Learning management systems (LMSs) have continued to evolve and gain users. In the latest example of this evolution, over the past year Moodle HQ and several of its Moodle Partners have developed and extended the functionality of the core Moodle product in order to better serve a broader spectrum of organizations. The result, Moodle Workplace, will be available through Moodle Partners starting this month.

The core Moodle product will continue to be available and supported as before, and enhancements to its functionality arising from the work that went into creating Workplace are expected. This article provides a thumbnail sketch of these developments and answers some of the questions that have arisen from core Moodle users.

New functionality

Moodle Workplace provides additional functionality for corporate and other non-academic applications, including employee education, onboarding, compliance, and other uses. According to Brian Carlson, CEO of Moodle Partner eThink, Moodle Workplace includes specific modules that add functionality responding to the needs of organizations outside of those served by core Moodle.

According to the launch announcement from Moodle, the Workplace product aims to allow users to:

  • Create and deliver training and onboarding processes
  • Share knowledge across an organization and develop specific skill sets
  • Give employees the flexibility of accessing the training system from anywhere on any device
  • Customize the LMS to reflect and strengthen the user's company processes and structure
  • Maximize learning and development strategy

More specifically, Moodle Workplace supports building employee training and compliance programs, establishing training paths for employees by grouping courses and content into programs, and creating recurring certifications based on programs with a defined validity period that need to be retaken in order to keep employee certifications up to date. Workplace will facilitate centralized management and delegation.

Among the added modules and features are ones that provide for multi-tenancy architecture (a new capability for Moodle) so that each division, department, or franchise will have its own full LMS, for hierarchies that support management structures across sub units, and for automation of workflow including enhanced reporting features and integration with existing systems. Also in the Workplace are a dashboard and UI/UX enhancements tailored to corporate use, a more workplace-centric mobile app, certification tracking, and a data store that is part of the enhanced report builder.

Carlson says that the data store is not an LRS, although it is very similar. Both the core Moodle product and Workplace will continue to support the use of xAPI through other software such as Yet Analytics or Learning Locker. Carlson indicated that eThink will be present at the Learning Solutions Conference 2019 as an exhibitor, and will be able to respond to related questions about functionality of the products in more detail there.

Growth in the Moodle customer base

In an interview conducted last week, Carlson said that Workplace functionality was shaped by the very large number of organizations that use Moodle in order to provide professional education for their employees and for external customers and channel partners. In the case of eThink, this group includes about half of the current customer base, and the proportion of users in this group is growing. About 80% of the growth in users of core Moodle has been related to professional education, according to Carlson.

Although educational institutions are most often thought of as the primary users of Moodle, government, healthcare, and associations have long been an important part of the core Moodle customer base. In recent months, several corporate groups have been showing significant growth in the adoption and use of Moodle. These include retail, manufacturing and bigger industries, technology and cyber security, and financial services, banks, and insurance companies.

“Open Source” is a distinction relative to closed source licenses. It does not mean that a product is provided for use free of charge. Workplace will be offered under the GPL License, and obtaining it requires an organization to go through a Moodle Partner. However, the code can be modified by the user, either directly or by any of the 65 Moodle Partners worldwide.

According to Carlson, this is similar to the Totara model around GPL. Moodle Partners contribute financial support back to the core Moodle product. This is a key differentiator between Moodle and closed source products. In this view, Moodle users benefit from the financial support that maintains the core product, and from multiple providers who compete on price and service. These benefits will also accrue to users of Workplace.

Naturally, academic institutions and other organizations want to know if any of the Workplace features will find their way into the core Moodle product. Modifications made to core as a part of Workplace will, and already have started to move over, according to Carlson. Martin Dougimas, Moodle CEO, has indicated a commitment to the free version, however, and there are changes to the core product scheduled that will add extended capabilities. Those specific features benefits that will move into core will be announced as Workplace continues to move forward.

Moodle Workplace will be available through Moodle Partners, beginning in mid-2019.