Bring OpenSocial gadgets to Moodle

We present here a plugin that allows to bring OpenSocial gadgets into Moodle.

OpenSocial gadgets are rendered via Apache Shindig (extension of version 2.0 that supports Spaces.

Moodle is a Learning Management System used in many Educational Institutions (Universities) to manage courses. It is a plugin based PHP application that can be extended by installing additional modules. These modules have to be installed on a Moodle server by a system administrator. The Moodle view usually consists of a main center area and a rather narrow right column with blocks. The center area normally contains main resources, such as, wiki, forum, lesson, quiz, etc. The right block contains some helper plugins, such as, calendar, upcoming events, latest news, recent activity, etc. These are to extend the functionality of the main page.

There are two different OpenSocial plugins for moodle. The first one adds a new module to Moodle. It is very similar to pages in moodle, however in addition, OpenSocial gadgets can be specified. Once it is installed, a teacher can choose a “Widget space” to be added to the course and specify OpenSocial gadgets for it. The teacher can choose whether 1,2,3 column view should be used for gadgets. (Fig. 1).

The resulting outcome is the iGoogle similar view where students can work with gadgets. (Fig. 2)

The second plugin adds a new block to Moodle. Teacher can add OpenSocial gadgets to the right column for already existing in Moodle wiki pages, lessons, forums, etc. (Fig. 3)

One of the main benefits is that the big pool of OpenSocial gadgets can be used by teachers. Thus, once the OpenSocial plugins are installed in Moodle, a teacher can extend the functionality of Moodle without bothering system administrators with plugins installation. The teacher can add and remove gadgets easily and even can write her own ones. The plugins greatly improve the flexibility in choosing the resources and applications for the course specifics. OpenSocial gadgets can be found in the open widget repositories, such as, Role Widget Store, iGoogle Directory, etc.

In addition to reuse of applications existing in the Cloud and flexibility in choosing applications for the course, contextual gadgets and OpenSocial API are the other additional benefits.

Space extension allows gadgets to adapt to a specific context. For example, wiki gadget saves data for a course and manages access to itself only by people engaged in this course. The same wiki gadget will behave differently being added to another course (different wiki history and different people to access it). Such space extension is already used in production in Graaasp and planned in Apache RAVE project.

OpenSocial API brings the standard way to retrieve and exchange social information between different Moodle installations and other social networks, that improves data portability and interoperability.

Plugins work for new version of Moodle 2.1. It should work for Moodle 2.0, though it was not tested. The installation instructions and source code can be found at github:

OpenSocial Moodle module

OpenSocial Moodle block

This plugin was developed within the ROLE Integrated Project and is already used in 5 courses at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

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