Archive for FOSS

wikiCalc goes 1.0

This might make sense to include within Potentially, we could make this available to teams so that they could post and keep track of scores or statistics. This might also be nice for Leagues to use to post standings, statistics or even a schedule. WikiCalc is written in Perl and released under the GPL 2.0 license.

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Online Learning

Taken from an article at

Managing Moodle

Moodle system administrators manage their CMS via a Web interface that includes control over nearly every aspect of the site. Site functionality includes a site-level calendar, emailing options, log and report analysis, and search engine interoperability. The interfaces are easy to use and generally come equipped with help buttons throughout the pages.

Moodle has addressed security issues as well, albeit in a minimalist fashion. Moodle uses SSL for logins; however, the sessions following the logins are not encrypted. Moodle also includes a GUI-based log viewing system as part of the administrator tools. It allows administrators to filter logs based on individual courses, users, activities, actions, and time. Filtered reports cannot be exported, but administrators can save or print the displayed HTML pages.

Tips for administering Moodle sites and courses

I have installed Moodle dozens of times and used it to teach language and technology courses. I also train teachers to use Moodle and assist them during their initial courses. Here are some tips for Moodle administrators and teachers.

As with all new applications, administrators should make preparations before installing Moodle. The following checklist might help:

1. Ensure the server on which you plan to install the software has all of the required and optional components installed. For example:

Verify the required server applications — Web, database, and messaging — are operational.

Install a spell checker (such as Aspell), a zip and unzip program, and an anti-virus utility (e.g. ClamAV) into the main server so Moodle can use them.

Install the mbstring and iconv PHP extensions, and set the maximum upload size in php.ini.

2. Set email policies. What mail router will this server use? Will Moodle users be required to use school email? What character set will outgoing mail use?

3. Select an authentication method. Current options include PAM, LDAP, POP3, IMAP, NNTP, CAS, and FirstClass servers. Email-based authentication is also available. If your school already has an existing authentication method for another system, Moodle may be able to tap into it.

4. Discuss and decide what Moodle options to turn on or off, such as RSS feeds, Google searchability, and podcasts.

5. Establish regulations regarding user authority.

Define system roles. Moodle defines users based on preset roles (system administrator, course creator, teacher, non-editing teacher, student, and guest) Decide the appropriate authority for each user.

Determine who is allowed to view personal profile data — anyone, guests, schoolmates, classmates, etc. Profile information includes basic information like name, email, and chat IDs. Privacy concerns may encourage schools to limit access.

6. Create usage, privacy, and security policies to protect the school and the users from inappropriate site activity.

7. Establish a system for uploading students and users. Moodle allows students to be uploaded via CSV files. The system administrator, working in conjunction with the academic office, can develop scripts to auto upload students and users from an existing school database to Moodle’s database. Instituting a script-based user upload will greatly reduce headaches.

Tips for e-learning course developers

Teachers new to e-learning and course development will find many tips online regarding e-learning course development and use. The following tips focus more on Moodle courses.

1. Plan before you build. After the creation of a default course, you can begin adding content. I recommend having a syllabus that includes objectives, a grade system, and a schedule. These three components of your paper-based syllabus are easily imported into your Moodle course.

2. Set up grade categories at the beginning of the course. Grade categories determine how grades are formulated. For example, I have a course that includes four areas of graded activities — homework (25%), quizzes (20%), tests (25%), and projects (30%). These areas are the categories into which I input the grades for my graded activities. Once the categories are created, any new activity I add to the course can automatically be placed in the proper category. Furthermore, students will be able to see their grades for each activity and see their total grade as the course progresses. If the categories are not set up in advance, students cannot determine their current grade status.

3. Start small and build up. Since Moodle has many functions, it is a good to begin with simple tools. For example, begin by uploading the syllabus, which Moodle calls a resource. Put all of your paper resources on your course schedule in the appropriate week you plan on using them. If you place resources in your course, students won’t need to come to you for a lost paper — they can get it for themselves.

Regarding resources, I recommend using platform-independent file formats, so that any user can open your resource. I recommend Adobe Acrobat files or HTML for text information, since every computer can read them. Avoid Microsoft Word and PowerPoint files. For presentations, convert the PowerPoint to HTML or Flash.

4. Begin by using tools that are easy to set up and can be used quickly. I recommend using the assignments, forums, and journals. Assignments can be files that are uploaded, such as a book report, or offline activities. For example, when I first started using Moodle, I gave quizzes on paper and made an offline assignment into which I placed the quiz results. Students could then see their quiz grades without having to wait until class time.

Forums allow students to post messages and respond to other posted messages. I use forums to extend a classroom discussion. Journals are comments that only the teacher can read. I use these for reports and some written homework.

5. Hide activities you are developing but not ready to present to your students. Each activity has an eye icon that closes when it is hidden.

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