Posts tagged ‘moodle’

Providing alternative translations

With the HEAT Mobile content I’ve been looking at ways in which we can allow users to switch between different translations of the content. By enabling the Moodle Multi-language content filter, I can add alternative translations for the same content page. I found this method a little fiddly, and in switching between the HTML code view and the HTML editor view, sometimes the language span tags get removed. For example, if I enter:

<span class="multilang" lang="en"><p>My content here</p></span>

the HTML editor strips out the span tags completely. But with a bit of playing around I got it all working.

I then updated my export code (which generates the files to drop into the Android app) to check for the languages available on each page and to create an option for the user to switch to whichever languages are available for that page. Here’s an example of switching between English and Swahili on one of the PNC module pages:

PNC introduction in English

Switching to Swahili

PNC introduction page in Swahili

You can also have a go with this on my demo site.

The next step is to be able to switch the whole interface over to alternative languages (not just the content) and also being able to provide the quizzes in multiple languages. Though now I already have this working with the main content, it shouldn’t be too hard to extend this.

Updated mobile HEAT content

I’ve just uploaded the updated mobile HEAT Android app (you can get it from: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.digitalcampus.apps.heat.mobile).

The main differences are:

  • a new design (using JQuery Mobile framework)
  • all the content and quizzes are automatically exported from the HEAT courses I have on my local Moodle server, this makes it much easier if we want to update/change the content in the future, or create new modules
  • additional ‘video’ section, so you can jump directly to the videos, rather than looking through the content. Please note though that the videos may not run on your devices, as we pre-load them onto the phone’s SD card, they’re not included in the app download.

For those of you without an Android phone, but would like to see the content, I’ve created a demo page to show the content. You will need to create an mQuiz account to login (you can register for this directly from the demo). Again, with the videos these won’t play from this demo as they are designed to be run offline from the phone SD card.

Any feedback is very welcome.

Automatically exporting mobile learning content

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been looking at how we can export content directly from Moodle into the format needed to create the Android application for the HEAT content (see my previous posts here and here).

I now have a basic script running which will export a Moodle course to the files needed to drop into the Android app, including of all the self assessment questions and any embedded image files. This will make it much easier to create and edit the mobile HEAT content, or for any other Moodle courses which we may want to run offline on an Android phone.

Using JQuery Mobile framework, I’ve also given the HEAT mobile app a bit of a facelift, so it looks quite a lot cleaner now and seems to load the pages a bit quicker. Here’s a sneak preview of the new design:

Once I get it all a bit more finished I’ll make the updated app available for download.

Moodle upgrade and new version of COE course

The other day I tidied up my Moodle server installs, I had got a Moodle 1.9 and a Moodle 2.0 running, then a couple of months ago my ISP upgraded the version of PHP (to 5.3.x) so I’m now able to run the more recent versions of Moodle. Rather than keeping separate systems running I now just have one Moodle 2.2 (at: http://moodle.alexlittle.net – http://moodle2.alexlittle.net is no longer functioning).

So our Certificate in Online Education (COE) course can now be downloaded in Moodle 2.2 format. The course content still refers to pre-2.0 versions of Moodle – so we’ve got some updating to do on this, but will let you know once this been completed.

mQuiz: Importing from Moodle quizzes & GIFT format

I’ve just put up a new version of the mQuiz website and mQuiz Android app.

The key update is that you can now import quizzes in the GIFT format (which Moodle also uses). So if you already have a Moodle quiz then you can export it in GIFT format and upload to run in mQuiz – I’ve uploaded the 4 quizzes from our Certificate in Online Education course to demonstrate. Alternatively you can write your own quiz in GIFT format directly.

This now allows to create quizzes with more interesting question types than only single-option multiple choice, such as multi-option multiple choice, numerical, essay, short answer and true/false.

Any feedback on this is much appreciated!
Update (5th Dec 2011)… I’ve just added the facility to display feedback…

Increasing use of elearning at Mekelle Uni

I was just having a look at the statistics for the Mekelle Uni Moodle and am very pleased to see how much the site has increased in usage over the last year. Great to see students making up a large proportion of the hits. Last year we were seeing more hits from teachers, probably due to their course development and issues with lab opening. The drop is hits during February and March this year is likely due to three factors: (a) one of the labs being closed following theft of some terminals, (b) end of semester exams and (c) subsequent inter-semester break. I hope the site usage continues to increase.

Update to Online Users Map

I’ve just updated the version of my Online Users Map block for Moodle 1.9 so you have the option of using OpenStreetMap for the map display. I’d already done this for the version of the block for Moodle 2, so was quite easy to retrospectively add this to the 1.9 version too.

You can see a live demo running on my Moodle installation.

Any feedback or comments welcome 🙂

Video Content Management and Streaming with Kaltura and Moodle

Through the elearning training we are trying to encourage teachers to make more use of video and other multimedia content in their courses. This presents us with several issues, mainly because most video streaming sites are blocked by the University (to save bandwidth). This means we either don’t include the videos or we download to run them locally. So far we’ve just been uploading them into the Moodle course, which is fine for relatively low numbers of videos (or for very short videos), but is soon going to become unsustainable. Also, we’d like to suggest video content teacher may wish to use – so it wouldn’t be appropriate to have these filling up the Moodle server.

One solution is to use a multimedia management streaming server, so over the last few days I’ve been testing out Kaltura. It’s an open source video content platform and has plugins for Moodle, WordPress amongst others.

Installation was straightforward enough on my laptop, once I’d got the necessary prerequisite packages installed and settings. Couple of issues I did come across:

1) On my first attempt at installation, it installed on the root of my webserver, so I was unable to access my other web applications. This was because I specified ‘localhost’ as the domain. I tried to figure out how to move to a subdirectory (see: http://www.kaltura.org/moving-installation-new-directory) but haven’t got that one figured out yet. So I just set up a new host (http://kaltura.localhost) and used this instead. So now I can access Kaltura and my original webapps, with out switching configurations and restarting apache.

2) When the prerequisites say that you need a mail server, it really does mean that you need one! After installation, when creating publisher accounts, the login details are emailed only – so there’s no way to set the password except by following the link in the email. I assumed I’d be able to reset the passwords manually and so the mail server integration wouldn’t matter to much. Given that this is just running on my laptop, I haven’t got a mail server running, so then had to set about trying to get one configured. Fortunately I found these instructions on how to configure postfix to relay through a gmail account on Ubuntu (I’m running 10.10). I set up a clean/default postfix installation and used the settings/instructions posted in the comments by Michael M. I used a ‘disposable’ gmail account, so that if something goes wrong, I won’t get blocked from my normal gmail account, but seems to be working well so far. It’s also good now that I can have emails sent for all the webapps on my machine.

So after I had these 2 issues resolved, I was ready to start having a play. All seems to be working well, although I was hoping that people would be able to browse the uploaded content without having first logged in. I guess we’d just need to create a generic account. If anyone knows how to set this up then please let me know – or if there is a generic Kaltura content browser application that I could use?

I tried uploading a few flv and mp4 videos to embed onto a webpage, and seem to work well. A little slow on my machine, but then my netbook probably isn’t designed to be a media processing and streaming server!

My final experiment was to look at the Moodle plugin, unfortunately I had a few more issues with getting this working. When trying to register the module in Moodle, I kept getting the error that ‘Your Kaltura registration failed. Missing KS. Session not established’ when trying to enter the url, username and password for my Kaltura server. After a bit of investigation I found it was a bug with how the partnerId was(n’t) being passed. I found a hack around this, see: http://www.kaltura.org/config-moodle-mod-moodleadmin-page, but it’s not pretty!

Now I have the option to add a video resource in Moodle directly from my Kaltura server, or so I thought I had, currently whatever I seem to search for (tags, video titles, categories which I know exist in the account I have) returns no results. Next step is to try and figure out why I can’t seem to find any of the videos I have uploaded…

Updates to Online Users Map

Online Users Map with OpenStreetMap

I’ve finally had a bit of time to work on the online users map block I wrote a while ago – the recent release of Moodle 2 being a bit of a spur. Two main changes I’ve made:

Firstly, I added the option to use either Google Maps or OpenStreetMap, with the default being OpenStreetMap, but you can easily change it in the block settings.

Secondly, I managed to get the block up and running in Moodle 2 (see it in action). It needed a few changes over the previous version to get it to work. I’m still having a few issues with getting the block to update the cron field in the mdl_blocks table – so currently you need to update the blocks table manually to enable the cron function, which automatically updates the user locations.

Any feedback welcome 🙂

Course content management and synchronisation in Moodle

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on writing some more courses in Moodle for use in Mekelle Uni, other parts of Ethiopia and hopefully further afield. There are a couple of us working on writing these courses, which we’re currently working on using the Moodle installation on my ISP (at: http://moodle.alexlittle.net). Given that we’ve both got reliable and fast internet this isn’t a problem.

However at some point we need to export course to install on the servers in MU, and possibly other places where they don’t have a quick reliable internet connection and won’t be able to rely on connecting to my website (for example, MU recently had hardware issues with their core switch, which messed up their internet access for several days).

If we have the course completely finalised and polished, we can use Moodle backup and restore to move the course around. But (and this is possibly very likely) if we need to update the course, perhaps we need to restructure the content or activities, or even make small edits, we’re in the position where we need to either:

1) manually make the changes on both sites to keep them in synch (my Moodle would be the ‘master’ copy); or
2) overwrite the copy in MU and risk losing the user data.

I’ve not tested this all thoroughly, but my impression at the moment is that if you restore a revised course over the top of an existing one, you could lose some or all the user data (forum postings, submitted assignments etc). I’m grateful for any information that says otherwise. I know we could back up the original course to keep the user data, but would it still be accessible in the revised course?

Making changes manually on one or two copies of the course isn’t a big deal, but it will become a problem if we want to host the course on several more Moodle installations. The courses will quickly become out of synch.

Has anyone else had to deal with this type of problem and if so, how did you deal with it? I know the OU stores it’s courses in it’s own XML format for republishing or updating a course with edits, but they’ve had to write a stack of code to enable this – not the route I’d like to go down.

What would be ideal for us would be for courses to automatically synchronise themselves from a master copy when their internet connection allows. Maybe this is too much of an obscure use-case for anyone to have dealt with before? I realise there could a be a stack of synchronisation issues to deal with.

This also ties up with my previous post about the cost of internet access (and data limits), if I could work offline at home on the course, then just go online to synchronise, this would save a lot of hassle backing up and restoring courses, with the risk of overwriting someone else’s edits.

I’ve seen some of the mobile Moodle applications, so students can work offline on their mobiles and then synchronise when online again, so this could be an extension of the same principle, but probably more complex.

One of the themes at next years eLearning Africa conference is how to deal with bandwidth/connection limitations, so maybe if I get chance to go, I’ll get some ideas from there.