Recording of ALT Online Winter Conference session

It was our pleasure to present in a session entitled MoodleNet: federated, resource-centric social networking for educators at the ALT Online Winter Conference yesterday. The presentation was similar to the one from the Global Moot, with Doug Belshaw, Mayel de Borniol, and Alessandro Giansanti explaining to participants the research behind MoodleNet, the benefits it provides, and how they can get involved.

There were a number of interesting questions on a range of topics including interoperability, privacy, and accessibility. Many thanks to all who came along!

If you have any questions as a result of watching the recording, please do add them to the comments section below.

Reflections on MoodleNet at the Global Moot 2019

(MoodleNet presentation begins about the 1h00m mark)

Last week was the first-ever Global MoodleMoot in Barcelona, followed by the inaugural Open EdTech Global conference. Both events were attended by the MoodleNet team, with Doug Belshaw (Product Manager) there all week, and Mayel de Borniol (Technical Architect) around for the Moot.

We had chosen the Moot as a self-imposed deadline to demo the latest iteration (version 0.10 beta) of MoodleNet at the Moot, and (in the subsequent workshop) invite people to get their hands on a MoodleNet account. Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out that way.

It was a close-run thing, but on the night before we were due to present, it was clear that we would only be ready to show 80% of the MoodleNet functionality we wanted to demonstrate. Unfortunately, the remaining 20% included functionality around the timeline, which, for a social network, is critical. We decided, therefore, to hold off issuing accounts and doing a live demo.

The team have had a retrospective about what happened. Without diving too much into the technical details, here’s the order of events:

  1. Over the last few months, we re-wrote the backend of MoodleNet entirely, as well as creating a new front-end user interface
  2. While most of the core functionality was ready on the backend and front-end for the Moot, we had issues with breaking changes relating to the GraphQL API (which provides queries from the front-end to the backend) which meant the whole team had to coordinate to make sure the different parts worked well together
  3. Despite the team working overtime and staying up hacking on it until 3am (while the MoodleMoot attendees were at the Moodle Party), we just needed more time to fix things before providing a proper look at the MoodleNet user experience

As a result, in the Moot presentation and workshop we were only able to show screenshots of MoodleNet’s functionality. Neverthless, as an open source project, we have already had developers setting up their own test instances of MoodleNet, as they are happy to live with incompleteness of features while they dive into the code.

We’re going to learn our lesson and not give any hard-and-fast promises, but we’re feeling confident that we will fix the remaining issues soon and should be able to start federation testing next month, though we may wait until January 2020 to open up registrations on instances run by Moodle HQ.

Despite our disappointment around not being able to show all of the amazing work the team has done over the last few weeks and months, there is a lot of excitement around MoodleNet. We’ve had Moodle Partners offering to work with us around integration with Moodle LMS, organisations wanting to set up an instance as soon as they can, and many, many end users eager to get an account.

The MoodleNet team is small and part-time. Our apologies for this setback, we’ll continue to work tirelessly to deliver this solution to you as best we can. We’ve certainly learned a lot from the experience!

MoodleNet at the Creative Commons Summit 2019

Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon, Portugal

Last week, Doug Belshaw (MoodleNet Lead / Product Manager) spent three days at the Creative Commons Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. This annual event features “hundreds of leading activists, advocates, librarians, educators, lawyers, technologists, and more” coming together for “discussion and debate, workshops and planning, talks and community building”.

The focus was on Creative Commons and its licenses, but also on the more general concept of the ‘commons’, defined by Wikipedia as:

The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. Commons can also be understood as natural resources that groups of people (communities, user groups) manage for individual and collective benefit. Characteristically, this involves a variety of informal norms and values (social practice) employed for a governance mechanism. Commons can be also defined as a social practice of governing a resource not by state or market but by a community of users that self-governs the resource through institutions that it creates .


The MoodleNet team did not run a session at the Summit this year. Instead, our aim was to make connections with as many people and projects as possible. The Summit was very useful in that regard, and this posts serves to list (in no particular order) some higlights in the form of potentially-relevant projects.

1. Creative Commons Network Platforms

Image with CC logo

In order to facilitate community dialogue, Creative Commons is setting up a number of ‘network platforms‘, or working groups. These are currently being set up via mailing lists such as Google Groups, synchronous workplace chat apps like Slack, and monthly teleconferences.

There’s a real opportunity, we think, for MoodleNet to be the default open place that people from different organisations come together to organise, discuss and share.

2. Wikidata

Screenshot of Wikidata website
Screenshot of the Wikidata website

Wikidata is very well summarised on its main page:

Wikidata is a free and open knowledge base that can be read and edited by both humans and machines.

Wikidata acts as central storage for the structured data of its Wikimedia sister projects including Wikipedia, Wikivoyage, Wiktionary, Wikisource, and others.

Wikidata also provides support to many other sites and services beyond just Wikimedia projects! The content of Wikidata is available under a free licenseexported using standard formats, and can be interlinked to other open data sets on the linked data web.

There are currently 50 million items that have been contributed by 20,000 users on the platform. They describe it as the largest Open Educational Resource ever!

We’re particularly interested in Wikidata as a way to represent, in an objective, multi-lingual way, the data used by the resources added and uploaded to MoodleNet instances.

3. Global Digital Library

Screenshot of Global Digital Library website
Screenshot of Global Digital Library

Global Digital Library (GDL) is a project that aims to “provide access to free, high-quality, early grade reading resources in languages that children use and understand”. A key component of their strategy is that, instead of simply translating OER produced in English by western educators, content is created locally in around 100 languages.

We’re interested in the work GDL are doing in terms of the glocal (“reflecting or characterized by both local and global considerations”) perspective they bring to OER. We’re aiming to do something similar with MoodleNet! Interestingly, the presenter, Chris Gunderson, also talked about the newly-formed Digital Public Goods Alliance, which we will keep an eye on.

4. OER World Map

Screenshot of the OER World Map
Screenshot of the OER World Map

The OER World Map is a project which aims to “illuminate the global Open Educational Resources movement by facilitating interaction and collaboration”. It does this by collecting and sharing “open data about actors and activities related to OER”. One of the people involved in the project, Adrian Pohl, kindly left a comment on our recent Voodoo categorisation post.

We think that the OER World Map is a great visual representation of the work that’s going on in our field. The data that we can gather on educators’ work through MoodleNet would be a useful way to augment this map, and we can also learn from the work they’ve done around categorisation.

5. CC Search

Screenshot of CC Search
Screenshot of the new Creative Commons Search, now out of beta

Creative Commons Search is now out of beta! It currently searches 300 million images across 19 providers, as well as a small number of 3D designs courtesy of Thingiverse. In addition, they have one-click attribution tools to really focus the search on reuse.

Later this year, Jane Park the project lead told us, CC Search will also feature open textbooks. They’ve already got an API for accessing the data they have, but are also looking to create a ‘Push API’ so that data from other sources can make it into CC Search.

We’re particularly interested in the potential of a ‘Push API’, as it means that original OER uploaded to MoodleNet could make it into the global CC Search to be discovered and reused by educators worldwide!

An honourable mention should also be given to OASIS, another OER search portal, which we’ve discussed in a previous post. It’s actually been created by two guys from the State University of New York in their spare time.

Concluding thoughts

Panel session at CC Summit
Panel session at CC Summit

There were so many other great sessions and conversations in which we took part. However, in the interests of time, we’ve reduced some of them to bullet points:

  • Open by default vs Privacy by design — an interesting discussion that led us to think that perhaps the meta issue here is coercive power relationships?
  • CC ID — some researchers in China have proposed a system similar to Digital Object Identifer (DOI) for Creative Commons-licensed works. We have our reservations about this, but will see how the project progresses.
  • H5P — lots of excitement about this in regards to Moodle. We think it’s going to be great to curate collections of activities in MoodleNet!
  • Wikimedia — we were part of discussions about the Wikimedia Foundation’s goals for 2030 in regards to education. More on this soon, no doubt.
  • Open pedagogyLeigh-Ann Perryman from the Open University spoke about the vital importance of educators operating in the open.

On the third and final day, we were involved in a Virtually Connecting session right at the end of the Summit, which you can watch below:

It was a great Summit, and we look forward to putting in a proposal to present at next year’s event!

A final, special shout-out to Bryan Mathers’ Remixer Machine, which produced a whole gallery of ‘stamps’ relating to Lisbon and the CC Summit. Check out the beautiful images that were created by participants below:

Stamps created by participants at CC Summit using The Remixer Machine
A gallery of ‘stamps’ created by participants at CC Summit using The Remixer Machine

Feedback from #MozFest and #MootUS18

Last week, members of the MoodleNet team ran well-attended sessions at the Mozilla Festival (London, UK) and the US MoodleMoot (Denver, CO, USA). The former was set within a wider framework of the decentralisation strand at MozFest, and the latter was an opportunity to gather ideas and feedback from a subsection of the Moodle community.

MozFest session post-its


Notes from the session

As anyone who has been will know, the Mozilla Festival is a mind-blowing weekend of sessions, talks, and collaboration, all focused on the open web. Our accepted session proposal was based on MoodleNet, but also on the wider concept of decentralisation — particularly in relation to the ActivityPub protocol.

Participants in the session ranged from educators who were dipping a toe in the water of decentralised technologies, through to those who worked with, or for, the W3C.

As well as feedback on what we’re trying to build with MoodleNet, a key aim for the workshop was for participants to be able to explain the importance of decentralisation using stories, metaphors, and allegories.

Some of our favourites included:

  • “FREEDOM to do weird stuff”
  • “In nature there is no boss and it’s evolved, is sustainable and resilient”
  • “Distributed power, be it online, in person, or how we live”
  • “Put your OER to the fediverse and gain more attraction”
  • “You can have nice things without being the product”

MoodleMoot US post-its


Notes from the session

MoodleMoots are events for the Moodle community which encourage collaboration and sharing of best practices. We ran very interactive session, with the aim to get as much feedback from workshop attendees as possible.

There were a range of participants, from Higher Ed CIOs, to K12 educators, to representatives from the corporate world. We learned a lot from the feedback we received, with some of the highlights being:

  • Insight into some of the tools that people are using that we haven’t come across before.
  • What participants liked about MoodleNet, what they have questions about, and what concerns them.
  • What we should add to MoodleNet after the core resource-sharing component.
  • Anything we’ve missed or haven’t discussed.

Interestingly, after the session, where participants had a lot of chance to ask questions and give feedback, two people came up to us separately and asked variations of the same question. Would organisations, they asked, be able to completely lock down MoodleNet so that it can only be used within that organisation?

We explained that this was not what we are aiming for with MoodleNet but that, of course, as open source software, there would be nothing stopping people from creating a version that would do this. We believe in the free and open sharing of educational resources, while recognising that there are some occasions (e.g. copyright, local laws) where resources would have to be restricted in some way.

We’re still working on working out the nuance here. One simple model is that which GitHub, the code-collaboration platform, uses. Creating a public repository on GitHub is available with a free account but, if you want to create a private repository, you have to pay. There’s an obvious parallel here with MoodleNet and collections, the key difference being the decentralised aspect.

Remember that anyone can suggest features for MoodleNet via our easy-to-use Changemap site!

Introducing MoodleNet at ALT-C

Update: watch the recording of the session here!

This week, Doug Belshaw (MoodleNet Lead) is in Manchester, UK for the Association for Learning Technology’s annual conference, ALT-C.

Doug is presenting directly after the keynote in the main auditorium today, giving participants an overview of what MoodleNet is and how they can get involved in shaping it. The slides can be found embedded at the top of this post, or via this link:

MoodleNet at MountainMoot 2018


Last week, MoodleNet Lead Doug Belshaw flew to Helena, MT in the USA for the eighth annual MountainMoot. This independently-run event is well-regarded in the Moodle community, and it was a great opportunity to both run a session on the current status of MoodleNet and get to know the needs of participants a little better.

You can read details of the workshop session on this page of the MoodleNet wiki.

Responding to questions from #MootES18

Last week, in Barcelona, Doug Belshaw (MoodleNet Lead) and Mayel de Borniol (MoodleNet Technical Architect) presented at MoodleMoot Spain. It was an interactive session, with participants not only asking questions, but writing down their thoughts on a series of structured post-it notes.

You can see the slides we used below, or by clicking here.

Participants wrote down what they liked about MoodleNet on green post-its, what they had questions about (yellow), and any concerns they had (pink). We’ve transcribed these, and translated those written in Spanish on this wiki page.

Given that we’re still rethinking community calls, we thought that this post could serve to  answer some of the questions from #MootES18. Below are some recurrent themes, and ones that caught our eye.

Post-its from MoodleNet session at #MootES18

First of all, there’s a whole bunch of questions where the answer is effectively ‘yes’. Let’s deal with those first:

Can you share full courses (.mbz files)?

Yes! In fact we’re aiming to use some of the functionality in Moodle so that MoodleNet collections are imported/exported as .mbz files.

How is it shared? Just by exporting the content/course and importing it to yours? Can it be customised, adopted, changed, then?

Yes! So you can take a collection of, say, 10 resources, and choose to use just one or two of them in your course.

The searches are going to be made only in one language or will allow more than one?

Yes! We’ll be allowing searches in multiple languages.

Does it let you know if a group appears according to your interests?

Yes! We’re already doing UX work to show how MoodleNet will recommend communities and collections to users.

Can you subscribe to a topic without a group?

Yes! You can follow a collection that’s curated by a community without following or joining the community itself.

Then there’s other questions that can be answered quickly, for example:

I don’t understand where ‘content’ will be stored? If I want to share a 500mb video where is this held?

MoodleNet will be a place to share links to resources. So, for example, if you see a YouTube video and a resource on an OER repository, you can point to them from a MoodleNet collection. So your 500mb video is best uploaded to a video sharing site and linked to from MoodleNet. We are, however, planning to create a repository for Moodle-specific resources and activities such as quizzes.

Is it mandatory that someone has to add me to a group? Can I create groups? Can I share content that is outside a Moodle course?

We’re going to experiment with different options for this. So, for example, there may be communities that anyone can join without asking, while some are moderated and you have to ask to join. You can create your own community too, and the idea is absolutely that you share content from around the web that can be used in your Moodle course.

Is MoodleNet available for all Moodle versions?

Right now, we’re thinking that we’re probably best off integrating MoodleNet with MoodleCloud for launch. We’ve enough work to do initially without the added complication of supporting different versions of Moodle. After that, we’ll work with Moodle Partners to test MoodleNet in hosted installations, and finally roll out a plugin for any Moodle site.

Will there be any moderation?

Moderation is going to be the responsibility of communities. If a community does a particularly bad job of moderation and doesn’t seem to be responding to the concerns of Moodle users, then Moodle HQ may have to step in. The idea, however, is that issues around spam, ‘fake news’, and link rot is dealt with on a community level.

Is it possible to geolocate educators to facilitate local meetings?

That’s an awesome idea, and something we’d very much like to enable. It depends on a few things, including getting past the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) stage for initial launch, getting people’s location in a GDPR-compliant way, and building an interface where people can find each other easily. An added complication is that we’re purposely not building a private messaging feature in the MVP, and you’d probably want some location data not to be public knowledge.

Finally, there are some questions that require a lengthier response, such as:

Will there be some form of translation? Collaborative or automatic?

This is something that we need to work on. Translation in Moodle Core is a community effort, as it is for a lot of open source projects. While we could do automatic machine translation of resources, it’s arguable as to whether that would be worthwhile. After all, if an educator doesn’t speak the language used by a community, what use are the resources and collections likely to be? It’s an area where we’re open to ideas, particularly if people have examples they’d like to share.

What kind of resources I can publish? A course? A section? A resource? What’s going be the license?

All of the above! MoodleNet will be content-agnostic, so you can share pretty much anything you like. We can imagine, further down the line, for example, people sharing collections of Moodle plugins they find useful. In terms of the licensing, it’s important to remember that, initially, MoodleNet will be collections of links to resources. So the copyright information depends on whatever license the original uploader decided to use.

What is the model of economic sustainability of this platform? Answered, but is real?

This is an open question, but we have lots of options, which is good. Our main revenue, over and above the investment Moodle HQ received at the end of the year, comes through Moodle Partners. So we want to ensure that MoodleNet provides value to them. There’s also integration with MoodleCloud, which we could do at the paid level, for example, as well as featured collections, and other options that we’re still investigating.

Will MoodleNet include a market place? Like for hiring developers and consultants.

I wouldn’t say that this is going to happen any time soon, but it’s a good idea and one that I know Martin Dougiamas has talked about in passing. Our first goal is to get the resource-sharing social media element of MoodleNet up-and-running, providing value to the community and to Moodle Partners, before we build out any additional functionality. I think a markeplace would probably be focused on community members crowdfunding projects that they’d like to bring into existence. Developer and consultants could absolutely be part of that process.

What will happen to existing shared resources on

We haven’t finalised plans for sunsetting the existing site, but we’re not getting rid of anything! The likelihood is that all content previously shared will be archived and available to be referenced in the new MoodleNet platform. It’s important to remember that MoodleNet is content-agnostic, so you could have a collection of courses, for example.

So, there we go! Have you got any questions for the MoodleNet team? We’d be happy to answer them in the comments section below.

Thanks to Txell Llorach for allowing us to use a photo she posted to Twitter during the event!