> There is absolutely nothing wrong with you, as group projects for your students, taking something from Moodle and making it better.
It's maybe just a phenomenon at my university, but PHP is not a popular technology for students. It's listed as number 10 on this list (at least it made the list!). There are attractive mobile apps and modern frameworks like React/Angular/etc. yelling for their attention in youtube videos, etc. I suspect that Moodle's mobile apps have gotten much more love than its clunky web GUI for instructors for this reason. 10 years ago it was my hope that the Apps would solve the problems because that's what young people want to work on, but I still can't create a quiz or even see my questions on the Moodle app at my university.
Google Summer of Code is another avenue, but on this Moodle page there is no activity since 2019. I suspect it's not as easy as it seems for other reasons than those I can see or understand currently.
> I agree, and have spoken on this many times, the UI is clunky and not always user friendly. How about designing an new UI and implementing it?
One projects at my uni paid students to design a Moodle plug-in (for intra-team evaluations), but it was not maintained as far as I know. This was a classic software engineering pitfall. Nobody realized back-porting was such a pain and that the plug-in would not update itself!
I have done some things within my control, for example proposing how to enter dates in a more user-friendly way because I use a lot of reading quizzes every semester, and finally providing a hack for the browser at https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=363358 since that bug never got any love. I gave the benefit of the doubt and suspect it wouldn't work with Japanese GUIs (even though Google uses a similar date format).
Regarding data, you're so right. At our university students must opt-in (during registration) to having their "identifying data" stored in Google's platform, since Quebec law doesn't allow it to be stored in servers outside the province (or that is how I understand the law, I am not a lawyer). So, a student who doesn't opt-in has a userid that doesn't identify her by name. That partially solves the privacy problem (but I have read papers how Google can identify people by other means...). These platforms are harvesting data, and nobody should trust companies that do those things. Moodle's server runs on physical machines on our campus, and there's no data being harvested outside.
On the other hand (and I know this as a software engineer), having aggregate data on how a system is really used allows making decisions on where to spend resources to improve features or even find bugs in GUI design (and fixes, too). So, the data that companies collect is not all bad. I'm unaware if MoodleHQ even asks if universities want to contribute such data (a lot of open source and "free" software people are against the idea for obvious reasons, I have worked on open source projects where the idea is shot down from the go). But I think makes it hard to decide which features are truly useful in a 20-year-old system with an aging design.
> And I had someone else, a leader who's job it was to look for innovation, of all people, say to me that Moodle didn't do too much for him as a learning tool. I suspect for some of the reasons you mention above.
I think it's true that some of the learning curve and overly complex features turn new people off quickly. Luckily we have a pedagogical team at our university who are trusted and they can vouch for the benefits and hold the hands of new instructors to work past the cruft. I realize I am fortunate to have the choice of 4+ tools to get my job done. I wanted to share my perspective to help improve Moodle.