An interview with Mary Cooch, Moodle’s Community Educator

We took the opportunity to sit down with Mary Cooch, Moodle’s Community Educator, and ask her questions about MoodleNet. With her deep experience of all things Moodle, we were interested in Mary’s perspective on what’s gone before and what’s coming next…


Mary Cooch1. Moodlers will know you best as Moodle’s Community Educator and your very visible work with the Learn Moodle Basics Moot, on the moodle.org forums, and at MoodleMoots. However, you also do a lot of work behind the scenes, including documentation and the existing moodle.net service. Could you explain a little bit about how you got involved with that and what it currently entails?

Shortly after I started to work full time for Moodle HQ, our CEO and founder, Martin Dougiamas, asked me to curate the content submitted to Moodle.net. This involves regularly checking the Moodle.net site to see which courses and other individual items are awaiting moderation. Every single item is downloaded and manually inspected. I look at the courses to see if they meet our course approval criteria and if they do, I make them publicly available.  (These are courses both which you can download and adapt for your own site, or courses into which you can enrol.) The same applies to individual items –  I add them to a test Moodle site to check that they work correctly and that their content is acceptable. New courses on Moodle.net then show up in the Resources feed on the front page of Moodle.org.

2. Some people might wonder why we’re building a new MoodleNet when Moodlers can already share courses via moodle.net. What are your thoughts on that?

Did you know that actually, the concept behind Moodle.net and the site itself date from before 2010? Things move on, technology moves on, and with people doing so much now from their smartphones, I think it’s a good idea that we have a revamp, and also get teachers sharing from their mobiles.

One issue with the current set up has always been that it’s not so intuitive how to submit your course or your content. We used to have a “Publish” button and people would mistakenly believe that by pressing this button it meant their own private course would be made accessible to their students, rather than share with the world. We’ve changed that now, so that it says “Share”. (See  What does sharing a Moodle course mean?) Unfortunately, many courses are still submitted in error.

We have some useful content uploaded – quiz questions, user tours, theme  and database presets, glossary entries, competency frameworks etc – but it would still be great if we had more educators sharing more content! It doesn’t have to be a whole course – maybe the thought of downloading and having to adapt a whole course is a bit overwhelming. I’d love it if you could simply go to Moodle.net, search for, say, a revision activity in your subject area, quickly find a recommended one, and add it  easily to your Moodle. In time for your class!

3. Social resource sharing via curated collections is only the first stage for MoodleNet. What would you like to see next?

From what I’ve seen it all looks very exciting. I just want it to be a hive of activity, an interesting place to hang out, a treasure trove of Moodle content!


Our thanks to Mary for taking the time to answer our questions. As you can see, MoodleNet is both an evolution from what has gone before and an exciting departure based on new thinking and technologies.

Questions? Add them in the section below, for either Mary or the MoodleNet team!

Introducing Alex Castaño, our new MoodleNet backend developer!

Alex collage

Work on MoodleNet continues at a rapid pace as we draw closer to the first beta release, scheduled for January 2019. As part of those efforts, we’re delighted to welcome Alex Castaño as a backend developer to the team!

Alex is Spanish and grew up in Andalucia, went to university in Seville, and now lives and works from Barcelona. He joins us on an initial six-month contract to work with Mayel de Borniol, MoodleNet’s Technical Architect, to create the infrastructure for a decentralised, federated, resource-centric social network for educators!

We asked Alex a few questions to find out more…

We would love to hear a bit about your work history?

I realised that using computers and programming were my passions when I was very young. Since then, I have been using only free software in my personal and professional life. For this reason, I’m really happy to collaborate in a project so open like MoodleNet on daily basis.

My professional career has been very varied: I created my own business, I’ve helped to “start up” startups, and I’ve fixed scalability problems in very consolidated companies. Now, I’m looking forward to creating an open source project which makes a difference.

What do you love about what you do?

One of the best sensations you can experience is to see how your work makes other people’s lives simpler, more enjoyable or just better. I’m hooked on that feeling.

In addition, I absolutely love learning new things. It is incredible how people are continuously creating and developing new stuff to make computer engineering more interesting.

What are your interests outside of work?

I like doing any kind of sport: football, tennis, gym, hiking, kitesurfing… I’m a regular reader and, of course, life wouldn’t be the same without travelling around the world.

Where is your favourite place in the world, and why?

“Sevilla tiene un color especial”, what means, “Seville has a special colour”. A lovely city with a lot of history. It has a nice river and bridges, absolutely incredible places to have a good meal, beautiful buildings and palaces, people are very open and kind, and last but not least, it has “Ramón Sanchez-Pizjuan” the stadium of Sevilla F.C. my football team!


If you would like to find out more about MoodleNet, and get involved in the project, please check out moodle.com/moodlenet.

Front-end development workshop with Outlandish (19th-21st September 2018)

Update: we’ve now crated a wiki page overview for this workshop!

Whiteboard

This week, the MoodleNet team were in London to work with Outlandish for a workshop on front-end development. Doug Belshaw (MoodleNet Lead) and Mayel de Borniol (Technical Architect) worked with Kayleigh Walsh (project manager), Sam Gluck (developer), and Rob Cornish (designer) on various aspects of how MoodleNet is going to work, look, and feel.

Given that we went into the workshop with a number of assumptions, it was useful to get these out onto the table. Doing so in an open way allowed us to challenge these assumptions in productive ways, leading to some useful decisions.

Everything from the three-day workshop can be found on our GitLab issues board, the highlights of which are perhaps:

We’re planning to continue working with Outlandish around front-end development as we lead up to the beta release, scheduled for January 2019. This will lead to a couple of new front-end development milestones, which we’re currently thrashing out.

Excitingly, next week we’ll be welcoming a new member of our team. More on that soon!

GitLab issue board

GitLab overview

As mentioned previously, we’ve moved away from Trello cards to keep track of the MoodleNet project. The best link to get an overview of all the issues we’re currently working on at the moment can be found at this link or by clicking on the image above.

We’ve also updated the overview slide deck to v0.7, accessible here.

As ever, you can find everything you need relating to MoodleNet at https://moodle.com/moodlenet

Keeping track of and contributing to MoodleNet

MoodleNet architecture of participation v2

Product management is a delicate balancing act between allowing enough ‘wiggle-room’ for innovation while imposing enough discipline to get things done. After all, scope creep applies just as much to the tools we choose to use to complete the project as the output of the project itself.

We’ve been using Trello to keep ourselves organised since the start of the MoodleNet project. While we really like and value that platform, we’ve made the decision to take a different approach for the next stage of the project.

Going forward we’re going to streamline things a little by using the following platforms:

  • Teamwork.com – internal updates, planning, and potentially sensitive information (Moodle HQ members only)
  • Changemap – community-suggested ideas and features
  • Moodle.org – discussions with the Moodle community
  • GitLab – contribute code and find out more about the technical side of MoodleNet

The Trello board we were using remains as an archive of the first five sprints. As ever, the canonical URL for the project (i.e. the one to share) is moodle.com/moodlenet.


Note: we’ve updated the Contributing page on the wiki to reflect these changes.

We’re hiring a Backend Developer for the MoodleNet project!

Now that we’ve made some progress on defining what the first version of MoodleNet will look like and how the ActivityPub-based technical architecture will work (using the Elixir/Erlang stack on the back-end), we have a unique opportunity for a developer to build the federated back-end for MoodleNet.

This is a flexible position and can be based remotely, or out of the new Moodle office in Barcelona. View the job listing for details, and please pass this along to any developer you know who might be interested.

Prize winners for the MoodleNet pre-design sprint survey announced!

Balloons

Prior to our recent design sprint, we ran a survey at moodle.org which was completed by 175 Moodlers. The results were fascinating, and fed directly into the prototype overview we were able to create during the week.

To incentive participation in the survey, we offered prizes in the form of Amazon vouchers and Zazzle credit for the Moodle HQ store. Those completing the survey had the option to add their email address if they wanted to be considered for the prize.

We’ve been in touch with the lucky winners, who gave their consent to be listed below:

  • Joe Wieland (USA, £50 Amazon voucher)
  • Pete Jones (New Zealand, £50 Amazon voucher)
  • Joelle Le (Australia, $25 Zazzle credit)
  • David Morrow (USA, $25 Zazzle credit)

Thanks to Claudia Dent, Moodle’s Marketing Co-ordinator for selecting the recipients using a random generator!

A warm welcome to Mayel de Borniol, our new MoodleNet Technical Architect!

Mayel de Borniol

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed a mention of Mayel de Borniol, our new MoodleNet Technical Architect in our previous post about last week’s Design Sprint. After receiving over 70 applications for the role from all over the world, we interviewed candidates from Europe, Africa, North America, and South America.

We couldn’t be happier to welcome someone with Mayel’s knowledge, skills, and understanding of open source. Originally hailing from the Basque Country (north of the Pyrenees mountains), he currently lives in Athens, Greece.

Mayel describes himself a hacker and social/cooperative entrepreneur who enjoys understanding and hacking systems, and occasionally designing and building new ones – such as MoodleNet!


We would love to hear a bit about your work history?

Check out my site to see what I’ve been up to: http://mayel.space

What are your interests outside of work?

Nomadic / slow travel, Sci-Fi & Solarpunk, Decentralised & Federated systems, Free Software / Open Source, Co-operative organisation & production (would love to be part of a beer brewing or winemaking co-op!), my cat and dog!

Where is your favourite place in the world, and why?

Greece (Athens and its crazy graffiti and rebellious vibe and also the islands where time stands still) closely followed by Buenos Aires and its 1am BBQ dinner parties.


Mayel will be working closely with Doug Belshaw, MoodleNet Lead to turn the prototype we came up with last week into reality!