An initial announcement in April revealed few details but a clear way forward: The 3 Premium Moodle Partners in the U.S. —Moonami, My Learning Consultants and Elearning Experts— would be joining Moodle Pty Ltd itself, to provide direct services on behalf of a new enterprise, Moodle US.
Now, a second release confirms that Moodle US is officially in business, although details remain light. MLC’s Jonathan Moore, industry veteran who alongside Michelle Moore co-founded the company and pioneered the “UnHosting” paradigm, will serve as CEO of Moodle US. Michelle, whose many roles included Learning Consultant, Moodle Evangelist and Senior Instructional Designer, will be Head of Customer Success.
‘Indie’ government contractor Moonami will provide a critical backbone to the endeavor, starting with President John Porten who will now be Moodle US’ Senior Operations Manager.
But perhaps the hardest job at present time goes to Kathie Robeson, co-CEO, Founder and Chairman of Elearning Experts, now serving as Moodle US’ Integration Manager. With a newly coalesced team of over 50 people, without counting Moodle near-hundred strength, Kathie’s challenge involves building a culture that brings the thoughtfully crafted and highly differentiated propositions from each tributary into harmony. Technology —which in Moodle US will be led by Kathie’s partner, EE co-CEO Galin Vassilev— can often provide objective methods to determine best likely outcomes. Perfecting team, culture or strategy may not lend itself to such a straightforward process. She is confident that ultimately, their common passion will win the day. “We are more alike than we are different… There is not a team that’s better prepared than this.“
All things considered, welcoming Moodle US will likely prove to be an exciting turn of events for the LMS space. (That may not need to remain within borders.) The merger may not prove enough to level the playing field against the reigning powerhouses; yet the same time, it sends a message of ambition and optimism. There is also some ambiguity regarding market consolidation, a practice Moodle leadership has found objectionable in the past.
Among the several questions that remain, one that stands out concerns the role of Moodle Pty Ltd itself in Moodle US, and the message it sends to the Partnership Program. It would appear that the arguably out of character move for Moodle Pty Ltd will not become a pattern across markets, and that international partners don’t need to fear nor hope for the prospects of becoming part of the organization. In the case of the U.S., clearly the largest and most competitive LMS marketplace, the move seemingly aims to curtail a known tendency: At an early stage, the Moodle Partner recognition sends a message of quality in technology and service for a small company looking to break through the noise. But as it grows, and more Partners enter the race, promoting the “Moodle” brand next to or above one’s name can be counterproductive by unintentionally raising the profile of fellow Partners. A higher stage of growth poses the major risk, to Moodle Pty Ltd from a Partner with plenty of recognition on its own, of dismissing the trademark altogether and ceasing the steady financial contributions. Several reasons remain, away from the bottom line, as to why a large player would remain a friendly Partner. In any case, from this vantage point Moodle’s decision to have a say in the way mature U.S. partners sell themselves, and position Moodle above all other brands, is nothing short of laudable.
A silver lining in relation to Moodle’s place in the U.S. is the potential for focused targeting in the K-12 and Higher Ed segments. Historically led by Blackboard and Instructure Canvas later on, Moodle’s Higher Ed market share has withstood, at least according to lacking available data, with considerably smaller marketing budgets than its competitors. Another issue becomes more prominent in the case of K-12, namely competing against other LMS while simultaneously tackling long-held beliefs about Moodle itself, born out of experiences that do not reflect the best-case scenarios Moodle Partners bring to the table. Considering the high level of penetration of LMS among U.S. education institutions, “partnerization” of Moodle sites run in-house or by independent vendors might become a more profitable path than aiming to face the Goliaths head on.
Other key roles in Moodle US played by renowned experts and friends of LMSPulse and the Elearning Success Summit include:
- Kelly Dempsey, Solutions Architect, whose personal motto sets trust as the catalyst of relationships and technology.
- Ryan Hazen, Learning Designer, and a wizard of engagement across the whole spectrum.
- Shalimar Anderson, self-appointed “LMS whisperer,” brings a grassroots, no-lock-in heart to her new Support Services Manager role.
- John DeFonzo, Director of Sales, has an outsize credit for growing Moonami into a top cloud-based provider of Moodle solutions, in particular for government agencies.
- Jeff Toleson becomes Moodle US Senior Event Marketing Manager.
- Kim Salinas, MEC Facilitator, now becomes Learning Designer at Moodle US.