Moodle and Drupal Communities Working Together Needs a Strategy
May 4, 2007
My company Donat Group is at the Moodle conference moodlemoot in Edmonton Alberta. An excellent conference for both experts and newbies to Moodle. We are here to present with our partner Lambda on our shared Moodle hosting service for BC post secondaries through BCcampus. I learned a ton at the conference and I am totally turned on to Moodle more than ever now, especially the networkming function in 1.8 and the new gradebook coming in 1.9.
On the business side, we have been talking to a many attendees about our Moodle - Drupal - ELGG architecture (we got a glimpse of Mahara and may look at that in place of ELGG). Everyone we talked to was familiar with the three technologies, but I was surprised when most did not know that Drupal could act as the Social Networking Hub for a learning community as well as a standard CMS "publishing" platform. This was a bit worrisome to me, as considerable work is being done for Moodle 2.0 (release: mid 2008) to create a social networking hub. This may make sense and be in fact the best solution, but it seems that no one has taken the time to see what Drupal can do in this area. One university I talked with had been using Drupal for over a year and had no idea there were social networking tools for Drupal. I pointed out just a few of the sites we have worked on (projectopus.com, gimme20.com, opportunityalert.ca), let alone the hundreds of other sites from dozens of other developers. He was literally shocked at what Drupal could do and he wasn't the only one. Conversely, I would suspect that Drupalers would be shocked at what Moodle could do. I know I was, and we have been using it for a few years!
And here lies the problem - there is very little "official" communication and collaboration between these open source software communities, especially around development. If Drupal or any other solution could provide the social networking layer for Moodle wouldn't it be advantageous to work on that integration layer rather than writing what is substantial new code from scratch? And vice versa, people have talked to me about adding mods to Drupal for course management. Maybe that is the best way to go for somethings who knows, but shouldn't they first look to Moodle for answers to course management? I really think these open source projects need to be coordinating their activities, or at the very least having a high level open dialog on where each project is going and what strategies they cold use to leverage one another.
To help facilitate that, I think these communities should "officially" (whatever that really means) get representatives to sit-in with the other communities coordinating and communicating development. There should be a Drupal rep at Moodlemoots and Moodlers at Drupalcon. The reps should be well known within their communities and have influence (or have extensive knowledge) in the overall strategy of development. I would even suggest that the leads of these projects personally meet once a year and become involved in on another's software to a certain extent. I am using Drupal and Moodle as only two examples, naturally others exist. But these two platforms are good examples as they have a great deal of synergy with one another and are better together than alone and poorly replicating features of the other. Maybe this is happening already, I don't know, but if it is the word is not getting down to the general development community and users.