In this first chapter, we deal with a short background of Moodle and what it does. We will introduce the architectural structure of Moodle and how the different parts work together. We will also go through the steps for installing Moodle on a Linux server and see how to perform ongoing upgrades.
Moodle is an open source web-based course management system that is used by organizations, schools, universities, and training companies globally to provide online learning and the online component of blended learning. It is the world's most widely used open source course management system.
Moodle has a large community that collaborates in both developing and using the application through the community forums at https://moodle.org/. Moodle HQ has a team of full-time core developers who work on the ongoing support and development of the application. There is a global network of certified Moodle service providers that financially support the Moodle HQ by providing commercial services to organizations who use Moodle.
Moodle was originally released in 2002 by Martin Dougiamas to help teachers take advantage of the online environment to create online courses. Since then, there have been regular releases, with releases coming out on average every 6 months. The project is led and coordinated by Martin at Moodle HQ in Perth, Australia.
Moodle has a modern and easy-to-use interface that works well on desktops and mobile devices.
Users get a customizable dashboard where they can display their course information, calendar, and messages and manage their personal files on the system. Users can manage their own profile to control the level of notifications that they receive from the system, including being able to have forum posts sent out in daily batches.
The course management of Moodle enable easy communication, collaboration, and content creation for teachers and students in addition to comprehensive assessment tools, including the online quiz tool. Teachers can simply create content in Moodle using the accessible text editor or upload files, learning objects, and multimedia into the Moodle course including embedding third-party content such as SlideShare, YouTube, and other social systems into the pages of the course.
From an administration perspective, Moodle is very flexible. For example, it has many options available for user authentication and course enrolment due to the many plugins that are available. These offer organizations many approaches to manage how they integrate Moodle into their other systems.
There are many plugin types in Moodle including authentication, enrolment, themes, course formats, and each of these control an aspect of Moodle such as, an authentication plugin, which enables the administrator to control how users log into Moodle.
Moodle is written in PHP and can be run on a number of web servers that support PHP, including Apache and IIS.
Moodle supports a number of database types including MySQL, PostgreSQL, MSSQL, Oracle, and SQLite. However, the most supported and tested would be MySQL and PostgreSQL.
Moodle also stores files in a directory on the server, which is referred to as the
moodledata directory. Moodle stores all of its files in this directory including temporary files, session data, and user uploaded files.
Always check the minimum server requirements for the version of Moodle that you are planning to install. These are found in the release notes on the MoodleDocs site. The latest version will be found at https://docs.moodle.org/en/Installing_Moodle#Requirements.
So, when considering the Moodle installation, you must consider the PHP files, the
moodledata directory, and the database.
Moodle is most typically installed on Linux servers using Apache, MySQL, and PHP, known as the LAMP platform. Hence, this installation combination is the most tried, tested, stable, and supported. This is what we will be using in the coming examples.
There is no way to set a requirement for the hardware for a Moodle site without understanding how many users will be using the site and how they will be using it. Moodle is an enterprise system, so be sure that you give it sufficient memory, CPU, and disk space. Active monitoring of the performance can help you identify if more is needed. For the most up-to-date guidance, you should check the Moodle docs, the https://moodle.org/ forums, or contact a certified Moodle service provider.
For the installation and upgrade examples in this chapter, if you do not have a Linux server at hand, you can use a Linux virtual server from any cloud provider, such as Amazon cloud, Digital Ocean, Linode, or similar. Just be sure to choose an image with an up-to-date LAMP stack that meets the minimum requirements for your Moodle version.
Check out https://docs.moodle.org/dev/Releases for further details. For instance, https://docs.moodle.org/dev/Moodle_2.8_release_notes#Server_requirements has the 2.8 version list.
We always recommend that you download your Moodle code directly from https://moodle.org/. The following are the steps for downloading Moodle:
On your server, locate and go to the directory where you plan to host your moodle site.
Then, you can either download the ZIP file from https://download.moodle.org/ and unzip it, or use Git to pull the code from the Moodle Git repository. We recommend Git for its ease of use, particularly for upgrading, which we shall cover later in this chapter.
If using Git, use the following Git command:
git clone -b MOODLE_28_STABLE git://git.moodle.org/moodle.git
The resulting directory will be called
moodle. This directory should be located in your web server directory so that it can be accessed via the Internet.
If you need to specify a different directory name, such as
learning, use the following Git command instead:
git clone -b MOODLE_28_STABLE git://git.moodle.org/moodle.git learning
Alternatively, if you prefer to not have a subdirectory called
moodle, move all of the contents directly into your web server directory.
Ensure that all moodle files are owned by the root user and are only readable by the web server user as follows:
chown -R root /path/to/moodle chmod -R 0755 /path/to/moodle
For instance, in MySQL, the following mysql command line queries would suffice:
CREATE DATABASE <databasename> DEFAULT CHARACTER SET utf8 COLLATE utf8_unicode_ci; GRANT SELECT,INSERT,UPDATE,DELETE,CREATE,CREATE TEMPORARY TABLES,DROP,INDEX,ALTER ON <databasename>.* TO <username>@<dbhost> IDENTIFIED BY '<password>';
You will need to take note of the following details for the installation process later:
This moodledata directory cannot be located within the moodle web directory or within the web server directory as otherwise this would be a security risk.
However, the web server needs write access to the moodledata directory as browser actions will generate data file creation, editing, and deletion.
Hence, use the following command lines in a suitable server directory:
mkdir <moodledatadirectoryname> chmod -R 0777 /path/to/moodledatadirectory
Command line installer
If running the command-line installer, it's advisable to run it as the web server user, for instance
www-data for Ubuntu/Debian or
apache for Centos.
chown www-data /path/to/moodle cd /path/to/moodle/admin/cli sudo -u www-data /usr/bin/php install.php chown -R root /path/to/moodle
The main configuration settings are the URL, the directory path to both the moodle code files and the
moodledata files, and the database details. If in doubt, use the default settings and remember that these settings can be easily edited after the installation process if needed in the
/path/to/moodle/config.php file. You will also need to supply an administrator account username with a secure password, which you need to retain permanently. If you lose this, it can be changed from the command line if required.
To run the web installer instead, go to your Moodle site's main URL within your browser and submit the same configuration settings as for the command-line version. Once the installer has finished, you will have access to your Moodle site.
Navigate to Administration | Site administration | Plugins | Message Outputs | Email.
Navigate to Administration | Site administration | Server | System paths.
The moodle cron script is located at
This cron script needs to be scheduled in the server's own cron program for UNIX or Linux.
For instance, on Ubuntu/Debian servers, to edit the cron program:
Use the command line:
crontab -u www-data –e
Do normal edits with standard vi commands.
Add the line to the crontab:
*/1 * * * * /usr/bin/php /path/to/moodle/admin/cli/cron.php >/dev/null
Adjust the exact time configuration as required, the above example runs once every minute.
Alternatively, use this line to log the cron results for tracking, please note, this file will get very large.
*/1 * * * * /usr/bin/php /path/to/moodle/admin/cli/cron.php >> /path/to/moodledata/temp/cron.log 2>&1
Then do Ctrl + O, to write, and then Ctrl + X to exit.
The cron program will now be updated.
Most importantly, any Moodle site older than 2.2 being upgraded to above 2.2 must be first upgraded to 2.2 completely, and then upgraded to 2.X.
Moodle code directory: Create a brand new directory and fully copy all directories and files from the live moodle code directory into it, following the installation guidelines for its location and permissions.
Moodle data directory: Create a brand new moodledata folder, again following the installation guidelines for its location and permissions.
Database: The following are the steps to create a new database:
Create a new database in your database application, again following the installation guidelines.
Create a new database user with relevant permissions to the new database, again following the installation guidelines.
Populate the new database from a full MySQL or other database dump file of the live Moodle database.
For instance, to create a MySQL dump in normal command line:
mysqldump -h localhost -u <dbuser> --password=<dbpass> -C -Q -e --create-options <dbname> > dbnameclone.sql
This also requires you to ensure correct character encoding is used if needed as a MySQL dump is not 100% reliable for all UTF-8 encoding.
To populate the new database with the dump file:
Check you are in the correct new database in MySQL command line and only then use the following query:
Config.php: This urgently needs to be changed so edit this in the new moodle code directory to point to the new moodledata directory, the new database, and the new URL as it will initially have the settings to the live site, which urgently needs to be changed.
The cloned site should now be operational.
Login: Check that the clone site is accessible.
Upload a file resource to check that the moodledata directory permissions and locations are all working correctly.
Review a course and check that it appears as it should.
Update your user profile with a minor change and check that the new values are in the new database, not the live database.
There is also an admin tool on your Moodle site to find and replace any potential hard-coded URLs for resources such as images. This is located at
admin/tool/replace/index.php. Please note that this will only work on sites, which use either MySQL or Postgres.
Put your site into maintenance mode by navigating to Administration | Site administration | Server | Maintenance mode. This prevents non-admin users from logging into the site and altering any of its contents, such as course resources, submitting assignments, posting to forums, and so on.
Any of these types of alterations will not only render your backups obsolete, but also compromise the integrity of the final upgraded site.
moodle code directory: This may contain external plugins and other customized changes to core Moodle
moodledata directory: This contains all stored moodle data files, which the Moodle code relies on for course resources, log files, and so on
moodle database: This contains all database records related to the Moodle site
Take a full MySQL dump of the relevant Moodle database. This also requires you to ensure correct character encoding used if needed as the MySQL dump is not 100 percent reliable for all UTF-8 encoding.
As with an initial Moodle installation, we always recommend that you download your Moodle code directly from https://moodle.org/. For this example, we will be updating to Moodle Version 2.8.
You can either download the
ZIP file from https://download.moodle.org/ and unzip it, or use Git to pull the code from the Moodle Git repository.
First of all, on your server, locate and go to the directory containing the moodle site directory which you are upgrading.
Download and unzip the
ZIPfile from https://moodle.org/ or use the following Git command (for versions other than 2.8, use the relevant branch name):
git clone -b MOODLE_28_STABLE git://git.moodle.org/moodle.git <directory>
Once you have completed the updating of the Moodle code directory, you then need to complete the following steps:
Where external plugins have more up-to-date code for your upgrade version, replace the older plugin code completely, which is explained more in Chapter 6, Managing Site Plugins.
Where you have made previous customizations to core Moodle code (which is not a recommended practice for this exact reason!), you will need to locate each file in turn and manually add the customized code into them.
config.phpscript from the backup into the target moodle code directory.
Check that all the moodle code directories, subdirectories, and files are web server readable.
Check that your usual cron usage is enabled, either that the
admin/cron.phpscript is executable via the browser or more typically that the site is listed in the cron program for your server, which is explained more in Chapter 8, Miscellaneous Admin Tasks.
Go to the notifications page by navigating to Administration | Site administration | Notifications to kick off the final upgrade process and click on Continue:
Once the upgrade process has been completed, purge all caches by navigating to Administration | Site administration | Development | Purge all caches. This will ensure that the browser displays the latest Moodle site and not any cached information.
Login as Admin, teacher, and student
Upload a file resource
Review a course and its contents
Update your user profile
Take your site out of maintenance mode, if previously enabled, by navigating to Administration | Site administration | Server | Maintenance mode.
Hence, if your site is 2.8, it will also be a version of 2.8, for instance 2.8.3. If you decide to upgrade to a more recent version of 2.8, for instance 2.8.6, you should still follow the exact same procedure as we explained earlier for the upgrade process. This ensures that if there are any issues during the upgrade process, you have an easily accessible original version to instantly roll back to.
Moodle has minor releases every 2 months and major releases every 6 months. It is advisable to update with every minor release if possible, and at least yearly with a major release.