The MoodleNet team have received a few emails recently asking when federation testing will begin. This short post aims to clarify a few things.
First, it’s worth saying that you can still sign up to test MoodleNet as an instance administrator via the form linked to in this blog post. Upon completing that, we’ll add you to our federation testing mailing list, either as an individual or organisation.
Second, we’re a small team, so to avoid putting undue pressure on ourselves right before the Global Moot, we’ve made the decision to begin the federation testing period in Barcelona. That means the timeline looks something like this:
19th November — Presentation at Global Moot and start of federation testing programme
2nd December — Start of support period for the federation testing programme
As you can see, there’s a two-week gap from the start of the programme to the beginning of the support period. This will ensure that new admins have a chance to set up and configure their instance, and that the MoodleNet team have a chance to take some time off right after an intense period of work. During this time we will make a best-effort help to assist via our forum, but ticket-based support won’t be available until the start of December.
Finally, it’s worth re-iterating that the MoodleNet team will assume a working knowledge of Linux server administration with Docker containers. If you need some help in getting up-to-speed, check out the official guide to getting started with Docker.
Last month, we gave you a sneak peek of the prototype we’ve been working on for an updated version of the MoodleNet user interface. After further iteration and testing, the team is pleased to share with the community a clickable prototype, upon which we would like your feedback.
Note: a clickable prototype is a series of images with ‘hotspots’ that link them together. Not everything that will be linked in the final version is linked in this prototype. Nevertheless, before committing code, this is a good way of ensuring that this approach resonates with the community.
When we shared the MVP of MoodleNet back in January, Stephen Downes was kind enough to record his first impressions. The team found that kind of feedback so valuable that we’d like to encourage as many people as possible to do likewise this time around! We’re going to offer another rare badge to those who share their thoughts.
How to get involved
Install an app or browser extension that allows you to record your screen. We recommend Loom. Ensure you have the microphone activated!
We’re looking for volunteers (individuals/organisations) for a federation testing programme we’re running next month. There’s a pretty tight turnaround, so initially we’ll require all communication to be in English, although you’re welcome to set up your test instance in another language.
It’s important to note that this is NOT simply a way to be notified of updates to MoodleNet. It is an expression of interest to run a server requiring both technical knowledge and a time commitment. There will be another rare badge available for those who participate in the programme!
What is ‘federation’?
The easiest way to explain federation is to think about email. Anyone can create their own email address via any provider they choose, and they can use any email software they choose. As the whole system is standards-based, anyone can send an email to anyone else knowing that it will ‘just work’. You only need to know their email address, something like email@example.com.
If we extend that idea to social networks, so long as a social network adheres to a particular standard, then anyone can send a message or other content to anyone else knowing that it will ‘just work’. In our case with MoodleNet, the standard is ActivityPub, which is already used by social networks such as Mastodon, Peertube, and Pixelfed.
To begin with, we are interested in federation between servers running MoodleNet. Thanks to ActivityPub, users will be able to join communities, follow collections, and interact with other users, no matter where they created their account. And then, in addition, users of other ActivityPub-compatible social networks (‘the Fediverse’) will be able to follow and interact with MoodleNet users, and vice versa.
Why do we need a testing programme?
The aim of the MoodleNet Federation Testing Programme is to test all aspects of federation, both between MoodleNet instances and the wider Fediverse. The programme will be successful if it:
Demonstrates that users on any MoodleNet instance may follow, join, and interact with communities and collections on any other MoodleNet instance.
Confirms the value proposition of organisations running their own MoodleNet instances
Establishes that search and discovery is possible across MoodleNet instances connected to the Moodle HQ API-as-a-service (‘mothership’)
Shows that Fediverse accounts can follow and interact with MoodleNet users.
We envisage that the testing programme will cover three areas:
Interaction between MoodleNet instances
Join communities, and follow users and collections
Add resources to MoodleNet collections
Discuss, comment, like, and flag content
Search and discovery
Find MoodleNet users, collections, and communities
Locate MoodleNet resources with a specific tag
Browse fresh content from across all mothership-connected instances
Integration with the wider Fediverse
Follow Fediverse users from MoodleNet
Display Fediverse status updates which @mention MoodleNet users or communities
Interact with Fediverse users (e.g. reply to an @mention)
Who should be involved in the programme?
We’re looking for individuals and organisations with both the time and technical knowledge to be able to test MoodleNet effectively. This includes moderating communities, updating their instance to the latest version, and providing regular feedback to the MoodleNet team.
Ideally, we would have a combination of Moodle Partners, educational institutions, organisations, and interested individuals who:
Will accept the MoodleNet federation testing programme agreement (forthcoming)
Have a working knowledge of Linux server administration with Docker containers (MoodleNet’s stack includes Elixir, PostgreSQL, and React)
Can dedicate around 3-5 hours per week to testing MoodleNet over the testing period
When will the programme start?
We will begin the testing programme when MoodleNet federation is ready to test. This should be before the end of August 2019, although it also depends on the corresponding user interface work being completed by that time.
How do interested parties apply?
Please use the following form to express an interest in the federation testing programme. Note that not all applications will be successful, as we are looking for a range and spread of use cases.
Last week was MoodleMoot UK & Ireland 2019. At the previous year’s MoodleMoot, our presentation on MoodleNet contained only ideas of what we would build. This year, we had an alpha version to put in front of people at a workshop.
The focus of the session was on past, present, and future, with participants having an opportunity to discuss what they like about the MoodleNet vision, and what they’d like to see included in the future roadmap.
The 1.5 hour session on Day 3 of the Moot was structured in the following way:
Welcome, intro and overview
Hands-on testing of MoodleNet
Discussion around key questions
Feedback and next steps
During the Affinity grouping activity, and before participants had a chance to register for MoodleNet, they were asked what problems they envisaged MoodleNet solving for them. The emergent groups were around:
Online course design
Learning and teaching
During testing, participants were asked to register, complete a basic profile, and join a community to add resources and comments.
After testing, participants discussed a series of questions which are included with full details of the workshop on this wiki page. Over and above the things on our roadmap, the main things we learned (or found interesting) were:
Confusion between ‘communities’ and ‘collections’
Flagging duplicate content
Per-community hierarchical tags
Grouping of several communities
Reward and recognition for users
It was a very useful session, and the 1.5 hours went by very quickly. We’d like to thank participants, and your rare badge will be on its way soon!
We’ve recently finished testing MoodleNet’s value proposition with two cohorts of users, in both English and Spanish. During each three-week testing period, we sent one survey per week. In this post, we’d like to share some of the insights we’ve gleaned.
It’s important to note the following:
We built the smallest possible version of MoodleNet in an attempt to answer the question, “Do educators want to join communities to curate collections of resources?”
During the testing process, we didn’t discuss future functionality in the user interface or in the emails we sent users. We did, however, discuss the roadmap in a tool called Changemap which we’re using to collect and discuss feedback and feature requests.
One of the key features of MoodleNet will be federation (i.e. the ability to have separate instances of MoodleNet that can communicate with one another). This will change the user experience and utility of MoodleNet in significant ways.
The survey data we’ve collected suggests that MoodleNet is indeed something that can sustainably empower communities of educators to share and learn from each other to improve the quality of education.
What follows are three things that we’ve learned from the testing process.
1. We’ve validated the value proposition
A couple of days after giving each cohort of testers access to MoodleNet, we asked them, “Do you see yourself using something like MoodleNet to curate collections of resources?”. The functionality, especially during that first week for the initial cohort was extremely basic, and the experience sometimes buggy.
Despite this, by the time the second cohort filled in their first survey, it was clear that almost two-thirds of testers agreed that, yes, MoodleNet would be something that they would use.
2. The best tagline for MoodleNet: ‘Share. Curate. Discuss’
During the testing period we learned that creating taglines that are translatable and impactful in different languages is no easy feat. In fact, many companies and brands simply use English taglines, such as Nike’s ‘Just Do It’. We’ve decided to go ahead and use ‘Share. Curate. Discuss’ for the moment as the tagline for MoodleNet (including on the Spanish version of MoodleNet).
3. Testers are clear on what they want to see next
Through free text boxes in surveys, and from the information coming in via Changemap, it’s clear that users want to be able to:
Search for specific keywords and topics of interest.
Easily find out when something has changed within a community they’ve joined, or a collection they’re following.
Sort lists of communities and collections by more than ‘most recent’ (e.g. by number of collections or discussion threads)
Tag communities, collections, and profiles, to make it easier to find related content.
Upload resources to MoodleNet instead of just adding via URL.
Indicate ‘resource type’ (e.g. ‘course’, ‘presentation’ or ‘plugin’)
Send resources they discover on MoodleNet to their Moodle Core instance
Add copyright information to resources and collections
Easily rediscover useful resources they’ve discovered in collections they’re not following
Access MoodleNet on their mobile devices
Happily, we’ve already got MoodleNet working on mobile devices, although we’re still having some issues with Safari on both iOS and MacOS. We’re also launching ‘timeline views’ for communities and collections this week which will allow users to see what’s changed since they’ve been away.
When developing software products, it’s easy to come up with a plan and start working on it without validating what you’re doing with users. We’ve still got a way to go before MoodleNet is exactly what community participants want from it, but we feel that in this initial testing period we’ve got a mandate to keep on iterating.
A big thank you to our two cohorts of testers, who have provided invaluable feedback. They still have access to MoodleNet beyond the testing period. We’ll be inviting more people to join at next month’s UK & Ireland MoodleMoot in Manchester, so why not join us there?
We’ve learned a lot from the first testing round of MoodleNet, which ends this week. Our focus has been on testing the value proposition, “Do educators want to join communities to curate collections of resources?” It’s early days, but it would appear that yes, they do!
The wealth of feedback we’ve received during the first testing period really has been invaluable. Our enthusiastic bunch of 100 testers have shown us what they prefer, through their use of MoodleNet, responses to surveys, and suggestions via Changemap. Happily, we’re not ‘wiping’ or ‘resetting’ the HQ instance, so we’re encouraging the 100 testers to use MoodleNet beyond this initial period.
As demonstrated in a previous update, over the last three weeks we’ve added a lot of functionality to MoodleNet, made many improvements to the user interface, and fixed a number of bugs. We’re looking forward to seeing how 150 additional testers respond to MoodleNet when they get started next week.
It’s now two months until our planned beta launch at the UK & Ireland MoodleMoot, so the team has some very important functionality to work on. Soon, MoodleNet will be:
Mobile — access MoodleNet on-the-go
Searchable — find communities, collections, and people across all of MoodleNet’s federated instances
Connected — import resources you discover on MoodleNet into courses in Moodle Core
Federated — join any instance of MoodleNet and interact with communities, collections, and other users across all instances
The MoodleNet team would like to thank the Moodle community for the encouragement and feedback we’ve received so far. We’re dedicated to creating an easy-to-use environment where educators can share, curate, and discuss!
Yesterday, we made our first major update to the version of MoodleNet currently undergoing initial testing. Not only did this update alter the look and feel of the interface, but it also added some useful new functionality and fixed some bugs reported by users via Changemap.
The most important test so far, however, starts next week. That’s the time when we’ll be putting MoodleNet in front of users for the first time. We’re testing the value proposition: “Do educators want to join communities to curate collections of resources?” This doesn’t mention federation. There’s no mention of mobile devices, fancy user interfaces, or machine learning. We’ve tried to create a very simple approach to test this basic value proposition.
It may turn out that users agree with this value proposition. They may think that, yes, joining communities to curate collections of resources is something they want to do. Alternatively, they may indicate that they prefer a different approach. Either way, this test is of vital importance; it makes no sense to continue along this particular path without a mandate from real-world users!
For those interested, but who aren’t part of the initial testing, here’s how it will proceed:
Successful applicants will have their email address whitelisted and be invited to sign up to a Moodle HQ-run instance of MoodleNet
Feedback from users during the testing process will be collected in two ways: via Changemap and through weekly surveys
New features will be rolled out during the testing process, as detailed on this milestone
If you missed the sign-up process this time around, or weren’t available for the first testing period, then don’t worry! You will have an opportunity to put your name forward again in a few weeks’ time.
We’re delighted to announce that we’ve begun the process to recruit 100 testers for the first iteration of MoodleNet!
The sign-up form, a link to which can be found below, is available in both English and Spanish. The form should be self-explanatory, but if you do have any questions, please add a comment to this post or ask in the MoodleNet discussion forum.