What interesting timing. Just as I published my interview with Martin Dougiamas, I was notified that Totara LMS, a Moodle derivative aimed at the corporate learning market, has forked from Moodle and is changing its relationship with the Moodle Community. From their newsletter released today (Sept 3 Australia time):
The relationship between Totara and Moodle is changing
We have made the carefully considered decision that from 2016 Totara LMS will no longer be in lockstep with Moodle. This will free the team at Totara Learning to focus on big leaps forward in usability and modernising the framework for our enterprise customers.
Further down, Richard Wyles wrote an additional post explaining the fork, starting with his long-term relationship with Moodle. He then explains:
Why are we forking?
From 2016 onwards we will no longer be in lockstep. Totara LMS will progressively diverge from its Moodle foundations.
Why have we made this decision? There are several factors;
- Innovation. A benefit of open source software is the ability to extend the code base of an application and develop it in a new direction. Over the past few years we have added more than 450,000 lines of code comprising a series of modular, interwoven extensions layered on top of a standard Moodle. All the additional features reflect the different needs of our user community and Totara LMS is now almost unrecognisable from a standard Moodle installation. We’ve taken a lot of care to achieve these results with minimal alterations to Moodle’s core codebase. That policy has been beneficial to both projects. However it also comes with constraints, particularly with some feature requests such as multi-tenancy. To do this well requires deep architectural changes. Overall, to continue, and accelerate our rate of innovation we need to start diverging the base platforms.
- Modernising the platform. It is our view, and we know it is a shared view with many Totara Partners, that the current product needs a significant investment in the overall UX. Due to the following point regarding collaboration we are unable to make this investment without diverging from Moodle. We are committed to doing the best by our Totara Partners, key stakeholders in our open source ecosystem, and our growing (collective) customer base. Our 2016 release (which will be tagged as Totara LMS version 9.0) will have a major focus on improving the UX design and overall quality assurance.
Richard goes on with other reasons and concludes:
The decision to forge a new direction is simply based on the need to deliver the best product we’re able – fit for purpose for modern workplace learning, guided by the needs of our partners and customers.
The Totara LMS home page links to a YouTube video introduction, and I note that the lack of reference to “Moodle” name.
Wow. This is a significant move for several reasons, including the following:
- The long-term relationship of Richard and others in Totara to the Moodle Community, which will now diverge;
- The importance of corporate learning for many, if not most, Moodle Partners;
- One of the reasons not quoted above in Richard’s post is that “The leadership of Moodle Pty Ltd has made it clear to us that it is their intent to clone recent Totara LMS versions to offer the market ‘Moodle for Workplace.’” (read Richard’s post in full); and
- Totara has contributed an large amount of code to Moodle, including “with Moodle HQ incorporating Totara developed features; Learning Plans and Competencies”.
I will now extend my core argument from last week’s post on Blackboard’s Moodle strategy in Latin America.
The Moodle community at large appears to be at an inflection point. This inflection point I see comes from a variety of triggers:
- Blackboard acquisitions causing Moodle HQ, other Moodle Partners, and some subset of users’ concerns about commercialization;
- Creation of the Moodle Association as well as Moodle Cloud services as alternate paths to Moodle Partners for revenue and setup;
- Remote-Learner leaving the Moodle Partner program and planning to join the Moodle Association, with its associated lost revenue and public questioning value; and
- Totara LMS forking and diverging from Moodle core.
Analysis post coming soon.