an exhaustive hierarchy architecture, including frameworks, designed to map roles from ERP or HR systems. In addition to Workplace’s departments (In Totara, “Organizations”) and jobs (“Positions”), Totara includes Goals and Competencies. Competencies and Competency Frameworks already exist in vanilla Moodle, but they are not advertised or documented for Workplace.

Organisation structure at docs.moodle.org (In Australian)

4. Dynamic Rules: Automation rules

A “Conditions” → “Actions” setup provides a potentially powerful platform prevent humans from repetitive sequences of steps. It has the opportunity to enhance the efficacy of most other features.

A rule triggers the action when a set of conditions are met. An admin can create rules and switch them on or off. Its use can also be limited by sheer number of instances or within a time frame.

Moodle Workplace ships with a library of bespoke conditions and actions, ready for an admin to activate them.

Totara does not provide dynamic rules nor automation features, with the exception of backups and dynamic creation of audiences, cohorts and appraisals. Further automation is possible by custom development only.

Dynamic rules at docs.moodle.org

5. Certifications: Records of learning evidence

Moodle Workplace expands on the flexible and extensible vanilla Moodle certificate features, by enabling expiration dates and versioning, among other features.

Certifications are tied to programs and can be available under given time intervals or other rules. Once awarded, they can have a finite shelf life, after which the learner is no longer certified. Creators can update the programs based on previous versions and enable recertification. They also can be revoked.

Totara provides at least full feature parity with Moodle Workplace on Certifications, including versioning and resets. Detailed configuration and management options are available on the documentation as well as Totara Academy. To date it is still unclear how Workplace certification features stack up to Totara’s.

Certifications at docs.moodle.org

6. Report Builder: Intuitive and powerful learning analytics with a secret gem

While this user-friendly tool is another distinctive feature, perhaps more intriguing is its link to an “Internal Learning Record Datastore,” most likely a stripped down version of a Learning Record Store (LRS). However, other than the brief video mention there is no further information on the Datastore as of writing.

For a professional grade LRS solution, both Moodle and Totara are xAPI compatible. It means they generate detailed statements of learning evidence under the xAPI (or “Experience API specification, making them compatible and easy to consolidate and analyze within an LRS.

The builder itself is a nifty drag-and-drop experience with intuitive filtering, sorting and aggregation options. Admins can limit the reporting features and access by other users, as well as the report audiences.

Totara seems to provide a similarly capable reporting tool, just not as snappy. While it is unclear whether Workplace can draw data from an external LRS into the Report Builder, Totara does allow for it.

Report builder at docs.moodle.org

7. Catch the full playlist here:

8. Resources & References

Moodle Workplace will be a paid license product, available only through selected Moodle Partners.