From Lancaster to Perth, we spend some time with our very own senior HQ Developer, Andrew Nicols

Andrew Nicols

Moodlers, the success of our Moodle open source project has been dependent on so many people, from our Moodle HQ team members, through our global community of Moodle users, supporters and advocates and to our Moodle Partners who are Certified Services Providers.

The reason we have started Moodlers Monday is to try and get to know more the people behind the scenes who make Moodle more accessible and powerful. If you have been missing these interview posts with Moodlers around the world, check out our recent blog posts.

Moodlers Monday helps us share the work of our fellow Moodlers and inspire others with stories of how they creatively and innovatively use our platform!

This week we are speaking to our very own senior developer, Andrew Nicols, about the role he plays in Moodle HQ in advancing our mission of empowering educators to improve our world.

Let’s see what a day in the life of a Moodle HQ developer is like!

Moodle HQ: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today Andrew. Let’s kick things off with you telling us about yourself and your role in Moodle.

Andrew: Hi folks. I moved to Perth five years ago to work for Moodle HQ. I now live in the Perth Hills with my wife, our cat Arthur, and our weiro Woodstock. We also have two horses, Coolie and Henry, who live on my wife’s parents property.

Before moving to Perth I lived in Lancaster, in the North-West of England, for ten years where I worked in a variety of developer roles primarily on educational software.

I spend a lot of my free time with our horses, whether it’s camping at events, being a dutiful groom, or helping out around the place. I’m now a qualified Show Jumping judge and would like to get into Show Jump Course design in the next few years.

Moodle HQ: You have been a team member at Moodle HQ for over 5 years now. What initially attracted you to join Moodle HQ?

Andrew: I’ve been using Moodle in one-way or another for nearly eleven years, but I’ve only been actively developing it for about nine years. I started getting really involved with the project and contributing major core features like the Activity Chooser. I became the JavaScript component lead and tried to improve the way in which we write our JS.

I’ve always really liked the idea that Moodle is Open Source, and is so widely adopted by so many institutions. I feel strongly about social responsibilities, so being able to improve such a large community project and to help its many users in a professional capacity is a really empowering thing to be able to do.

When I was approached about working for Moodle I was really excited. I love that I can give back to the community in a range of different ways, and I feel privileged to be able to do so as part of my day job. I’d always wanted to live in the Antipodes, and when the opportunity came I leapt at it.

Having worked as both a community member, and now for Moodle HQ, it’s interesting to see the many different ways in which people use Moodle, and how they solve their many challenges in such a variety of ways. That real-world experience of using and supporting Moodle in a professional setting (a University) also helps me to see the different requirements that some of our users have.

Moodle HQ: In your role as a Senior Analyst Developer/Integrator for Moodle HQ you must have been part of some exciting Moodle projects. What are some of the standout highlights?

Andrew: That’s a tough one. I’ve worked on a lot of projects over my time here at Moodle and some really do stand out, while others seem to be a constant project which never finishes. I’m the component lead for the Forum – it’s one of the oldest parts of Moodle and there are lots of small tweaks that I’ve been able to work on to improve it for users.

Some of the changes we make are very easy to implement, but they make a huge difference. Those are amongst the most satisfying.

I also had the opportunity to work on the User Tours functionality in Moodle a couple of years ago. Although our implementation is still relatively immature, I think that it will become more and more useful and important in the next few years. I’ve had some really positive feedback on the feature too.

Moodle HQ: Currently you are part of the team working to support GDPR compliance in Moodle sites. Can you describe your role in this process and why GDPR is such a hot topic at the moment?

Andrew: I’ve been working on the GDPR project for a while now. My role was initially more of a consultant, and that led into an Architect and Team lead kind of role. I’m really pleased with the solution that my team came up with.

I think that privacy has been a very hot topic for a number of years now, and the level of exposure we now have on social media has really put that into the spotlight. The web has been around for a long time now, but as its matured and we put more, and more, of our data out there, it’s something that we really do have to consider.

The GDPR is really just the tip of the iceberg and I suspect that we’ll see other countries follow through with similar legislation. It’s an interesting time to be working in the field, and I wonder how it will affect the way in which technology interacts with us.

(Note: you can find out more about Moodle’s GDPR plan and approach on another one of our article posts)

Moodle HQ: As you know Moodle’s community is not just limited to us here in Moodle HQ.
We have Moodlers all over the world!

For aspiring developers or Moodlers wanting to contribute to our open source project what advice would you give them?

Andrew: If you want to get involved with the development side of Moodle, I’d recommend finding something that you actually want to do – a change, or a new feature that actually interests you. It’s far easier to understand how things fit together if you have a project that keeps you interested, and exposes you to lots of the issues we face.

(Note: Want ideas on how to contribute to Moodle? Check out our suggestions on our community site.)

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today Andrew.

Are you or do you know of a Moodler who is doing remarkable things to keep our open source project strong? Contact Moodle HQ today.

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