Moodle common problems

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  • 2. What are the common problems? Server Outages Failed Backups Database Crashes Technical Support The Gradebook Mobile Access Inadequate reporting Cumbersome Admin tasks Site is too Slow Moodle Training Scroll of Death Login Problems Upgrade Issues Clutter and Confusion House-keeping CLICK ON A BOX ABOVE Poor user interface 2
  • 3. Server Outages Problem: The web service crashes, Moodle goes down. Admins constantly checking site is up. Solutions: • Use www.uptimerobot to monitor server outages – get email or text notifications to reduce downtime and produce reports • Then check web server logs to identify last action that crashed the server • Disable the function or upgrade plugin/component 3
  • 4. Failed Course Backups Problem: Backups fail, courses skipped or often server hangs or crashes. Solutions: • Courses over 2Gb fail on 32-bit PHP systems • Configure a separate 64 bit Linux web server for backups • Let the separate server do the heavy lifting and system crons • Increase the max_allowed packets on MySQL • Delete the Log table each year. (Reduce DB size) • Periodically remove the DB backup (Reduce DB size) 4
  • 5. Database Crashes/Corruptions Problem: Database can crash or tables get corrupted. Restore is often in the form of an SQL dump taken the night before Solutions: • Take scheduled daily backups at key times of day • Repair MyISAM tables by running table diagnostics • Configure a database replication server for real-time synchronous backups • In event of failure, point config to replicated DB – no data loss 5
  • 6. Technical Support Problem: No in-house technical support to help with Moodle issues- IT department reluctant/busy/or lack Moodle skills Solutions: • Use the Moodle forums, they are invaluable ( • Use the Moodle Tracker to submit bugs and get official fixes ( • Use your JISC Regional support mailing lists • Use Twitter and follow useful Moodle people 6
  • 7. The gradebook Problem: Overwhelming, awkward scrolling, cumbersome Solutions: • Create a separate theme layout for reports and gradebook • Use 100% full page width to reduce inherit scrollbars • De-clutter the page by removing bulky headers and footers • Use filtering/categories and hide columns where necessary • Don’t grade directly in gradebook, grade at assignment level as to avoid grade overrides and locking 7
  • 8. Mobile Access Problem: Theme does not support mobile access Solutions: • Enable mobile device detection in Moodle • In theme selector, choose the mobile theme for mobile devices (support for which may be dropped in favour of below) • Consider using a responsive theme such as Bootstrap (Moodle 2.4 onwards) 8
  • 9. Inadequate Reporting Problem: Reports are confusing, clunky and do not show what I need Solutions: • Create bookmarks to your most used reports • Where possible, Export report data and edit in Excel • Install the “Configurable Reports” block (requires SQL knowledge to use) • Create report templates for the data you require using the block above. 9
  • 10. Poor User Interface Problem: Moodle looks dated, clunky and boring Solutions: • Download a new theme • “Essential” by Julian Ridden is an amazing configurable theme built with Bootstrap and can be customised via a GUI so no coding needed • Bootstrap Clean (in core Moodle 2.5) is also a great theme • Outsource theme development to a Moodle partner 10
  • 11. Cumbersome Admin Tasks Problem: Creating user accounts, enrolling users, un-enrolling users, groups, adding teachers and roles. Solutions: • Automate the process • Use enrolment plugins and connect to your MIS data • Use LDAP authentication for Single Sign-on and password resets • Configure auto-grouping and add teachers via MIS synchronisation 11
  • 12. Site is too slow Problem: Moodle runs slowly, concurrent users slow site down further, slow page refreshes, slow database calls, system hangs. Solutions: • Tweak server for optimum Moodle performance • Install a PHP Accelerator such as APC or Xcache • Consider load balancing webserver and database server • Use Memcache for database caching • Allocate more dynamic resource (if virtual) and assign them in PHP/Apache 12
  • 13. Moodle Training Problem: Lack of resources, difficult to organise site wide training, time constraints, lack of interest. Solutions: • Consider the Moodle MOOC course ( • Use Moodle Docs • Use Bath University Wiki Guide • Embed Tutorial videos from YouTube into your Moodle • Pact Publishing Books on many Moodle subjects 13
  • 14. Scroll of Death Problem: Large courses scroll indefinitely. Confusing for students and information overload Solutions: • Consider using “show only sections” (2.3+) • Use the collapsible topics format • Use the grid course format • Use meta courses and link via labels 14
  • 15. Login Problems Problem: Students forget passwords, teachers forget passwords, users get locked out of the system Solutions: • Consider using LDAP and get IT Service desks to reset system passwords, thus resetting Moodle passwords by default • Or Use email addresses and manual accounts and use the forgotten password email function. • Use the information box on the login screen to convey useful information, such as how to reset a password, where to get help, or link to your password recovery page if you have one. 15
  • 16. Upgrade Issues Problem: Upgrades fail, custom plugins stop functioning, errors occur. Solutions: • Backup database before upgrading • Backup site files before upgrading • Check all third party blocks have updated and supported versions • ALWAYS upgrade via the command line, not via web page. • Backup during each upgrade stage & upgrade sequentially • NEVER jump stages or miss versions 16
  • 17. Clutter and confusion Problem: Too much on screen, “Icon Soup”, too many blocks, too many options Solutions: • Disable blocks you don’t need – reduce the list • Disable any modules you don’t need – reduce the list • Change your icon set to something simpler • Use the new activity chooser • Set your theme to only add core blocks to new courses • Create custom sticky blocks with common links to help staff and students – then hide the complicated bits 17
  • 18. House-keeping Problem: Cleaning up courses, removing users, deleting courses Solutions: • Good MIS integration eases the burden (database enrolments) • LDAP Integration can snyc and remove old users • Use the course “Reset” option in the course settings to clean up courses, wipe forums, reset assignments etc.. • Run reports to find inactive courses and archive them • Devise a year-to-year roll over strategy keeping archived data 18