Blocks ::: block_dash
Maintained by Picture of Stefan ScholzStefan Scholz
The interface and report builder

Dash 1.1

Moodle 3.9, 3.10
Released: Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 10:27 PM

Dash is a block which can be added anywhere on your moodle site to display various information, e.g. the current user’s profile information or a list of users in the current course. It is built on a powerful engine which supports various data sources and templates.

The free version of dash comes with the users’ data source and a table layout.

It provides the following fields:

  • First name
  • Surname
  • Full name
  • Full name (linked to profile)
  • Email address
  • Username
  • ID number
  • City/town
  • Country
  • Last login
  • Department
  • Institution
  • Address
  • Alternate name
  • First access
  • Description
  • User picture URL
  • User picture
  • User picture (linked to profile)
  • User profile URL
  • User profile link
  • Message URL
  • Message
  • Group name

The following filters are available:

  • Group
  • Department
  • Institution
  • Last login
  • First access

And the following conditions are available:

  • Logged in user
  • My participants / students
  • My groups
  • Current course
  • Current course groups

Typical use cases:

*Display the participants of the current course *Display the current user’s profile information, with support for custom profile fields *List my classmates (everybody who is in the same group) *List all students of a teacher (all participants of all courses where the current user has a teacher role) *List all participants including their picture and group


If your site is not loading properly you may wish to temporarily disable Dash from outputting block content. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Go to Site administration / Plugins / Blocks / Dash. Enable Disable all Dash output OR
  2. Edit your config.php and add $CFG->block_dash_disableall = true;


Core and custom event strings

Standard Moodle event descriptions are vague and ugly. Dash allows strings to be used instead. Here's an example for the \core\event\course_completed event:


$string['event_desc_core_event_user_enrolment_created'] = '{$a->relateduserfullname} was enrolled in <a href="{$a->eventurl}" title="View {$a->contextname}">{$a->contextname}</a>';

The string identifier is simply event_desc_ combined with the event class name, with backslashes \\ replaced with underscores _

The variables available in the string are:

userid: 123
userfullname: John Doe
relateduserid: 456
relateduserfullname: Mr. Affected User
eventname: Course completed
eventurl: https://example.com/course/view.php?id=100
contextname: Course: Test course
action: created

By adding this string, it will be used for all events of type \core\event\course_completed in the timeline data source.

Helpful command to load new strings:

$ php /path/to/moodle/admin/cli/purge_caches.php --lang


Key terms

  • Data source: A data source defines which query, fields, and filters are used to retrieve data.
  • Field definition: Represents a predefined field that can be added to a data source.
  • Field attribute: An attribute changes how field definition output is formatted.
  • Query template: Query templates are written by developers to define which data to include. These are typically joins, because selects, wheres, ordering, etc is handled elsewhere (and is often dynamic).

Styling (CSS)

Use specific scoping when targeting elements or Dashes. Here's some tips on writing CSS that won't conflict with other plugins.

Style a specific layout

When configured, each Dash block will have a class representing the chosen layout:

.block_dash.block_dash-local-layout-grid_layout a {
    text-decoration: underline;
Style on dashboards only

To apply styling only on custom dashboards:

body.path-local-dash-dashboard:not .block_dash p {
    color: red;
Styles when editing (or not)
/* User is not editing */
body:not(.editing) .block_dash {
    border-color: green;

/* User IS editing */
body.editing .block_dash {
    border-color: orange;                        

Custom data source

A developer can create a custom data source in code. Here's the general outline:

  1. Create a Moodle plugin (any type)
  2. Define a new class that extends \block_dash\local\data_source\abstract_data_source in your plugin's local\block_dash namespace
  3. Add a language string to your plugin $string['datasource:my_data_source'] = 'My data source';


namespace local_myplugin\local\block_dash;

use block_dash\local\dash_framework\query_builder\builder;
use block_dash\local\data_grid\field\field_definition_interface;
use block_dash\local\data_grid\filter\filter_collection_interface;
use block_dash\local\data_source\abstract_data_source;

class my_data_source extends abstract_data_source {

     * Get query builder with basis of query.
     * @return builder
    public function get_query_template() : builder {}

     * Build available field definitions for this data source.
     * @return field_definition_interface[]
    public function build_available_field_definitions() {}

     * Build filter collection.
     * @return filter_collection_interface
     */public function build_filter_collection() {}


$string['datasource:my_data_source'] = 'My data source';

Field definitions

Define custom fields


 * Register field definitions.
 * @return array
function pluginname_register_field_definitions() {
    global $CFG;

    return require("$CFG->dirroot/plugintype/pluginname/field_definitions.php");


return [
    [ // Field definition.
        'name' => 'u_id',
        'select' => 'u.id',
        'title' => get_string('user') . ' ID',
        'attributes' => [
                'type' => \block_dash\local\data_grid\field\attribute\identifier_attribute::class
        'tables' => ['u']

Supporting multiple DB types

If your field definition requires something DB specific, use select_<dbtype>.

[ // Field definition.
    'name' => 'subquery',
    'select_mysqli' => '(SELECT GROUP_CONCAT())', // Used when Moodle is running MySQL/MariaDB
    'select_pgsql' => '(SELECT STRING_AGG())' // or PostgreSQL

Field attributes

Rename object ID to object field

If a field value is an ID, you can add the rename_ids_attribute attribute and define how to map IDs to object fields. This is useful when transforming multiple objects.

The following field definition transforms 1,5,123 into Group 1, Group 5, Group 123

    'name' => 'u_group_names',
    'select' => "(SELECT string_agg(g200.id::text, ',') FROM {groups} g200 JOIN {groups_members} gm200 ON gm200.groupid = g200.id AND gm200.userid = u.id)",
    'title' => get_string('group'),
    'tables' => ['u'],
    'attributes' => [
            'type' => \block_dash\local\data_grid\field\attribute\rename_ids_attribute::class,
            'options' => [
                'table' => 'groups',
                'field' => 'name',
                'delimiter' => ',' // Separator between each ID in SQL select.

Dash Framework

Dash comprises smaller components that live inside the Dash Framework. These components generic, decoupled, and extendable APIs. A Dash Framework API must be unit tested and well documented.

Dash Framework APIs live in the <component>\local\dash_framework namespace of a plugin.

List of standard Dash Framework APIs

Query builder

Generate SQL queries to be run by Moodle's Data API


Create generic filters.

Creating a new Dash Framework API

Step 1 - Determine if your code should be an API

Any reusable chunk of functionality can be used as an API. Think of the Moodle File API or Custom Field API. These APIs provide generic functionality to be utilized in specific ways.

Unit testing will also reveal how portable your API code is. If you cannot test without tightly coupled dependencies, then perhaps the code should be business logic inside of a plugin, rather than a reusable API.

Step 2 - Create a new folder for your framework API classes

Add a new folder in <pluginfolder>/classes/local/dash_framework

As an example: blocks/dash/classes/local/dash_framework/result_cache

Step 3 - Create unit tests

Prefix your unit test class with dash_framework_ and try to keep all tests within a single class. Follow this convention:


Strive for full code coverage on your API and make changes that are backwards compatible.

Step 4 - Write the API code

"API" is used loosely in this documentation. Create friendly and easy to use PHP classes within your framework namespace. Here's a simple example:

namespace block_dash\local\dash_framework\result_cache;

interface cacher {

    public function set(string $cache_identifier, array $datatocache): void; // Use typehints and "SOLID" practices.

    public function get(string $cache_identifier): array; // Public functions should be easy to use methods of consuming.

Query builder

Under the hood Dash builds queries using a strict API for constructing queries. This API is decoupled from the rest of a dash's lifecycle.

Simple example:

use block_dash\local\dash_framework\query_builder\builder;

$builder = new builder();
$results = $builder->select('c.id', 'c_id') // Column aliasing.
    ->from('course', 'c') // Table aliasing.

WHERE clauses

Filter results by adding where clauses.

Results caching (TODO)

Results caching works by taking a snapshot of a query result. And storing the following info:

  • md5 hash of the raw query
  • Raw database results
  • When the query results were cached
  • When to invalidate the cache and query database


Change log


  • Fix column sorting bug where pagination would unintentionally toggle sort direction
  • Add Select2 library for autocomplete dropdowns


  • Add support for PostgreSQL
  • Improve filtering
  • Add renaming field attribute to map objects to IDs returned by query
  • Moved custom classes to local namespace
  • Improved CSS selectors

Version information

Version build number
Version release name
Can be updated from
2020013002, 1.0.1 (2020063000), 1.0.2 (2020070202), 1.0.4 (2020112400)
MD5 Sum
Supported software
Moodle 3.9, Moodle 3.10
  • Latest release for Moodle 3.9
  • Latest release for Moodle 3.10

Version control information

Version control system (VCS)
VCS repository URL

Default installation instructions for plugins of the type Blocks

  1. Make sure you have all the required versions.
  2. Download and unpack the block folder.
  3. Place the folder (eg "myblock") in the "blocks" subdirectory.
  4. Visit http://yoursite.com/admin to complete the installation
  5. Turn editing on in any home or course page.
  6. Add the block to the page
  7. Visit the config link in the block for more options.