From Google to the UN, Perth’s Moodle is making waves

Source: From Google to the UN, Perth’s Moodle is making waves – The West Australian

On Richardson Street in West Perth, wedged in the middle of WA’s exploration heartland, a little Perth tech company in a little office is making huge waves across the world.

The company is called Moodle — and even if you haven’t heard of it, there are hundreds of millions around the world who have.

Moodle is a global learning platform project. In layman’s terms, that’s an internet-based open and free software system that helps teachers teach better ans students learn.

For example, a specialist in a certain field can offer up courses through the Moodle platform, and charge students for access to it.

It has 91.2 million registered users across 232 countries — yet Moodle estimates its user base could be almost 10-times that.

In fact, inside Moodle’s Perth headquarters a mural of a world map is adorned with postcards sent from passionate fans of the platform the world over.

The Moodle map

As Perth-based Moodle founder and chief executive Martin Dougiamas explains, they treat him like a rockstar.

“We have annual events in different countries called MoodleMoots all around the world,” he toldWestBusiness . “It’s where hundreds, sometimes thousands, of Moodle users come together to talk about best practice to get better at using Moodle.

“I go to these events and people line up to get a photo with me and ask for my autograph. It’s crazy.”

One fan is Navitas chief executive Rod Jones, who yesterday described the platform as “as good as there is around the world” and the Moodle website and social media accounts are layered with praise.

So what is Moodle? And how did it start out of a mining town?

It goes back to Mr Dougiamas’ childhood. He grew up in the isolated Warburton community in the Gibson Desert, and was taught by the school of the air.

“That taught me the value of education, no matter where you are,” he said.

In the 1990s he worked as an internet consultant at Curtin University before coming up with the idea for Moodle, which stands for “modular, object-orientated, dynamic learning environment”.

“Straight away I had a worldwide community starting to collaborate with me on it,” he said. “In fact the very first day I put it up I had someone in Canada who had downloaded it and used it in the school . . . it’s now in every education sector you could think of.”

“Essentially it’s providing teachers with technology that helps do their job better — an open sourced learning platform that can be customised for any situation.”

And it has an impressive list of clients. Google and the United Nations use it for onboarding: the process where a new employee is inducted and assimilated into a company. Shell is another user. And if you want to be a maid for the Queen at Buckingham Palace you have to go through a Moodle course to learn the correct procedures.

As Mr Dougiamas happily states: “they can afford any software they like, but they like Moodle because it’s open source and its flexible”.

And it is now looking to expand. The company, of which Mr Dougiamas is the sole shareholder, currently entertaining investors — something it has never done before.

It is open-source, meaning its courses are free, while revenue, which comes in at about $6 million per annum, comes through its 85 global Moodle partners who offer services through the platform, such as training for companies. All profits, after his salary, are plugged back into the business.

But according to Mr Dougiamas, who is Russia for major education conference EdCrunch right now after a personal invitation from deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkavich, the most important thing about Moodle is its mission — a mission straight out of the not-for-profit playbook.

“The business supports the mission,” he said. “It’s about education and it’s about openess and supporting humanity —the business is to just drive that.

“In this life if you aren’t doing something that you really believe in well you’re wasting your time. If you don’t have a really good reason for working, you should probably find another job, so for me that’s what drives us, we’re here to empower teachers to do what they want to teach, to pass on that knowledge and improve humanity.”

The West Australian

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