The Open Science Laboratory - Cosmetic Surgery for Moodle Sam Marshall


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The Open Science Laboratory - Cosmetic Surgery for Moodle Sam Marshall
Presented at Moodlemoot Edinburgh 2014

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The Open Science Laboratory - Cosmetic Surgery for Moodle Sam Marshall

  1. 1. The Open Science Laboratory – Cosmetic Surgery for Moodle sam marshall / Moodle Moot UK 2014
  2. 2. Contents • What is The Open Science Laboratory? • Demo • How did we make Moodle look like that? • Why use Moodle rather than custom development?
  3. 3. The Open Science Laboratory • Platform / portal that contains and links to science experiments (simulations, activities, real experiments). • Open to the general public: –Also used for some OU modules • Implemented in Moodle –Same code as main OU VLE –Code not publicly released • Looks a bit different!
  4. 4. Demo • This is a Moodle course page –Spot the standard Moodle behaviour! • Main page • Categorisation, filtering • Experiment page • Hosted experiment • Analytics • External experiments (link, iframe)
  5. 5. Moodle course structure Course Section Block Activity or resource (course-module)
  6. 6. Moodle customisation plugins • Theme –CSS styling, header and footer, and hacks • Course format –Control display of course page • Block –Box appears on another page • All three can have their own PHP pages too!
  7. 7. Course format Moodle course page Experiment summary Lorem ipsum whatever thingy Sic dolor something whatever Lorem blah why this again Another thingy lorem blah Additional section data • Pictures • Metadata API functions • List sections, etc. Settings
  8. 8. Blocks • Custom blocks for the metadata filtering • Most of the hard work done in format code • No blocks on experiment summary page –Pseudoblocks (from course format)
  9. 9. Theme • Header and footer • Styling • Custom hacks –E.g. navigation changed/removed
  10. 10. Modules • Two new custom modules (not public, sorry!) • HTML Activity module –Similar to SCORM module –Displays client-side activities, with some server-side features available through API • Booking system –Telescope control system – one at a time –Need to book slots
  11. 11. Why use Moodle? • We wrote quite a lot of new code • Why use Moodle at all if it’s so different?
  12. 12. Benefits for TOSL • Reused components from our main Moodle-based VLE –News block (public) –Textbook-style content display (OU Content) –HTML activity system –Forum, wikis, workshop, etc. if required • Benefit from updates to these features –Even if no TOSL development currently funded
  13. 13. Process benefits • Developer familiarity • Administrator familiarity (e.g. troubleshooting) • Same VLE codebase –Updates, security patches, etc. all done for us
  14. 14. Benefits for main OU VLE • HTML Activity standalone display module –Previously could only put them in textbook content • Analytics from HTML activities –Not yet turned on for main system (performance concerns) but might be if needed • Booking system –May be useful for voice conferencing
  15. 15. Disadvantages • Constant platform changes –OU moves to new Moodle version every 6 months –Need to check and update all custom plugins
  16. 16. Credits • I’m only the lead developer of the platform part • TDs: Ray Guo, Bryan Waddington • Graphic design: Matt Rigby-Burr • Science faculty, project managers, etc. • Other developers did the actual content!
  17. 17. Conclusion • Dramatically change Moodle interface and appearance by developing a custom course format and theme –I often hear: ‘we don’t like using Moodle for our site because it’s not pretty’ • Get a grip • OK then, we can make it pretty • If your main system is Moodle, there are benefits in using Moodle for related systems where possible
  18. 18. Questions?
  19. 19. IT Development The Open University Walton Hall Milton Keynes MK7 6AA