Growing up in the Australian outback in the late 1970s, Moodle's Founder and Lead Developer Martin Dougiamas took lessons from the School of the Air, giving him from a young age an insight into distance learning.
As an adult, he worked and later studied at Curtin University, where his experience with WebCT prompted him to investigate an alternative method of online teaching. In 1999 he started trialling early prototypes of a new LMS, the experiences of which formed the basis for his paper Improving the Effectiveness of online Learning. He registered the word 'Moodle' as a trademark of Moodle Pty Ltd and explained his choice of name in a forum post some years later.
Research continued: the first ever Moodle site was Peter Taylor's http://smec2001.moodle.com/ at Curtin University , with Martin making the first post on his own Moodle.com site in November 2001. The pair published An Interpretive analysis of an internet based course constructed using a new courseware tool called Moodle.
By the end of 2001, Moodle could be downloaded via CVS (Git arrived in 2010 and replaced CVS in 2013) and basic installation documentation was available. It was still very much one man's vision, with Martin setting up the tracker in May 2002 "so you can see what I am working on."
Moodle 1.0 was released in August 2002. Users were discussing Moodle on a new forum, translating Moodle into different languages and creating themes. A year later, the first contributed module (workshop) was released and Moodle.org became the community arm of Moodle, with Moodle.com representing the commercial aspect.
Moodle grew quickly: the first ever Moodle Moot was held in Oxford in 2004 and companies started applying to become Moodle partners. 2005 marked the move to dedicated premises with Martin and 4 others; the current HQ at Richardson St West Perth, houses 16 with 11 working remotely. At the Spanish Moodle Moot 2005 in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the mojito established itself as the unofficial - and then subsequently official - Moodle Moot drink. (See blog post: Moodle Mojitos History)
With improved documentation and new certification , Moodle had established itself by 2007 as a leading and award-winning open source LMS. From 1000 registered sites in 2004, it had gone to half a million users in 2008 and over a million users in 2010, with over 50 Moodle partners. Its translation repository AMOS held over 100 languages. The long awaited Moodle 2.0 came out in November 2010 and now, regular releases bring enhanced features every six months. The current focus is on mobile technology: an official HTML5 app was released in 2013 and Moodle includes a customisable theme suitable for all screen sizes.
The inauguration of the Moodle Research conference in 2012 served as a reminder that, however advanced the technology, Moodle design and development is guided by social constructionist pedagogy. During September 2013, the official Moodle MOOC, Learn Moodle, introduced over 9000 participants to Moodle's basic features. Educators everywhere are encouraged to share their experiences, just as did Martin over a decade previously. The MOOC was repeated in January 2015 and is now run on a regular, six monthly basis.
Throughout 2016, HQ worked on improving Moodle’s User eXperience (UX) by forming the first UX team and also releasing a fresh new default theme - the Boost theme.
By 2017, statistics on Moodle.net indicated there were over 100 million registered users for Moodle. During 2017, a number of projects were developed, including:
- Working on and integrating an open source solution to learning analytics - Project Inspire
- Spreading MoodleMoot events into many more countries around the world
- Establishing the first Education team
- Re-affirming Moodle's mission of empowering educators to improve our world
- Releasing Moodle Desktop
In late 2017, Moodle received a significant 'angel' investment , fuelling growth and innovation. The journey with the community, Partners and global users will be an exciting one, as Martin shared in his MoodleMoot Australia 2017 keynote.
During 2018 significant progress was made on a new initiative, MoodleNet, which began beta testing in early January 2019.
In March 2020, registered users passed 190 million on over 145,000 sites.