How to create a true multi-lingual site in Moodle

Moodle has language packs for almost every language you can think of. This means that it will translate most (if not all) core wording on the site. What it won’t do however is translate your course content, unless you follow this clever little blog post.

Recently, I just finished building a multi-lingual Moodle site that toggles the language between English and Welsh, not just for core Moodle stuff, but also for course content, labels, quiz questions and EVERYTHING in between.

Here’s how it works.

The user selects their prefered language from their user profile, or from the language menu selector at the bottom of the page.

If the user selects Welsh (Cymraeg) then all the English text is replaced with Welsh text, and conversely if the user selects English, then all the Welsh text is replaced with English.

So how do we do it?

Simple. We use <span> tags in our labels, quizzes and all activities where we need both languages. See the example below:

<span class"multilang" lang="en">The Law</span>
<span class"multilang" lang="cy">Y gyfraith</span>

By wrapping our text inside the span class above you can define what text is shown if the user selects English and what is shown if the user selects Welsh. And that’s it, there no need for any special CSS or javascript. This is a core Moodle feature. Please note, I don’t speak Welsh, the text was translated for me beforehand.

What else can I apply this to:

Pretty much anything. You can apply it to images, so you can show different images depending on the language. You can apply it to topic sections names, dropdowns, menus, chunks of text, quiz questions, answers and feedback.

Our English banner used on the Dashboard

Once you get your head around it, you can do lots of exciting things with this. It helps if you speak the language of the site you are translating, but I didn’t and it wasn’t too tricky.

Our Welsh banner used on the Dashboard

Happy translating!

Digital Home School Moodle Update 2

Today I made a short video to show the progress I made this week on my Moodle home school.

I simplified the whole login process and the children are  taken directly to their dashboard (or Springboard) as I’m naming it.

Moodle then randomly picks 4 topics from 4 key subject areas (Science, Technology, English and Maths).  And each time the children visit this page the content is randomised. (I plan on making this personalised based on user progression and competence..but that’s later.)

The student clicks the topic they wish to learn and it drops them into a random activity based around that topic.  The student can reload the page and a randomised activity follows.  So it’s different every time.

Oh! We also have the nice little popup menu in the bottom left.  The core navigation bit that takes the student back to the springboard, their achievements and their reports.

That’s all I had time to do this week, but I’ll keep going next week.

“I’m still Moodling..better than I ever did”


I haven’t blogged in a while, mostly due to being so busy with the day job. I get to work on so many fascinating eLearning projects that it’s difficult to find the time to work on my own personal Moodle projects. But recently, I’ve been burning some midnight oil to work on a project I’ve always wanted to do for years.

A new home school study Moodle platform designed and built from the ground up to work for kids, my own kids to be precise. It’s probably the furthest I’ve ever pushed Moodle, and that’s because this time I’m not building it for a client, I’m not building it for an administrator, nor a teacher, or meddling graphic designer. I’m building it for my own kids and will eventually roll it out to everyone I get to finally do all the things I’ve always wanted to do with Moodle without anything getting in the way. I want to build a fluid LMS that doesn’t even come close to feeling like an LMS.

My goal was to use Moodle as the framework and all the great community plugins (Level Up, Stash) and somehow roll them up into something that offers a truly user-first learning journey. It also boasts a really simple navigation button, everything is controlled from it, no breadcrumbs, no course titles, just a funky little pop-out button.

Check out these actual working screenshots (not mockups, this is where I’m at so far)

An amazing school site built with Moodle

Oh, and H5P is also been pushed and bent into something beautiful. So I’ll strip back the platform UX to something beautifully simplistic but retain the sheer awesomeness and power of the best LMS on the planet.  The whole system uses Moodle tags to display content, it doesn’t use traditional courses. It’s all tags and outcomes, badges, treasure hunts and rewards.  I still have plenty to do, and I’ll keep writing up  the progress here on my blog.



My enthusiasm for Moodle has been ignited again lately.  Imagine my excitement when I heard recently that Moodle HQ has just secured a truck load of funding. Over the past few years I’ve seen people switch to Google Classroom, I’ve watched Canvas penetrate the UK market and I’ve seen Totara capture the corporate market (at the expense of Moodle). So to watch Martin Dougiamas and his team propel the Mobile App, secure $6m in funding, open a new base in Spain and watch the vision unfold, I’m getting pretty excited.  Moodle is still my all time favourite platform to work with.

Which brings me onto my second secret project. Some new interface ideas for the Moodle app. I can’t have an awesome new Kid friendly LMS without an accompanying app.

These are the ideas I’ve been working on. This is the Moodle Mobile app with a new stylesheet, some custom graphics and a little code hacking.


So, what’s next? Well, I need to keep working on the day job, pay the bills and keep the lights on. But feeling all inspired and refreshed, I can’t wait to carry on with this project.  It needs to be ready before summer 2018.

And as Elton once said, “You know I’m still Moodling, better than I ever did.  Moodling like a true survivor, Moodling like a little kid.”

What if the Moodle UX was like Netflix?


Having spent the past few days in London with a colleague trying to figure out the future of “digital learning”, I couldn’t stop thinking about what an LMS (such as Moodle) would look like if it adopted a truly simplistic design and setup.  A design that “encourages”, nay… damn right forces you to love it.

Imagine if the image above was your dashboard.  And your courses were nothing more than “covers”, like movie covers on Netflix or Amazon. And the course you last viewed was bigger than the other tiles and highlighted, and when you clicked on it, it resumed where you left off.

When you click on the course, you get one single, simple page.  The course may be just a single activity, whether an H5P Project, a SCORM package or a video. It doesn’t matter.

“But one single activity isn’t enough, I hear you say”.

Well, why not make lots of single activities?  Like a library, whereby each course is in fact just a placeholder for an amazing resource. So we stop building long topic driven courses that look they are trapped in 2009 and actually build courses that offer personalisation where the user can chose what they want to learn.  Like we chose what we want to watch.

Users could simply “add courses” to their library (think self enrolment), they can keep the course (if they like) or un-enrol when they are done.

“But we need to tell learners what to learn, I hear you scream!”

Netflix don’t explicitly tell me what I should watch, but they certainly sway my hand. It’s all in the presentation, and tagging. Something which Moodle can do really well.

No messy course formats, no ugly Moodle hacks, no specialists blocks, just a clever Moodle Theme and a change of culture (a revolution, if you will). We could turn off all the bloat, hide all the settings and have a front-end more akin with the tech we use daily.

I can hear screams of Moodle admins and teachers crying that “this wouldn’t work in our organisation“, but in the same vain, I can hear cheers from learners who don’t give a damn about the backend, the gradebook, the pedagogical workflow of the course, or how clever an API is.  They want to log in and learn. That’s it!

Sometimes, less is more.

I believe this type of approach (although admittedly not suitable for all organisations) would perfectly suit the casual learner. Those who are time precious, who need to dip in and out of content..and who knows.. if done right…may “binge watch” your course resources like a box set of Game of Thrones.  You never know.

I haven’t built this yet, as I’ve been insanely busy, but the more I think about it, the more I can’t stop thinking about it. It could be crazy enough to work.