Modern social, messaging and communication platforms incorporate an @mentions or @username feature which can be used to:
1) Notify users of the fact they have been mentioned bringing them into the conversation (Twitter, Facebook, Slack, MS Teams)
2) Create group discussions (Facebook Messenger, MS Teams, Slack, WhatsApp)
In the educational space there are already platforms incorporating these features and showing increased levels of engagement / participation from students when compared to systems like Moodle.
There are at least two areas within Moodle that would benefit from this feature, thus a common API to manage user lookups and notifications would seem appropriate (particularly if it allowed other plugins to leverage this going forward:
Within a discussion forum a user would be able to @mention any other user participating in that forum (with the ability to POST or REPLY in that same forum).
The fields used to lookup the user would need to be configurable by administrators, for example they may wish to use display name or user name depending on the settings of their institution.
Currently Moodle does not facilitate fluid collaboration through messaging and there is no facility to create group conversations outside of groups created within their Moodle courses. This means students cannot collaborate in groups unless their tutor first creates groups for them to do so, and even then they are constrained as to who they can engage in a group conversation with.
Thus the suggestion would be that any user would be able to @mention multiple users within the messaging interface to initiate one to one or group discussions as they would in any other current messaging platform.
Issues around privacy can be addressed by administrative settings allowing administrators to disable the feature or impose limits on who users are able to message (those on courses, across the platform etc.).
Often the first and last communication we see from students within Moodle messages asking "can someone add me to the WhatsApp group please" after which they disappear from the platform until it is time to submit an assignment.
This needs to be addressed for the following reasons:
a) Moodle is considered below par by its users for communication which damages its reputation within a given organisation.
b) The metrics (logs) are lost to organisations trying to gauge levels of engagement / participation and intervene if they believe students are dis-engaged.