Moodle InstallThe past few weeks at work have been filled up with going from what has been a very successful pilot of Moodle 2.6 to a fully featured install of Moodle 2.7.1. Hopefully as time allows I’ll be able to get out some posts about how each aspect of Moodle goes down with the staff and students but for now this post serves as a way for me to highlight some features (in no great detail) which I think deserve recognition.

Things to be covered include-

  • Linking AD accounts to class lists in Capita SIMS (a Schools Information Management System)
  • Using the auto login feature to put Moodle front and centre
  • My home
  • OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox integration
  • Moodle updates (going from 2.7 to 2.7.1)

Linking AD, SIMS data and classes

With the new academic year starting with almost 800 students and a few hundred different classes it was obvious that we were not going to be able to continue with manually setting up individual classes for teachers (as we had done in the pilot). The solution here was quite simple if slightly long to implement.

First up in getting this working was getting a common field between our SIMS data and Microsoft Active Directory – this just so happened to be the person_id in SIMS and the employeeID in Active Directory. Using a SIMS report I exported a list of the students and staffs names and person_id for the long slug of going through AD inputting the numbers into the employeeID field. After that I set in Site administration > Plugins > Authentication > LDAP server that the Moodle database field for ID number should match up to the AD field of employeeID – first part done!

Next I generated another SIMS report to obtain a list of all the subject names and added them (manually I’m afraid) into Site administration > Courses > Add a category. After this I ran another SIMS report to export the list of class names along with their subjects (to automatically put them into the correct category) and used the tool here Site administration > Courses > Upload courses to import these into Moodle (be sure to read the Moodle docs for this tool to ensure you get everything right for the upload file!).

Finally through the use of the SIMS commandreporter.exe tool and an SQL Server Integration Services Package (to add the extra fields required) its possible to use the Moodle tool here Site administration > Plugins > Enrolments > Flat file (CSV) to automatically assign students and teachers to a class. There is even a script which can be triggered automatically to regularly check a path for an updated file thereby keeping the whole process automated for you!

Using the auto login feature to put Moodle front and centre

You could have the most amazing Moodle site with loads of resources, a fully featured calendar and more but what is the point unless (when inside your network) its insanely easy to get to these resources?

Enter NTLM SSO which can be found at Site administration > Plugins > Authentication > LDAP server – by setting a single file in your Moodle install (assuming you are using Microsoft IIS to host the site) to use Windows authentication anyone and setting the IP address range/VLAN that your domain joined machines sit in your users will be automatically logged in without having to manually provide their username/password to the site. Extra points if you set the default homepage for your users to the login page – that way they don’t even have to hit the login button!

My home

There is no better way to get people to come back to a site compared to providing a regular feed of new information (think Facebook feed!) – this is where the My home feature comes in which displays information on new blog/news posts on courses that the user is registered to as well as assignment hand in notifications.

The administrator can mandate the blocks that are displayed on the homepage through Site administration > Appearance > Default My home page as well as preventing users from making modifications to the page through permissions (more on that here – My preferance with the my home feature is to make it the default homepage for all logged in users, this can be done by going to Site administration > Appearance > Navigation.

OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox integration

Even with 32GB of personal document storage and access to those documents through WebDAV on any device (more on that here!) I still have a lot of users who prefer to use the various ‘Cloud’ storage vendors – in particular Google Drive but also Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox. Through their various APIs and built in tools in Moodle its very easy to add these as ‘repositories’ in Moodle which allows your users to take files right out these cloud services in the Moodle file picker and upload them as resources/assignment hand ins.

These repositories can be enabled from Site administration > Plugins > Repositories > Manage repositories and then managed by going to their respective configuration pages (e.g. Site administration > Plugins > Repositories > Manage repositories > Microsoft OneDrive). All you need is a generic account setup with each of these services which has API access (pretty easy to setup by following the relevant guides in Moodle Docs).

Moodle updates

They are not as hard as they look! It really is a matter of stop the Application Pool in IIS that is hosting your Moodle install, copy any plugins/themes you have to alternative location along with your moodledata folder, delete out all of the current Moodle install files, extract the contents of the new installs downloaded ZIP folder, copy/paste back in your plugins/themes/moodledata folder and head to the notifications page to let the database upgrade. Simples…..

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