Revisited: Best Modules & Plugins

I’d like to revisit a topic I’ve posted about in the past, the best Modules and Plugins for Moodle. With Moodle 2 coming out, a revamp of the plugins directory and the time since our last look at modules and plugins, I thought it’d be good to take another look.

Here are the modules I’ve posted about in the past:


Revisions of previous Modules rationale

Integration: Moodle-Google Apps
I used to love this Moodle-Google SSO module but a few years later I prefer the other authentication option of Google Apps Directory Sync or even better, a custom solution tied to your Google domain and your other solutions (crossing fingers we can do this in our district). A few reasons why–quirky issues with the plugin that I was able to troubleshoot but just inconsistency in account creation, third-party services in Google Apps (like Aviary) did not work and features like organization management are available with the sync tool.  However, does have better documentation of this module.

Activity Module: Questionnaire
Still a great module, but I believe they are working on a new and improved survey module that combines the Feedback, Survey and Questionnaire module into a standard Survey module. It does not look like it’s come out yet or if there is active development. I have not installed Questionnaire yet on our Moodle 2 site but if the standard module doesn’t come out by Fall I will install it.

New Modules

Here are a few modules that are either new to me or ones that have jumped in rank in my opinion.

Certificate (activity module) 1.9, 2.1 and below
I’ve mentioned this before but I have only recently added it to our Moodle 2 site. I’d like to give this module an extra bump as it could be very useful for professional development and courses where credits or proof of completion are important. Works in Moodle 2.

Drag and Drop file Upload (block) 1.9, 2.x
This block could possibly make me our teachers’ new best friend. I’ve heard about this plugin for awhile but only recently installed it on our Moodle 2 site. Tried it once and got very excited. Just like the title says, this block allows a user to drag a file from their desktop onto a Moodle course. I still have to see how it works with other browsers but this could be a great help when we transition our users to Moodle 2 in the Fall.

Grid Format (Course Format) 1.9, 2.2 and below
I have not yet installed this Course Format but from what I understand it basically does the Compact Design for you. In the discussion thread there were a few bugs but it looks like it was updated last week which takes care of those. I still want to look a little more into it before installing but it looks great.

Onetopic Format and Topic Forums (Course Format) 1.9, 2.1 and below
I haven’t installed these Course Formats yet but they look pretty cool. Onetopic looks like it adds tabs for each section which will show one topic at a time. This would prevent the issue of the “scroll of death”. The topic Forums Course Format works the same way but it also puts a discussion forum in each of the section pages.

HTMLArea toolbar Extension (Other) 1.9, 2.1 and below
I have not yet installed/modified our code which enables this feature. It really got me interested and excited when I attended a session on it during last year’s iMoot. At that time I don’t think it was compatible with 2.x but it does look like it is now. Again, I need to look into this more especially because it involves modifying code. This module adds many different features to the WYSIWYG Editor. Definitely something I plan on installing in the future.

I installed the Certificate and Drap and Drop module last week in our Moodle 2 environment. I’m being cautious on installing a few of these and waiting a little longer so the bugs can get worked out. We’ll be transitioning to Moodle 2 next fall so I’m sure there will be more Modules I’ll find and report back on. If you have any favorite Modules please feel free to comment!


Extending the Moodle Database Activity with CSS, templates & HTML

I was recently given the task in my district to develop a solution for a searchable forms database on our new web site. These forms include staff forms for HR, district permission slips,art box enrollment forms, etc. We just migrated our site to a paid for service which included many features except a way to store, search and display forms (files).

I decided to use a Database Activity in Moodle. A few obstacles I initially saw:

  • Integrate the activity into the district site seamlessly
  • Integrate the look into the district site
  • Customizing the display
  • Meeting the district’s needs of menus, filters and search

Integrate the activity into the district site seemlesslycheck mark

A simple solution for this, although I don’t particularly enjoy using them, was to use an iframe on our district web site. I only had a WYSIWYG Editor to use that allowed HTML. Clicking a link on the district site which opened a link in Moodle wasn’t an option. It needed to be embedded within the web site and not be noticeable that it’s using another product or site. So, iframe it was.

Integrate the look into the district site check mark

The biggest issue was the header and footer in Moodle. I was able to remove all of this using the CSS template in the Database Activity. With much help from Mary Evans in the Moodle Forums on I used Firebug to accomplish hiding the header, breadcrumb navigation, description box and footer.

Below is the screenshot pointing out each section and below that is the code corresponding to each section in the screenshot.


/*Hide header, banner*/
#mod-data-view #header { display: none;}
#mod-data-view #banner { display: none;}

/*Hide breadcrumb navigation*/
#mod-data-view #page .navbar { display: none;}

/*Hide description box*/
#mod-data-view #intro {display:none; padding-top:0px;}

/*Hide footer*/
#mod-data-view #footer { display: none;}
#mod-data-view .paging {margin: 0px;}

Customizing the display check mark

I lucked out in that the theme I picked, Leatherbound, matched most of the colors for our district site. Now, I wanted to add in some highlighting and shadowing. I lucked out again that has documentation on “How can I add highlighting like on the Modules and plugins page?“. I modified it a bit and put it in my CSS template.

Meeting the district’s needs of menus, filters and search check markdrop down menu

Finally, I needed to add in some drop down menus to departments and buildings. I got tons of help again, from the forums. Itamar Tzadok helped me out in several Database Activity Forum threads.

I put that HTML in the “List” template. I was able to get direct links to each “field” by manually searching for that field and copying and pasting it as a link. ‘Department’ and ‘Building’ were fields, so I was able to search (filter) and get the link.

After a lot of testing and troubleshooting here is the final product (you can see the Moodle Database Activity bordered in black)

final product

You can see it live by going to click on “Quicklinks” in the top right, then click on “Forms A-Z“.

More helpful links

Phew, time for a treat! Moodle to the rescue!


Live notes about iMoot 2010

Below are just some live blogging notes and my stream of thoughts. Not organized at all but I highlighted a few key items I found interesting. Sorry if I noted anything wrong as I was listening and typing.

Panel 1 –

Presenters: Martin Dougiamas and others (I can’t remember their names)

Ask questions directly to the moodle HQ team in Perth. What are their development processes? Where does funding come from? Who is the best foosball player?

This was just a Q & A with Martin and others at the Moodle HQ. I noted a few questions. If you haven’t already checked out the replay check it out – if you’re registered!

Question I asked:

briefly exploring an installation of moodle 2.0 dev the navigation (docking) seems a bit different and something to get used to. have you done any user groups to see how “regular” teachers will react and adapt? as an admin i witness a lot of frustration with “change” after they get used to something..

Their Response: One of Tomaz Lasic’s first jobs will be testing/working with this. They rely on people like “me” and the Moodle Tracker to help them out.

My After Thoughts: “Techy” or people like me are different than regular teachers. Regular teachers won’t go on the tracker, they don’t even know what it is. It’s the lower techy users that I’m worried about. I’m worried it will turn them away, make them frustrated. Is there any user groups strictly with teachers who are not that tech savy, users who don’t even know about the!

Question I asked:

will the journal module be in the core and will it be gradeable?

Their Response: The journal module will not be in the Moodle 2.0 core but still available for download if it’s kept up. The online assignment will replace it.

My After Thoughts: Isn’t there a difference between journal and online assignment? I think there are a few differences that a teacher would want in journal that isn’t in online assignment – like repeated journaling – not having a “one and done” assignment – something ongoing. I’ll have to look at this.

Question I asked:

are there major upgrades in blogs? will there be comments on blogs? also will there be an option to make the blogs a course module instead of everyone with shared courses seeing each others – lots of complaints about seeing user blog enteries they don’t care about

Their Response: There are comments on blogs already. RSS external blogs into blogs (like WordPress). They said blogs = forums pretty much. There is a new forum type called blog forum type which looks more like a blog. Sounds interesting!

Question Asked:

In Forums: Is there any way to set a default for all users to not be subscribed to forums automatically? On that note, will Moodle 2.0 have a central place for users to control emails they get from a Moodle site? At the moment there are subscriptions (forums), message settings and settings in the profile.

Their Response: This is available at modules | forum | default you can change that.

My After Thoughts: I either heard wrong and they didn’t mean this or it will be in Moodle 2.0. I’m not sure, but I couldn’t find this in my Moodle 1.9.7 version.

Other Notes:

The Feedback module will NOT be in the Moodle 2.0 core which was planned before. They also talked about how the Questionnaire and Feedback module will somehow work together and merge into something new called “Survey”. This will combine the best features and allow Questionnaires and Feedback to transfer into a “Survey”.

I’m not sure if “Survey” will totally replace both modules and if so I’m not sure when.

B-04: Making Moodle Funky by Bending the Code!

Presenter: Lewis Carr

AWESOME session!

  • quick edit – turn editing on – change weeks/topics, short code, more settings on the course homepage instead of having to go into the Course Settings – not on plugins/modules – hard coded.
  • Sweet Moodle user and course ajax search – very useful for admins – I would use this every day.
  • Course Format: no weeks or topic number — “clear format” – modified weekly topics format and told it not to display the numbers
  • moodle bar (like on the iMoote site) – will be publicly available soon – go to moodle tracker and his website
  • iphone theme – iphone theme in own folder “We detected an iphone theme would you like to switch to iphone theme?
  • iphone app/mobile will include all quiz… use it as a “student response system”.. YES
  • user agent switch – test in different browsers

Best Moodle Modules & Plugins : Part 2

best modules & plugins

I recently wrote a blog post listing some of the best Moodle modules & plugins. After reading a chapter in the book, Moodle Administration, about 3rd party add-ons and hearing your own suggestions I decided to write a little more on the topic.

List of “popular add-ons” from the book, Moodle Administration (minus the ones mentioned in my earlier post):

Recommendations from users:

Source: maberdour (Twitter)

Activity Module: Face-to-face

Description: Face-to-face activities are used to keep track of in-person (e.g. classroom) trainings which require advance booking.Each activity is offered in one or more identical sessions. These sessions can be given over multiple days.

Reminder messages are sent to users and their managers a few days before the session is scheduled to start. Confirmation messages are sent when users sign-up for a session or cancel.

This module may be of interest to administrators looking for a way to provide event management support for blended learning environments.

Activity Module: Feedback

Description: The Feedback module allows users to create and conduct surveys to collect feedback. The Feedback module is planned to be included in Moodle 2.0. As a result, the link to the Download latest version has been removed.



Source: Awyatt (Twitter / web site)

Activity Module: Attendance

Description: Module and block for not automatically marks attendance. Distributing as package of module and block. Main part is module, block is optional.



Activity Module: Course Menu

Description: A tree based expanding menu block with option to include links to the Gradebook, Calendar, Blog Menu and Messages blocks.

Interesting & Others:

(via @moodleman) Accessibility Block (modified)

Block: Administration Alert

Description: This block alerts the administration about things that can be wrong in Moodle site. (read more)

I quickly tested this block out on a past development site. It gives administrators alerts in a block about various information on the Moodle site. I do not have this block installed on our current production server for our site but I plan to install it soon.



Block: Trouble ticket

Description: The trouble ticket block was developed to provide Moodle users with a simple way to notify Moodle site administrators of a problem with the site or a specific module or block. The trouble ticket block allows Teachers to add multiple types of trouble tickets to a page as either a link or a button. Each Trouble ticket can be configured with a specific email to send the notification to as well as a custom response to the user.

I have not tested this block out, but it’s one that is on my list to try. Instead of sending emails, this seems like a good system to allow users who are having issues contact the correct person.


Other Module & Plug-in information:

Cool tip! Visit: – See the top 50 plug-ins downloaded in the last 60 days (scroll down to the “plug-ins” section).

Cool tip! Note that there is a “rating system” for add-ons. On each individual add-on page there is a rating. But be aware that just because that rating is high (or low) does not mean it is good (or bad) necessarily. To determine whether or not an add-on is trustworthy check for ratings, documentation, support and discussions about the add-on.

As you can tell, I have not personally used each and every listed add-on. Some I’ve tested, some I’ve researched and some have been recommend from others. I plan to install and test drive a lot of the previously mentioned add-ons on my own development site. Later on I will write about my experiences in doing so.

If you have any experience with certain Moodle add-ons (positive or negative) please comment below.

Related Links:

Best Moodle modules & plugins (my first post about modules & plugins)
Moodle Administration book (Some of the above information and suggestions were taken from this great book!)
Contributed modules and plugins forum (Forum)
Installing contributed modules or plugins (Documentation)
Development:Guidelines for contributed code (Documentation)
Modules and Plugins Database – an improved rating system? (Discussion thread)

Best Moodle modules & plugins

Moodle has many approved Modules & Plugins, but what are the best and most useful ones to try out? Depending on the type of Moodle site you run and how your users use Moodle can determine what is considered a useful module or plugin.

This blog post is just a working list on the best Moodle modules and plugins for a large K-12 school district which is used for student use at home, staff development and as a personal portal to store and show resources via a projector during the school day in the classroom.

Activity Module: Book

“This module makes it easy to create multi-page resources with a book-like format.”

Rationale: The Book module is great for displaying all types of content. Yes, you are able to display content using the “compose a web page” resource but in the Book module you have a navigation menu where you can navigate to another page with content. You are able to create an outline with sub categories acting as a chapter-book going in order or just an outline of topics.

Why I love this module so much is because the courses that I create have a lot of content in them. I hate putting too much text in the middle column of my course and using the “compose a web page” is a bit hard when I have too much content. With the Book module, it is much easier to organize the content and it creates a more user-friendly way to navigate without having one resource with tons of content on the same page making the user scroll forever.

Here is a simple example of using the Book module for Frequently Asked Questions.


Activity Module: Questionnaire

“The Questionnaire module allows users to complete online feedback style forms using a variety of user input methods. It allows you to create your own questions, unlike the Survey module which has presets to choose from, and it allows for more advanced questionnaires than the simpler and easier Feedback module.”

Rationale: No one uses the standard survey module in our district (actually I think we have it disabled). It’s not that they don’t have a need for a survey it’s just because the presets it comes with are not what they want. This module allows users to create their own kinds of surveys. You are able to customize the survey however you want.

Being the admin of our Moodle site I obviously have very different kinds of courses in Moodle. Mine are mostly help pages and giving information – with not much interaction. I can’t say that I have used the Questionnaire module a bunch, however I can see the uses of it for a classroom teacher and I have seen many praises about it online.


Course Format: Collapsed Topics

“A new topic based format that attempts to solve the issue of the ‘Scroll of Death’ when a course has so many topics. All topics except zero have a toggle that displays that topic. One or more topics can be displayed at any given time.”

Rationale: Tired of scrolling…and scrolling….and scrolling… in your course? Are your students? This may be your solution! This course format collapses each section in your course and allows your viewers to click on an individual section header to open up that section. This saves you a lot of scrolling time. It’s pretty slick and creates an easy to view course. A drawback *could* be that your viewers can not see what they are looking for right away – they have to click to view things.


Block: HTML Block (standard block)

Description: A HTML block is a standard block used to add text or images on a site or course page. The title bar can be left blank.

Rationale: You may be wondering why I included a standard Moodle block. The reason I included this block as a “best” is because of the possibilities and flexibility of this block. If you are not very familiar with HTML and/or CSS this may not be of a lot of use to you. If you are, there are a lot of potential possibilities. This block can be used to insert text, links, images and any other multimedia. You can be creative and link to external, internal or anchor links. I think using the HTML block allows you to be creative and treat your Moodle course as a regular web site. If you are looking for a certain kind of block chances are you can somehow manipulate the HTML block to do what you want.

The HTML block is not only useful on your course homepage – it can also be a tool for you on your My Moodle page (if enabled). If you have certain sites you always visit you can create links in the HTML block and use your My Moodle page as a portal.


Module: Database (standard activity)

Description: “The Database module activity allows the teacher and/or students to build, display and search a bank of record entries about any conceivable topic.”

Rationale: Another standard module! When we first rolled out Moodle in our district we did not have this activity enabled. I think mostly because we were not very familiar with it. After awhile, I enabled it and played around with it some. I immediately saw the great potential this activity had. I tried out some of the Database presets and found some great ways to use this activity. I don’t think many teachers are using this activity but it will definitely be something we show our staff when they get better with Moodle. This may be an “advanced” feature we show teachers in the future.

Creative uses
Database for Databases

Block: Quickmail

Description: “The quickmail block adds a link to a tool that has a checkbox list of all students in the course, and a mail composition text area. You can check the students you like, and email those and only those. This enhances the existing communications systems of messaging (one user) and subscribed forums (all subscribers) by allowing teachers to select a specific subset of students.”

Rational: This is a block that was recommended to me by @carolinekmoore and I have seen get a positive response while doing research online. We do not have this module installed on our site and it would not really make sense for us to do so because our students currently do not have emails. However, we are in the process of getting student emails (Google Apps) and enabling them in Moodle.

Once we get student emails up and running this will definitely be a module for us to look into. This module seems like such an easy and convenient way to communicate with students. Hopefully we will be able to use this next year!


Other modules

Depending on the type of Moodle site you run there will be a difference in what modules and plugins are the “best”. Some of the previously listed modules and plugins we currently use and some I plan to take a look at in the future. I know there are many I have missed, so please reply with your favorites. Also, if there are any other links to lists of “the best” Moodle modules please leave a comment.

Related Links:
Moodle Tip – Top Moodle Modules and Blocks (Around the
Where is a list of the “best” moodle blocks/plugins? ( discussion thread)
Moodle Modules & Plugins –
Collaborative Liberal Arts Moodle Projects

Making your Moodle site look good!

This post is inspired by me finally getting read/write permissions to our Moodle server! Since last summer when we installed Moodle we have wanted to add themes, plug-ins, modules, edit the php, etc. Yesterday, that day came. Today, I am searching for recommended modules, plug-ins, course formats, themes and other small tips to make our Moodle site look good. I’ve added Book and Tab Display modules from Now, I want to ramp up our Moodle site theme and layout. We force our users to use their My Moodle page, so I will also try and make that page look good.

Please give me your favorite Moodle themes, modules and tips! Comment on this post or Tweet me!

Related Links: Modules and plugins Themes
Moodleman Blog: Creating a custom Moodle Theme – LIVE!!
Moodleman Blog: Getting the most out of course design
NewSchool Learning (Moodle themes – some free, mostly paid for)
Taming Moodle: Ugly category names on front page? Pimp it!
The Moodle Playpen