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Moodle is currently the world's most popular E-learning platform. The long-awaited second version of Moodle is now available and brings with it greatly improved functionality.
In this article by Mary Cooch, author of Moodle 2.0 First Look, we'll look at how communicating and expressing yourself has been made easier in Moodle 2.0. The "social networking" aspect of Moodle was somewhat limited in the earlier versions, but is now much enhanced.
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(For more resources on Moodle, see here.)
Blogs—before and after
There has always been a blogging option in a standard Moodle install. However, some users have found it unsatisfactory because of the following reasons:
- The blog is attached to the user profile so you can only have one blog
- There is no way to attach a blog or blog entry to a particular course
- There is no way for other people to comment on your blog
For this reason, alternative blog systems (such as the contributed OU blog module) have become popular as they give users a wider range of options.
The standard blog in Moodle 2.0 has changed, and now:
- A blog entry can optionally be associated with a course
- It is possible to comment on a blog entry
- Blog entries from outside of Moodle can be copied in
- It is now possible to search blog entries
Where's my blog?
Last year when Emma studied on Moodle 1.9, if she wanted to make a blog entry she would click on her name to access her profile and she'd see a blog tab like the one shown in following screenshot:
Alternatively, if her tutor had added the blog menu block, she could click on Add a new entry and create her blog post there as follows:
The annoyance was that if she added a new entry in the blog menu of her ICT course, her classmates in her Art course could see that entry (even, confusingly, if the blog menu had a link to entries for just that course).
If we follow Emma into the Beginners' French course in Moodle 2.0, we see that she can access her profile from the navigation block by clicking on My profile and then selecting View Profile.
(She can also view her profile by clicking on her username as she could in Moodle 1.9). If she then clicks on Blogs she can view all the entries she made anywhere in Moodle and can also add a new entry:
As before, Emma can also add her entry through the blog menu, so let's take a look at that. Her tutor, Stuart needs to have added this block to the course.
The Blog Menu block
To add this to a course a teacher such as Stuart needs to turn on the editing and select Blog menu from the list of available blocks:
The Blog menu displays the following links:
- View all entries for this course: Here's where Emma and others can read blog entries specific to that course. This link shows users all the blog posts for the course they are currently in.
- View my entries about this course: Here's where Emma can check the entries she has already made associated with this course. This link shows users their own blog posts for the course they are currently in.
- Add an entry about this course: Here's where Emma can add a blog entry related only to this course. When she does that, she is taken to the editing screen for adding a new blog entry, which she starts as shown in the following screenshot:
Just as in Moodle 1.9, she can attach documents, choose to publish publicly or keep to herself and add tags. The changes come as we scroll down. At the bottom of the screen is a section which associates her entry with the course she is presently in:
Once she has saved it, she sees her post appear as follows:
- View all of my entries: Here Emma may see every entry she has made, regardless of which course it was in or whether she made it public or private.
- Add a new entry: Emma can choose to add a new blog entry here (as she could from her profile) which doesn't have to be specific to any particular course. If she sets it to "anyone on this site", then other users can read her blog wherever they are in Moodle.
- Search: At the bottom of the Blog menu block is a search box. This enables users to enter a word or phrase and see if anyone has mentioned it in a blog entry
The Recent Blog Entries block
As our teacher in the Beginners' French course Stuart has enabled the Recent Blog Entries block, there is also a block showing the latest blog entries. Emma's is the most recent entry on the course so hers appears as a link, along with all other recent course entries.
Course specific blogs
Just to recap and double check—if Emma now visits her other course, How to Be Happy and checks out the View my entries about this course entries link in the Blog menu, she does not see her French course blog post, but instead, sees an entry she has associated with this course:
The tutor for this course, Andy, has added the blog tags block.
The blog tags block
This block is not new; however, it's worth pointing out that the tags are NOT course-specific, and so Emma sees the tags she added to the entries in both courses alongside the tags from other users:
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(For more resources on Moodle, see here.)
So far we've just looked at how and where to add a blog entry. There are other settings connected to blogs which can be accessed from the profile Settings block (that is, not the navigation block). The following screenshot shows the path to the blog settings and it offers us three links:
This is where we can decide how many blog entries per page we'd like to see.
A brand new feature for Moodle 2.0, this allows user's to bring external blog posts into Moodle by specifying the RSS/ATOM feed of the blog, which is then checked through a cron task and entries copied into the user's blog in Moodle. It could be a blog belonging to the user that they'd like to share within Moodle, or it could be the posts of an admired blogger that they'd like to display alongside their own blog posts. In the following example, Stuart, our French teacher has chosen to import the blog feeds of two online colleagues:
The check in the Valid column tells us the feed is correctly set; the Actions column gives us the ability to edit or delete (unregister) an external blog. If no external blogs have been added then we simply see the link Register an external blog.
Register an external blog
Martin, our Moodle Manager would like to import into his Moodle blog the entries from a posterous blog he's been keeping over the last few months. To do so he has to take the following steps:
- He first needs to get the RSS feed of the blog he wants to register. In Martin's case, this is quite simple as he goes to his blog, looks for the orange RSS icon and grabs the feed URL from there. The next screenshot pinpoints where this is:
- He then clicks the Register External blog link we saw recently and fills in the relevant details:
- He adds the information thus:
- URL: The correct feed for the blog.
- Name: A descriptive name (if left empty it will give the blog's actual name)
- Description: A description of the contents (if left empty it will give the blog's actual description)
- External tags: If tags entered here match those from blog posts then those blog posts will be copied in.
- Tags associated with each imported blog: If the URL is correct, then when he clicks on the Save changes button, the following will appear and will be visible in the External blogs link.
- At the next cron job, the relevant entries will be copied over and Martin's blog will include entries from his posterous blog as well as his Moodle posts.
So far we've looked at blog entries from a student (Emma), teacher (Stuart and Andy) and manager's (Martin)point of view. But in order for the blogs to function as the managers, teachers and students wish, certain settings need to be enabled by the administrator. These include the following:
- Enabling (that is "opening the eye" of) the Blog menu block in Site administration | plugins | blocks | manage blocks
- Personalizing the blog settings in Site administration | Appearance | blog.
Commenting on blogs
When Emma wrote her blog entries, we saw there was a link—Comments:
Clicking on the link brings up a box into which anyone (Emma included) can add a comment.
You might see a whirring spiral when you click—it's the Ajax interface!
The teacher on the How to be Happy course, Andy, has entered a comment below and simply needs to click on submit for it to be registered.
When Emma returns to her blog entry and clicks on the Comments link, she sees a number—the number of comments—and can view any comments made. The commenter's name appears, so she if she has several comments she can see who said what. Below it is another empty box so she can add a response if she wishes.
Getting a dialog going
In the past, Moodlers like ourselves have probably used forums to pass opinions back and forth. They still remain an excellent medium for discussion. However, now the ability to comment on blog entries opens up a better way of communicating within a course. A blog entry can have numerous comments attached to it, each with the user's name and time they commented. In the French course, we can see a conversation taking shape following Emma's first blog entry:
Deleting comments in a blog
A user can delete their own comments on any blog post, but not those of others. In the preceding screenshot, we are seeing Stuart's last comment—hence there is a cross (X) next to two of his posts.
The Moodle administrator has the power to delete all the comments if necessary and would have a cross (X), next to all of them.
Recap—the blog in Moodle 2.0
It is now possible in Moodle 2.0 to do the following:
- Have a blog associated with a course
- Have blog entries in several courses which are only seen in those courses
- Copy in external blog posts
- Comment on blog posts
Commenting on the Moodle blog is a bit of a workaround really; the Moodle blog doesn't really have a built-in commenting facility like, say Wordpress. Rather, Moodle is making use of the new Comments feature which ordinarily appears as a block anywhere you want to add it.
In this article, we've concerned ourselves with new ways in Moodle 2.0 to get our message across, communicate with other users. We've looked at Blogs: How they can be more easily used in courses and with comments.
- Moodle 2.0 FAQs [Article]
- What's New in Moodle 2.0 [Article]
- Moodle 2.0: What's New in Add a Resource [Article]
- Moodle 1.9 Top Extensions Cookbook [Book]
- Moodle 2.0 Multimedia Cookbook: RAW [Book]
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About the Author :
Mary Cooch has taught Languages and Geography in the UK for over 20 years. She manages several websites, even more Moodles, and runs her own Moodle blog. A Moodle Certified Teacher, she now spends part of her working week travelling the country as a VLE trainer specializing in Moodle. She regularly promotes its benefits in Junior and High schools and has a deep understanding of what works best for younger students. Known online as the moodlefairy, Mary is a frequent contributor to the help forums of Moodle.org where she aims to enthuse others with her passion for this open source Virtual Learning Environment.