My Moodle 2.0 Upgrade Journey Part 1…

To upgrade or not to upgrade? That is the question.

Well my answer is…upgrade!

I am currently in the process of writing a short paper on a possible upgrade to Moodle 2.0 for Leeds City College. I am proposing an upgrade during the summer.

Unfortunately, due to the size of the organisation, our custom tweaks, third party plug-ins and staff training needs, an upgrade isn’t going to be easy.

This blog post will be part of several posts during the run up to D-Day! Or M2-Day as I’ll call it.

So the big question?…Why upgrade?

Many colleges are put off with the upgrade as they feel the support won’t be there yet if things go wrong, if bugs are found or they can’t find their way around.

Well unless we get behind Moodle 2.0 and try it we will only slow down the development proces, bug fixing and support documentation.

I must admit, I’m scared to upgrade, if it isn’t broke right?

But surely the new features in 2.0 outweigh any snags and hiccups I’ll encounter along the way. And I’m sure I’ll find bugs and some things won’t work the same as they did but that’s what it’s all about, that’s what Open Source is all about.

As long as I get the theme right and make sure things are in the right place then will my end users notice anything radical? Then when it comes to training I’ll sell the benefits of what’s new and improved rather than what has moved or changed or what’s disappeared.

So what next:

The first thing I did was have a look at what third party modules we have installed and which ones have been transferred to 2.0 and which ones are not. Loosing some desired and heavily used functionality will only irate my users. I’ve been slowly stripping out mods througout the year in preparation and deliberately not installing anything new until I know it’s (2.0) future and so I’m left with:

The Book module – which has a 2.0 version
Certificate Module – which doesn’t have a 2.0 version
Face-2-face Module – which doesn’t have a 2.0 version but do I really need it?
Log Book – which doesn’t have a 2.0 version
Lightbox Gallery – which doesn’t have a 2.0 version but I’ll be onto Paul to see if he has any plans for this or if I can lend a hand.

It may be that I can find workarounds for some of these. For example, can I use forums to replace the logbook? I have had requests from tutors for Nanagong and Reflect blocks/mods but have not installed them as I’d only be taking them away if there isn’t a 2.0 version planned.

So what’s next?

The next step is to clone the Moodle Server and try an upgrade. See what works, see what doesn’t, see what died etc..

My own modifications don’t worry me, as I can make these fit 2.0 and I have until summer to create a striking new Moodle 2.0 theme – the pressure is on to create something awesome.

My next post will inform you how the development server upgrade went, how the database coped and were all my courses intact?

I’ll let you know how i get on… let the stress…I mean “fun” begin.

What’s in your Moodle Toolkit?

Most jobs require tools. Plumbers need wrenches, joiners need saws, accountants need calculators, hairdressers need scissors. But what does a Moodle Developer carry in their toolbox?

This will differ depending on your Operating System but in terms of functionality, how many applications does a Moodle developer really need?

This morning I looked at what tools I use on a daily basis to work with Moodle in the office and was amazed to find that I only really ever use four. (All Microsoft Windows based I’m afraid)!

1) Wordpad

Yes I know it’s Windows based, I also know that Notepad ++ is better but I like Wordpad. It offers exactly what I need. Text looks clean and organised, it opens up PHP files and offers search and replace functionality.

2) Photoshop

I cannot imagine using anything else. To me this is one of the single most important desktop applications of all time. It helps me to make Moodle look good.

3) SQLYog

My favorite open source MySQL GUI. I know I could use PHPMyAdmin but there is something nice about using a desktop GUI. It’s simple to use and performs all the functions I need.

4) Firefox

Still my favourite browser, solid, reliable and with lots of developer plugins. Gmail and Google Docs have changed the way I work.

And that’s it!

I often save directly to networked folders on the server so I don’t require FTP.
Admittedly I may use other programs from time to time but the four applications in the list are all I require on a day-to-day basis.

If we were a Linux based college then my kit would differ slightly in the fact I would use GIMP instead of Photoshop, Gedit instead of Wordpad, and most likely just stick to PHPMyAdmin instead of using a GUI Client. But I’d still only require just four tools to get the job done.

Moodle Tip: Change the default popup file window size

One of the most frustrating things about Moodle is the popup window that opens when a tutor uploads a file. Not only does it open in a small window but it often crops of the side of the screen with the “choose” option.

Many tutors then miss out this vital step of clicking choose and often place a checkbox next to the filename instead.

So we set about trying to find the code in Moodle which changes the size of the popup window (by default this is set to 750px x 500px).

To change this to something larger simply navigate to the page lib/form/choosecoursefile.php

And around line 24 change the variables to the following:

var $_options = array(‘courseid’=>null,
‘height’=>500, ‘width’=>1000, ‘options’=>’none’);

Now when this window is opened it is large enough to see the file name and the actions.

My next project is to go about re-writing the file manager page to make it more attractive and innvoative and easy-to-use! Watch this space…

New MyMoodle Idea: Moodle Folders

As I’ve said many times before, I love the MyMoodle page and I’m always looking for ways in which to improve it. So my colleague and I, Sukhwant Lota (@sukhwantlota) set about creating Moodle Folders.

We needed something new for the start of the summer term and we needed a custom way to sort long course lists on the MyMoodle page. Being avid fans of Google Mail and Docs we liked the idea of using tags and labels, so in effect this is how Moodle Folders works. The user simply creates a tag/folder which is assigned to a course.

Users can have as many or as few folders as they please and can name them anything they like, for example:

Courses I have editing rights to, or Courses I study on a Tuesday Evening etc…

The project is still under development and there is still a fair of bit of coding required to get it right. Once you start coding something like this its all too easy to get carried away with ideas such as drag and drop, custom icons, icon uploads and inline editing and it’s hard to know when to stop!

The video above shows how far we have got so far. I hope this video inspires a few people to create some funky MyMoodle customisations.