Had the opportunity to share something fun we’d been working on to help some of our more remote university students during MootAU last month, and I’m finally getting the time now to add this post up to the forum to get some feedback here as well, and to see if it’s useful to the Moodle community.
Spoodle is an up to date portable moodle / ‘moodle on a
stick’ solution for learners to access Moodle courses without requiring
constant internet access. It can run directly from a flash drive, and by using
the current version(s) of Moodle, should be nice and compatible with all the
usual current plugins & themes.
distance education becoming increasingly more interactive, adaptive and
multimodal in its design, Moodle helps create a really rich space for learning when
they’re online. However, for those without reliable internet – especially those
in rural and remote communities, military personnel, or incarcerated learners –
the old methods of printing or sending PDFs isn’t cutting it like it used to.
Certainly not the majority of students, but Shared Portable Moodle, or Spoodle
for short, is one approach we’ve developed to support these students to be able
to continue their studies even when they’re without internet.
What? It’s a completely separate pre-installed local copy of Moodle. But we’ve tweaked a few small things to speed it up, and make it more portable (so for example on a USB drive, it can go from computer to computer without worrying about drive letters), or over a local network without worrying about reconfiguring for each new IP address, and easy to get into for students with a single exe to start all the services and launch the intro page. As we’ve been trialling, also included a couple of changes to stop Skype getting underfoot, quicker cleanup of temporary files that would otherwise take up double the space, and because our main use has been for currently enrolled students who won’t have constant access to internet, and it’s an exact copy of their ‘real’ course, disabled the permissions to post to forums or submit assignments so they don’t accidentally submit to the wrong space (which can easily be turned back on for other uses, but handy in this one).
The idea would be to have a blank copy, without any courses,
set up with your theme and important plugins. Then as it’s needed, can do a
backup of the live course, download the .MBZ file, and import it locally. This
will bring across 95% of what they’ll need in one swing. Then for anything held
external to Moodle (our lecture recordings and ereadings), these can be
manually saved and added to a clearly labelled folder at the top of the (local)
course. So it IS still a point in time copy, there’s no syncing or updating,
but it has been very useful in getting the essential materials in their
original structure, with all of Moodle’s activities and features, and for saving
bandwidth costs/time on larger videos.
Credit where it’s due as well, Spoodle is similar to a few
other ideas out there over the years. Like Poodle / Jolongo / other Offline
Moodle projects, its all free and aiming to help get the LMS out to students
without internet, and portable, but have tried to make sure this version is as
easy as possible to keep up with current Moodle versions and features. Like the
bundled packages on Moodle.org, its running on a recent version of XAMPP and
has a one-click ‘click to start’ exe that will start the required processes,
and here we’ve been able to run with a similar idea, making sure XAMPP is
forced into portable mode to let it move between computers easier, and is
pre-installed with course content ready to run. And like the Moodle Mobile app,
is aiming to help students access materials while offline. The free app is
really fantastic, especially in later versions now that I’ve had a chance to
look into it, and unlike Spoodle DOES support a lot of syncing and offline
posting that can send when back online, while the advantage here is the full
desktop experience, including customised plugins/theming/etc and avoiding
bandwidth completely on larger files.
Where? I figure
in the Moodle spirit, now that we’ve had a successful run with a handful of
students, the next step is to share it all with the community and see if its
helpful for anyone else, or what feedback comes of it. So I finally found a use
for my MoodleCloud site – up on http://steve.moodlecloud.com
I’ve put up a guest access course with:
- Ready to go, pre-installed copies for Moodle 2.7
through to 3.1 (just add your own banners/themes and go. Password in the setup instructions.
Thinking is the extra versions will help make sure its as close to your live
environment / plugins are compatible / etc)
- A full list of all the settings and php changes
made, to build your own/see the differences/make it easier to offer suggestions
on other small changes that could help portability or speed. (have tried to
keep these changes fairly minimal, so its easy to upgrade and switch around)
So that’s it from me. Open to thoughts and feedback & hope its useful in some way.