Archive for the ‘Moodle’ Category

New Mahara book

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Packt Publishing just sent me a copy of the new Mahara book:
Mahara 1.2 E-Portfolios: Beginner’s Guide

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and read through a text-book, my eyes tend to glaze over and I find something else to read instead! I’ve also never been very good at sitting down and “studying” – This book surprised me, I was expecting a book detailing the different features in a dry step by step manner, but what I found was quite different. The first paragraph of the content in the book made me feel a little uncomfortable:

So, you’re interested in Mahara? Maybe you are already using it, but you are wondering if you are using it well. Maybe you’ve recently heard of Mahara and you are wondering if this is actually the ePortfolio solution you were looking for? Or, maybe you have been told you have to use it and you just need to get a sense of what Mahara is all about?

The book seemed to be talking to me – that’s not supposed to happen is it? After reading further I began to almost see the writers at the front of a computer lab speaking to me sitting at a PC – this easy to read tone engaged me in the book and the blend of content, hands on activities, and reviews made it an interactive experience – not what I’ve come to expect from the reference manuals I normally have on hand! The book has some great use cases and full detail without overwhelming the reader. It’s split up into logical bite-sized chapters that could be tackled one at a time when the reader has a quiet moment. Packt release this book as an eBook which I found useful – it meant that you could switch over to a web browser and run through the activities on the demo site provided specifically for readers of the book. I have a multi-monitor display which made this easy – some readers will definitely prefer the hard copy. Unfortunately the urls in the eBook weren’t live urls so I had to copy/paste them, but that didn’t take too much effort.

I’d recommend this book to anyone new to ePortfolios or new to Mahara – it gives the reader a really good detailed knowledge of not only the features of Mahara, but how they can be used in a variety of ways for very different groups of people. The book is great for real users – teachers/students/educators – it gives a much “easier to digest”, concise guide than the online documentation. It’s not aimed at Administrators or Developers but if you haven’t implemented Mahara yet it gives some good information for new administrators or those considering Mahara’s suitability towards the end of the book. I’d highly recommend that any organisation running Mahara grabs a hard copy of the book to lend someone when they walk into your office and ask “so what’s this Mahara thing?”

It’s available on Amazon, but cheaper from Packt Publishing who sell the eBook as well.

Moodle and SCORM 2004 – certified already?

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

now that I’ve got your attention…. The guys at Rustici have written an plugin for Moodle to connect to their Commercial hosted SCORM player – which is SCORM Certified for 1.2 and 2004

Bascially, they “host” your SCORM object on their SCORM Cloud, and the Moodle plugin redirects the user to their site, and allows their site to pass back information like the grade and duration data. The Moodle module is free to download, and you pay Rustici for “hosting” your SCORM objects. You can create a free demo account to test their SCORM Engine but to use on a production site, you will need to pay them for the hosting.

The Moodle code and the SCORM Cloud are still in beta, (I’ve just had a quick look through the beta code and reported a couple of small issues) but in the near future, this could be an easy answer to those RFP’s that require a SCORM 2004 checkbox to be ticked.

something like this could be used in those RFP’s(and in the moodledocs):
Moodle 1.9.5 is SCORM 1.2 Compliant and Certified, it supports some SCORM 2004 content, but if SCORM 2004 certification is required then the commercial Rustici SCORM Cloud can be used to host SCORM objects that require full SCORM 2004 support

With the availability of the Rustici engine at an affordable price, the urgency for getting the SCORM module in Moodle SCORM 2004 compliant/certified has definately decreased.

Moodle Scorm 1.2 Certification

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

In case anyone missed it – Moodle is now certified for SCORM 1.2

Helen posted about it.

Martin closed the Moodle Tracker issue

Good work everyone!

Moodle Networking bugs

Friday, September 11th, 2009

I’ve been battling with a couple of issues with Moodle Networking over the past week!

The first was an issue where the configuration of Mnet between a Moodle and Mahara site on the same server worked fine, it obtained the various keys as necessary, but when an Mnet call was made like a Single Sign on call from a Moodle user accessing Mahara, it would fail – with no useable error message anywhere to be found! – I eventually traced it down to a call to xml_parse – turns out that libxml in certain versions of PHP is quite buggy – and this is actually a known issue with other areas of Moodle. MDL-17136 MDL-16759

IMO we should really notify administrators that they are potentially running buggy code so I’ve created MDL-20220 to add such a notification!

The other issue I’ve been battling with is related to Moodle and Mahara not generating any keys at all – this is centered around the installation not being able to locate an openssl.cnf file on the server, and it appears in my testing that adding an environment var on the server didn’t reliably work! – also I needed to get this to work on a XAMPP install or an MoWeS install, so setting an environment var wasn’t really an option! I’ve got an incoming  patch for 1.9Stable and Head that fixes this – I also have a patch for Mahara which will go upstream very soon!

New windows installer for Moodle

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

A while ago I noticed Silverstripe and Drupal had been added to the new Microsoft Web Gallery for installing on Windows platforms – this installer looked really easy for people to use, so I wondered how much it would take to put one together for Moodle!

Here’s the result:

If you’re running windows you can click the following button to trigger the install!

 Install Moodle LMS using the Microsoft Web Platform Installer Button

Early on the documentation seemed a bit on the limited side, but has improved a bit now and the Web Application Team from Microsoft were very helpful! – to see the scripts that build this package see: thanks to some help from Eloy, the package is being rebuilt each month with the latest weekly build. It’s not an automated process getting the links in the Web Gallery updated though, so I expect it to take a bit of time before the Microsoft site is updated each month with the new build.

The packaging works a little like the LAMP installer for Windows, but it installs IIS/FastCgi/PHP instead. It doesn’t “automatically” install MySql but it does install the MySql odbc drivers, and it’s very simple to install mysql seperately.

The WebPI Packaging process doesn’t allow configuration of folders outside the webroot which can be a problem as the moodledata folder should really sit ouside the webroot for security and shouldn’t be accessible via an http request – IIS 7.0 allows you to prevent this by using a web.config file to prevent the access – IIS 5/6 doesn’t use the web.config in this manner, but the MS team have pointed me to this posting which will allow the same thing to be achieved – I haven’t implemented this yet, but will have a look at some point and try to include it in the package.

The other issue I came across is that there’s no easy way to determine the url that will be used to access the site on someone’s machine – according to some friendly help from the Microsoft Team:

Generating a wwwroot automatically is always challenging. The WebPI doesn’t do it because there’s no consistent way that the WebPI can know exactly which applicable host name you want to be used for your application.  There may be any number of legitimate host names for your server.

To get around this, the Moodle config file used by the package uses a combination of $_SERVER[‘SERVER_NAME’] and $_SERVER[‘SERVER_PORT’] however this may cause issues in the long term….but it would be relatively easy for someone to configure this manually post-install if needed.

At the moment – the package I’ve put together only supports installation with MySql, but it’s possible to allow users to choose between MySql and MS Sql during installation – When I get some free time, I might look at how easy this would be to add!

Moodlemoot NZ 2010 Dates

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Dates for Moodlemoot NZ have recently been released(13th – 15th April) – check out for details.

For the first time in history, we get a Moot in the South Island (thanks to CPIT for hosting!) 🙂

Christchurch (my home town) has a strong Moodle Presence – With 3 major Tertiary Institutions (Lincoln Uni, Canterbury Uni and CPIT) all running Moodle, as well as a range of schools such as Christs College, Papanui High School and Cathedral Grammar.

It will be good to see some of those familiar faces again! – keep an eye on the moodlemoot site for updates!

Mahoodle SSO Config

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Moodle and Mahara complement each other quite well, and it’s been possible for a while to set up SSO between them.

We do a lot of Moodle+Mahara with SSO for our clients – and most of these are hosted on the same web server, but following the instructions in the document I linked above can be tedious and time-consuming!

So I wrote an auto-config script that does the work for us!

to keep it simple at this stage it is a single file, it contains lots of hard-coded error strings, and doesn’t always display them as pretty as it should, but it works!

just drop the file into your moodle/admin directory and call it via the browser (you will need to be logged in as an admin to use the script)
if your Mahara install has been dropped into your Moodle webroot, or if it’s in the directory above your moodle webroot it will automatically find it, and display the path in the form on the screen – if not, you will need to know the server path to your mahara install – it’s the same as the $CFG->dirroot you have configured in the Mahara config.php

Once you’ve entered the Mahara dirroot on the form – hit execute, and it will go through all the steps necessary in Moodle and in Mahara to configure them to talk nicely to each other! – when it gets to the Mahara configuration, you will be asked to login to Mahara – make sure you login as an admin!

the file is available here (although I’ll put it in contrib and the modules & plugins db at some point soon)

keen to hear of any issues you experience or any ideas for improvment!

SCORM Engine

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

I’ve just noticed this post on Rustici’s Blog -they’ve also mentioned in the past about the possibility of offering a commercial plugin for Moodle and their SCORM engine.

One of the questions posed on their post is:

Q: Would open source adoption increase revenue substantially?
A: Doubtful. If the SCORM Engine were part of Moodle, for example, would any Moodle user come to us for a support arrangement? Or would they go to a Moodle host? Would we continue to appear to be a distinct entity in the eyes of a user? We don’t think so, and given that, what’s the positive impact for us? (It is, after all, about us, in some respects.)

While this may seem selfish to some people in the open source community – it’s also a very important one that many open source communities battle with! Rustici is a Business that needs to make money to pay employees so they can pay their mortgages etc… I presume a large amount of their income comes from the licensing of their SCORM engine.  SCORM LMS development isn’t cheap – and it’s not always easy to find someone to fund the full development work, but it’s not as hard to find people willing to pay smaller amounts of money to get a SCORM compliant Engine! – So when SCORM 2.0 comes out finally – Rustici may be in a better position to spread the cost of development across a larger group of clients rather than the traditional Moodle method of a single up-front cost.

But eventually, an Open Source based LMS will implement SCORM 2004 and then 2.0 (maybe) – we’re hoping this will happen for Moodle soon! – So any income that Rustici receive for licensing may decrease significantly when that happens. But – if the SCORM engine in Moodle was an open-source engine from Rustici – then the profile Rustici would get from this integration could improve Rustici’s revenue rather than decrease it!

So will Rustici release an open source version of their Engine? – I would love to see it happen, but I don’t think it is likely at this stage! – in the meantime it will be good to see a commercial offering from them to allow people who really need compliance/certification inside Moodle to have a viable option!

SCORM 2004 in Moodle

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Now that we’ve manged to get Moodle 1.9 Stable to pass all the SCORM 1.2 tests, there’s been a lot of talk between Moodle Partners and other Moodle users about SCORM 2004. I’ve posted about this in a few places in the forums 1 2 and I’ve sent various e-mails to a range of interested users! – here’s my attempt at summarising it all in one post!

To get to where we are today took 3 months of solid funded work (thanks to Moodle HQ) from 1 full time Senior Developer(Piers), with 1 part-time Senior Developer supporting(me). This included closing approximately 160 issues in the Moodle Tracker, and modifications to support the ADL test suite.

The SCORM 1.2 test suite comprises of 2 test packages. SCORM 2004 contains 103 test packages, of which Moodle currently passes 2 (at least it did last time Piers ran the tests) – It’s really hard to define how much time it would take for us to complete SCORM 2004 so it passes all the different tests!

Sequencing and Navigation is a big chunk of SCORM 2004 that isn’t implemented – we expect that once this work is completed a bunch of the test packages will pass. I’ve seen estimates that put completion of SCORM 2004 work at 6-8 months or even more! – there are also a range of SCORM 2004 bugs that are related – for more details see MDL-7068

We’re currently attempting to source an initial 3 months worth of funding to continue work on SCORM 2004 – we believe that 3 months would be a worthwhile effort,  at the end of which we would have an accurate picture on what it would take to complete! – bounce me an e-mail if you might be able to help fund this! –

Plagiarism Detection Competition

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Yahoo Research have sponsored a Plagiarism Detection Competition with a 500Euro prize
details here: I wonder if something like the Moodle Crot Block could be a contender?