Case Study: TDM Network Hubs of Co-Opetition

TDM are a small business who serve the Work-Based Learning provider community in the UK.    The community we serve consists of businesses, mainly limited companies, who deliver learning to people:

  • as they do their everyday work well as to people...

  •  who are looking for employment in a particular vocational sector.

Using Mahara and Moodle, TDM have begun to set up a large network of smaller Network Hubs of Co-Opetition between these providers which allow them to:

  • co-operatiively develop COMMONLY USEFUL content 
  • and share community knowledge, while also
  • competitively refactoring the community content developed to serve their own unique markets and
  • allowing for some trainer's "stories" to be told in local, private contexts rather than in large public contexts

 Co-Operation can be made a reality without anyone's feeling that they need to sacrifice their own competitive edge. (Co-Operation + Competition = Co-Opetition). 

TDM are an official Mahara Partner

Who are TDM??

How we found out about Mahara.

Lifetime educator, Derrin Kent starting using Moodle when working as a manager for a (now defunct) Work-Based Learning provider (Training for Tomorrow (TfT) ) in 2004.

Immediately recognising the practical business, technological and ethical cases for the adoption of an Open Source Software Development model, Derrin was soon immersed in the wider world of Open Source OSs, CMSs, CRMs, PMAs, etc. etc. under the guidance of the (now defunct) Advantage West Midlands (AWM).

With the demise of TfT and AWM, Derrin set up TDM to keep these particular fires burning.  TDM exist to "Enhance Learning and Business with Open Technologies".

By "Open Technologies", we are referring to technologies which:

  1. do not "lock-in" their users to a single vendor-relationship.
  2. do allow for shared technological creativity amongst a community of software and content developers who share a similar interest 

This means we support:

  • Open Source Software Applications (one example of this is Joomla!) and
  • Open Standards for Data formats (one example of this is LEAP2A) well as....

  • Open Knowledge models (One example of this is ) and
  • other models of open culture (one example of this is Creative Commons Licencing) well as... 

  • ethically designed Cloud Computing facilities which allow for economically and environmentally-friendly server-support while also: protecting users' right to privacy, protecting user's rights to easily migrate, allowing for competitor resellers of the software / training / support, facilitating an open software development model, etc.   (One example of this model is Google Apps). 

Derrin had already seen the need for an e-Portfolio solution for work-based learning and had started talking with Meredith Henson about how Mahara could help.

Back then, Mahara was not doing what WBL providers needed it to do if it was to be useful as a WBL evidence tracking facility.  TDM therefore continued working with Moodle to help their client providers and have been hugely indebted to the ongoing funding support for our clients from the Association of Learning Providers' Learning Innovation Grant (ALP LIG).  

Recent Mahara developments have seen Mahara become a viable option to support WBL delivery and TDM, therefore, successfully applied to become an official Mahara partner in 2008.

Network Hubs of Co-Opetition

How do the Hubs Work?

The green cubes you see in the visual above are Mahara Sites, while the orange spheres are Moodle sites.

The locus of control is firmly held by the training provider who has their own SSO Mahoodle set-up.   Anyone wishing to access a Hub site HAS TO access them via their own Moodle sign on.  By locating the network server link in a provider's Moodle "Staffroom", we give the provider themselves the control over who can access their Network's own Moodle.

The best route to understanding the types of activity which take place in the Network Hubs is probably to visit one of them and click on a few of the links? TDM have thus far established these networks:

The central Mahara site is found here:

and exists for public WBL community collaboration on a national basis (covering sector-specific interests).... while the Moodle hub-sites exist for active content development, distance training and community collaboration amongst people who know each other personally on a REGIONAL basis.

The diagram is slightly misleading in that it implies that the central Mahara Hub is signed onto from the central Moodle Hubs... where what really happens is that the sign on the the Central Mahara is set up on each of the providers' own sites.  (The diagram just looked better this way).

ALP LIG Funding

ALP LogoThese Networks of Virtual Learning Environments and e-portfolios have been made possible thanks to the Association of Learning Providers and their Learning and Skills Council Learning Innovation Grant (ALP LIG)
.Funded by the LSC

How is Mahara working out??

We have developed an excellent process for WBL tracking which can be conducted within Mahara but it is a difficult one to sell to many of the WBL providers we serve.

Significant numbers of the training providers in this sector are:

1. Wooed by "Endorsements" which accrediting bodies have started to give to certain proprietary e-assessment platforms (sometimes ones in which the accrediting body themselves have a vested interest)

2. Not of the view that it is their responsibility to provide learning.  They very often see themselves as responsible for accrediting learning and often not as responsible for the delivery of learning.   Mahara and Moodle, therefore, are not always seen as useful tools for the sector.

TDM, of course, strongly object to both of these perceptions:

  • TDM believe work-based learners have the right to evidence their learning to their provider by use of an e-portfolio tool which is personalisable, portable and owned by themselves.  Most e-Assessment tools sold to the WBL sector do not provide this.
  • TDM believe that the acccrediting bodies' External Verifiers have the duty to accredit any reasonable assessment process which gives them access to the information they need in an eaily accessible way.  USB sticks, paper-based arch-lever files and the Mahara e-Portfolio can all be used to provide this.   
  • TDM believe that it is important for providers to take responsibility for the structuring and delivery of work-based learning.,,,  not just for the assessment of work-based competencies.   

Frankly, this paradigm shift is an easier one to sell to the LSC and the Association of Learning Providers..... but it is a difficult one to sell to our client market themselves.  TDM, notwithstanding, are driven by our educational ideals and we are trying hard to move the mountains.  We hope to be able to report Mahara adoption success stories in the near future.

TDM, ourselves, have recently accessed ESF-funding for the delivery of Management NVQ4s and we are selling the qualifications to WBL providers themselves in order to model the way Mahara can be used for WBL delivery and assessment.  This, we hope, will be a major support in encouraging adoption and we will soon write another view in which explains how we are achieving this. 

Contact Information

  • Email address: [email protected]
  • Official website address:
  • Personal website address:
  • Blog address:
  • Postal address: The Development Manager Ltd.,
    25, Load Street,
    DY12 2AE
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Business phone: 0333 10 100 89
  • Mobile phone: 07792 569415