Moodle Association: New pay-for-play roadmap input for end users

From e-Literate by Phil Hill

As long as we’re on the subject of changes to open source LMS models . . .

Moodle is in the midst of releasing a fairly significant change to the community with a new not-for-profit entity called the Moodle Association. The idea is to get end users more directly involved in setting the product roadmap, as explained by Martin Dougiamas inthis discussion thread and in his recent keynotes (the one below from early March in Germany).

[After describing new and upcoming features] So that’s the things we have going now, but going back to this – this is the roadmap. Most people agree those things are pretty important right now. That list came from mostly me, getting feedback from many, many, many places. We’ve got the Moots, we’ve got the tracker, we’ve got the community, we’ve got Moodle partners who have many clients (and they collect a lot of feedback from their paying clients). We have all of that, and somehow my job is to synthesize all of that into a roadmap for 30 people to work on. It’s not ideal because there’s a lot, a lot of stuff going on in the community.

So I’m trying to improve that, and one of the things – this is a new thing that we’re starting – is a Moodle Association. And this will be starting in a couple of months, maybe 3 or 4 months. It will be at, and it’s a full association. It’s a separate legal organization, and it’s at arm’s length from Moodle [HQ, the private company that develops Moodle Core]. It’s for end users of Moodle to become members, and to work together to decide what the roadmap should be. At least part of the roadmap, because there will be other input, too. A large proportion, I hope, will be driven by the Moodle Association.

They’ll become members, sign up, put money every year into the pot, and then the working groups in there will be created according to what the brainstorming sessions work out, what’s important, create working groups around those important things, work together on what the specifications of that thing should be, and then use the money to pay for that development, to pay us (Moodle HQ), to make that stuff.

It’s our job to train developers, to keep the organization of the coding and review processes, but the Moodle Association is telling us “work on this, work on that”. I think we’ll become a more cohesive community with the community driving a lot of the Moodle future.

I’m very excited about this, and I want to see this be a model of development for open source. Some other projects have something like this thing already, but I think we can do it better.

In the forum, Martin shared two slides on the funding model. The before model:


The model after:


One obvious change is that Moodle partners (companies like Blackboard / Moodlerooms, RemoteLearner, etc) will no longer be the primary input to development of core Moodle. This part is significant, especially as Blackboard became the largest contributing member of Moodle with its acquisition of Moodlerooms in 2012. This situation became more important after Blackboard also bought Remote-Learner UK this year. It’s worth noting that Martin Dougiamas, founder of Moodle, is also a board member for the Remote-Learner parent company.

A less obvious change, however, is that the user community – largely composed of schools and individuals using Moodle for free – has to contend with another pay-for-play source of direction. End users can pay to join the association, and the clear message is that this is the best way to have input. In a slide shown at the recent iMoot conference and shared at MoodleNews, the membership for the association was called out more clearly.


What will this change do to the Moodle community? We have already seen the huge changes to the Kuali open source community caused by the creation of KualiCo. While the Moodle Association is not as big of a change, I cannot imagine that it won’t affect the commercial partners.

There are already grumblings from the Moodle end user community (labeled as, as this is where you can download code for free), as indicated by the discussion forum started just a month ago.

I’m interested to note that inhabitants are not a ‘key stakeholder’, but maybe when you say ‘completely separate from these forums and the tracker’ it is understandable. Maybe with the diagram dealing only with the money connection, not the ideas connection, if you want this to ‘work’ then you need to talk to people with $$. ie key = has money.

I’ll be interested how the priorities choice works: do you get your say dependent on how much money you put in?

This to me is the critical issue with the future.

Based on MoodleNews coverage of the iMoot keynote, the answer to this question is that the say is dependent on money.

Additionally, there will be levels of membership based on the amount you contribute. The goal is to embrace as many individuals from the community but also to provide a sliding scale of membership tiers so that larger organizations, like a university, large business, or non-Moodle Partner with vested interested in Moodle, (which previously could only contribute through the Moodle Partner arrangement, if at all) can be members for much larger annual sums (such as AU$10k).

The levels will provide votes based on dollars contributed (potentially on a 1 annual dollar contributed = 1 vote).

This is why I use the phrase “pay-for-play”. And a final thought – why is it so hard to get public information (slides, videos, etc) from the Moodle meetings? The community would benefit from more openness.

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