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White Paper

10/14/2011

Moodle 2 Repositories
A look into some the repositories solutions available for Moodle 2, their features and the type of integration functionality.

By Gavin Henrick www.somerandomthoughts.com

Please feel free to copy, share and reference this e-book. All we ask is that you acknowledge Gavin Henrick as the source and link to http://www.somerandomthoughts.com when citing the publication. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

Moodle 2 Repositories 14/10/2011

Moodle 2 Repositories
A look into some the repositories solutions available for Moodle 2, their features and the type of integration functionality.
The release of Moodle 2 brought with it a challenge which most Moodle administrators and teachers had not encountered before, that is, the integration of a content repository with the course management system. This document has three parts: Firstly we look at the key issue in repository usage with Moodle 2.  the dilemma of Copying or Linking from repositories

Then we address repositories themselves     repositories in general the specific repositories available for Moodle their features the level integration available with Moodle

Lastly, we look at two topics around repository usage, namely:   the Moodle 2 Private Files repository for users the Processes for adding files to Moodle comparing 1.9 and 2.0

The Appendices:     quick look at the repository settings the list of criteria used for comparisons about the sources used further reading

Many thanks to all who helped review the content of the paper - your time is appreciated.

For any queries or corrections for paper please contact me gavin@somerandomthoughts.com THIS WHITE PAPER IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND MAY CONTAIN TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS AND TECHNICAL INACCURACIES. THE CONTENT IS PROVIDED AS IS, WITHOUT EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND.

© Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

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1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Why read this?................................................................................................................ 3 Copy or Link – The dilemma ........................................................................................ 4 What is a repository? .................................................................................................... 6 What repositories are available in Moodle?................................................................. 8 What are the features of a repository? ........................................................................ 10 What are the features of the integration with Moodle? ............................................. 14 Moodle 2 Private Files .................................................................................................. 18 Getting files into a Moodle course .............................................................................. 21 About the Author ......................................................................................................... 25 Creative Commons Copyright .....................................................................................26

Appendix 1 – Some repository settings in Moodle 2 ............................................................. 27 Appendix 2 – List of criteria used for comparisons .............................................................. 29 Appendix 3 - Sources ..............................................................................................................30 Appendix 4 – Further Reading ................................................................................................31

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© Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

Moodle 2 Repositories 14/10/2011

1. Why read this?
If you are a project manager, administrator and teacher/lecturer and are using or looking at Moodle 2 you should find something of interest in this paper. With the introduction of the Moodle 2 last year, there have been a number of blog posts, forum discussions and presentations given around the use of repositories. “Do we need a repository to use Moodle 2?” is a question I have heard at quite a few Moodlemoots this and last year. So I have put together this document to try and help inform those seeking to understand this core issue as to whether they as an organisation need to use a repository or not. However, I should note that as there are so many possible use cases of repositories I do not tackle them all. Instead I focus on the features and capabilities that I have come across as being important with working with or talking to organisations over the years.

“Best practice”
In the document I refer to best practice in file management as to being the process of copying the file into the Moodle course from either your desktop or another repository. This is a hotly debated issue so I wanted to address it up front before we tackle the concept in the next section. The reasons for having files copied into Moodle are twofold   To have the course backups complete So Moodle can control who accesses them

These two requirements can be satisfied by repository use, so it does not exclude their use. Some repositories handle the second requirement quite well providing a single sign-on. The first point however is harder to achieve, but equally is not always a requirement of the Moodle installation. It would also be fair to say that sometimes, if there is no need to rely on the backup/restore of Moodle and there is no requirement to share complete courses with others that the first point can be a non-issue.

© Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

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2. Copy or Link – The dilemma
Although there are many different use cases in using a repository, for the purpose of this section we are going to identify two different use cases and discuss them. The two cases are: 1. Linking to file in repository which remains in the repository. a. The file may be linked to from many courses but always to the same file b. When you update the file in the repository, the link points to the most up-to-date file instance and therefore all courses link to the new version Copying file from repository into Moodle a. When copying the file from the repository, it always shows the latest approved version available to import into Moodle. b. As the file has been copied into Moodle, at different times, it is not necessarily the same file in each course.

2.

Linking to the file
A very commonly mentioned reason for using repositories is that of linking to a file from many places. The first use case of linking to a file which remains in the repository is a very useful one in some cases. The benefits of this method are quite clear. If you have an official document and all courses have to be able to display the same most up-to-date content, then this is a good use of the repository. Examples of such files are terms and conditions or an official acceptable usage policy for IT equipment. However there are some possible concerns which need to be considered when using this method. 1. Firstly any server backup of the Moodle site (which includes the php files, the database and the Moodledata directory) does not include these linked files and therefore is not a working copy of the installation. You would need to also take a full snapshot of the repository system and its files along with the Moodle system and be able to re-deploy it when needed. This of course may or may not be problematic either with licensing for the repository, or knowledge in managing it, and could be a bigger challenge if this is a hosted solution in which you don’t have long-term access. 2. The second concern is the integrity of a course backup itself. In normal circumstances you can back-up a Moodle course into a .zip (.mbz in Moodle 2) and this is a portable snapshot of the content of the course. It can be installed on another Moodle site or shared via the Moodle Hub. However, if the backup/restore aspect of the integration does not copy the file in, there could be problems either with backup/restore or just not having a complete snapshot of the course at that time. You may even have problems deploying in your own test installation if it is not licensed or setup to connect to the repository in the same way. 4 © Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

Moodle 2 Repositories 14/10/2011

3.

The third concern is for course auditing. If you rely on course backups to go back in time and restore a course to check student results, or what content they had access to in the course – without the files which are in the repository you won’t have a true copy of the file which was there at that point, so for an audit-able course copy this may not be appropriate as you would not necessarily have the same copy of the file still within the repository a number of years on.

Copying the file
The most standard use of a repository is that once you find the file within the repository that Moodle copies it into the resource/activity that you are adding it to. Now if the exact same file is copied multiple times, it will not duplicate the space on the file system as they will link to the same file internally. However if the file has changed on the repository, the user can copy the latest available version into Moodle, so although old courses have an old version, the new usage is with the current version of the content item. The benefits of this particular solution are in some ways the opposite of the challenges of the Linking method. 1. The automated backup of courses handles the files as normal and they are complete, so the external repository does not need to be snapshot and maintained to redeploy the Moodle courses in the site. The integrity of course backup itself is okay, as the file is handled the same as any other uploaded file. The audit is also intact as the file is there any time that you restore the course and so can be audited.

2.

3.

However, there are some downsides too. 1. The Moodle site will have multiple versions of the file existing in various courses. It will not be immediately obvious without checking the source repository as to which is the most up to date one unless this is reflected in the file name. There is currently no easy mechanism to update all the versions of a file to the new version. If you replace a file that is already copied into Moodle with a new one, that instance of the file is changed, but if it was linked form other courses they still use the original file in the database. It looks like this will be changing in 2.2

2.

© Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

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3. What is a repository?
There are different types of repositories depending on the occasion. Wikipedia gives a very simple explanation of what a repository is. Repository commonly refers to a location for storage, often for safety or preservation. So for Moodle, a repository is used as a storage place for content. Different repositories often specialize in a specific type of content.   YouTube specializes in Video content. Flickr specializes in images.

However some repositories can handle all or multiple content types.

Content
Generally in Moodle content resources can be PDFs, word documents, videos, images, text files, Scorm objects, and pretty much any type, so one of the things that have to be in the back of your mind when considering a repository is what it is for. So you need to ask yourself the following type of questions:    Do you want to store PDFs in it? Do you want to store images in it? Do you want to store complex learning objects in it?

However, what type of content you want to store is only one thing you need to consider.

Management
Another thing that you need to consider is how you want to manage the content. There are many steps in the content creation process including: authoring, testing, editing, auditing, approval and publication. Traditionally most users probably do all or most of these steps on their laptop or desktop and via email for passing the content around. However, once you think of having a centralized repository for the content, you need to look at the workflow and who is involved at each stage and what responsibilities they have. Consider the following thoughts:     Who has the authority to approve the use of a video for use in a course? Who checks the quality of the content? Who checks the licensing of the content? Who checks the suitability of the content format?

Now often for self-created content, one person does it all and publishes it, however in some organisations sometimes this is not the case. For example, an official PDF of the organisations Exam Guidelines may go through many iterations with multiple people viewing and contributing before a final version is agreed, and published. 6 © Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

Moodle 2 Repositories 14/10/2011

So beyond type of content and management of content publishing, what else do you need to consider?

Why use a repository?
Ask yourself the question - what is the reason you are considering using a repository? There are many use cases for using a repository. The Web 2.0 world we now live in has a plethora of public content in repositories a lot of which can be used in either the creation of courses, or the creation of student replies in courses. Without repository integration the user would have to download the file and upload it in the traditional way. A repository integration enhances the users experience (be it teacher or student) and reduces the number of steps it takes to include an image from Flickr, or a video from YouTube for example. If your files are in the repository you also do not need to upload the file each time from your laptop/desktop so this bypasses any issues with local bandwidth controls. Later, you might want to send documents from Moodle back into the repository. This way the repository can also go beyond the source for content, and be the place that Moodle users move content to. This is especially important now with the new portfolio API in Moodle 2 which allows a user to export the content into the external repository. However apart from an assignment feature, this is beyond the scope of this document and will be addressed some other day with some other pot of coffee.

Integration with Moodle
So you have the right content created and stored in the repository, but now a new set of questions need to be considered:     How does it get into Moodle? Which roles have the rights to select the content? Is the file copied into Moodle or is it just linked? If it is linked, how do you control who can access it if it is not public?

The repository API in Moodle has many default plugins all of which have their own unique behavior depending on which repository and which features were built in. The custom integrations that are available have a wider range of features. These are all things that need to be considered and come down to one more questions

© Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

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4. What repositories are available in Moodle?
Default Plugins
When Moodle 2.0 came out it had the new Repository API which provided a number of repositories through the native plugins that had been developed. Some of the repository APIs were not integrated into other systems, but were options that you could use on your Moodle site. Here I split the repositories into two groups; internal functionality and external repositories. Internal Features Upload a file Server Files Content Type Any Description This is the feature to enable a user upload a piece of content, and give it a license and author meta data. This is the feature by which you can browse the Moodle 2 courses that you have access to and select a file which is already uploaded and link into your course. This is a private “Dropbox” repository for a user in Moodle. They can upload files via the web interface or using the Moodle Mobile App on the iPhone. These files can then be included when writing content. This is an optional (and not recommended) feature by which the teacher is able to view the files added to resources within the Moodle course in a similar way to how they viewed them in Moodle 1.9 This is one of the hidden gems of Moodle 2 repository options. The admin can create folders on the server side which users can add files to (outside of Moodle) either through network shares, FTP or however the admin decides. Then these files can be pulled into the Moodle course. This cool feature enables a user to enter the url to a piece of content and the repository API will download it from the other site and save into Moodle. If you add in the url of your own website, it will display all the media from the page so you can include it into Moodle – very handy.

Private Files

Legacy Course Files

File System

URL Downloader

External Systems Repositories Alfresco repository Box.net Dropbox Flickr

Content Type Any Any Any Images

Description This is an open source external document management system which runs on Java which needs to be hosted. This is subscription cloud service which has a free entry level service. This is subscription cloud service which has a free entry level service. Flickr is the very popular online image management website. This plugin provides access to the users own Flickr images that they have uploaded to the service. Flickr is the very popular online image management website.

Flickr Public 8

Images

© Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

Moodle 2 Repositories 14/10/2011

Google Docs

Any

Merlot.org

Picasa Web Album Amazon S3 WebDAV repository

Wikimedia YouTube Videos Video

There are over 195 Million images with a creative-commons license which explicitly allow re-use. This plugin enables searching of the public Flickr service. The plugin for GoogleDocs requires authentication which allows the user log into their own GoogleDocs area and copy files out of it into Moodle. Merlot.org is a private learning resource repository. You need to be an educational institution or nonprofit to get access to use through Moodle or pay a significant fee. Picasa is a free photo service from Google. It also has a web based album system for sharing and tagging photos. Amazon provides a cloud based file system with their Simple Storage Service (S3). This is a subscription based solution. Many applications and services provide a basic standard interface to their file system. WebDAV is one of these standard interfaces and can be used to connect to many different systems which support it. The Wikimedia plugin provides the ability to search the Wikimedia sites for content.

Custom Plugins
Although Moodle 2.x has been released since November 2010, not all external content repositories have updated their integration with Moodle. It is understood that most if not all of these will be upgraded in the near future, so for this reason I include below the list of custom plugins that exist for 1.9 or 2.0 and specify which are upgraded and which are not yet upgraded. Repository ELIS (Alfresco) Content Type Any Description The ELIS CMS aspect is an Integration of Moodle with the Alfresco Enterprise repository enabling file sharing, user spaces, searching, curriculum structures and more. The Equella Integration with Moodle provides content repository which enables file sharing, searching, synchronization with OER repositories, curriculum structures and more. The Moodle integration with the Hive digital repository which provides a wide range of features. This provides integration with Moodle and the Kaltura video platform enabling adding and editing of video content to courses and students to submit video assignments. This is the SharePoint integration with Moodle provided by BFC Networks SharePoint Consultants. The Amvonet platform integration with Moodle provides virtual classroom with strong content creation and management features including turning the virtual classroom recordings into Scorm learning objects and transferring into Moodle. 1.9 Yes 2.x No

Equella

Any

Yes

Yes

HIVE Kaltura

Any Multimedia

Yes Yes

Yes No

SharePoint Amvonet

Any Learning Objects

No Yes

Yes Yes

© Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

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5. What are the features of a repository?
Core Features
This section discusses the types of feature a repository has internally. As some repositories come from a generic document management background and some from a content management background, they have different feature sets which you should look into before considering one.

Web upload/download
Most repositories have a good web interface to enable you to upload the files into through your browser. However, there are differences between the types of implementation for this feature.    Does it have a drag and drop feature where you can just drag the file onto the browser window? Does it make it easy to upload multiple files or is it just one at a time? Does it automatically extract and add Meta data or do you need to manually set this every time?

WebDAV / FTP / CIFS
WebDAV is a feature that some applications may have which would enable you to create, change, and move documents on a server. This makes it easy for the user to upload/change the files in the repository like if they were using a folder on their desktop. FTP is an application which allows uses to transfer files between system and from their local machine to a server. This has been the traditional way that website files were managed by web designers and there are easy to use FTP client applications out there which users are familiar with. CIFS (Common Internet File System) is used to provide shared access to files across the internet. It operates like an authenticated windows network share, so that a user can mount a remote folder on their local machine and just drag/drop/edit files as if it was a local drive.

Check-in/Checkout
This feature enables a user that is collaborating with others on creating a document, to “checkout” a document and lock it. This stops others from altering it until the user checks the new file in. This is part of the version control mechanism.

Version control
Often in creating a document or file, you will go through many iterations of the document before it is finished. Often people create a file such as “word.doc” and then save it under a different name such as word-1.doc and word-2.doc as they make changes so that they can go back to an earlier version if needed. Version control automates this process for a user, keeping old copies as they are replaced and providing a mechanism to retrieve those earlier versions.

Workflow
A file is generally created by someone, edited by someone, tested and perhaps audited by someone, and a decision to publish is taken by someone. It may all be the same person, or it could be different people, or groups of people. This feature is related to whether a repository has the ability to design and implement a workflow to manage this process.

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Metadata
A file is just a file, however in a repository it can be more. It can have attached metadata specifying information such as the author, type of file, purpose of file, description and so on. This can either be automatically ripped out of the file, or typed in by the user who adds it to the repository.

Categories / Structures
Just as you would probably use folders or directories to structure the storage of files on your desktop, laptop or netbook, being able to build hierarchical structures within the repository to store your files is important. Often these structures represent the structure of the organization but it is becoming more common to see them structured or categorized along curriculum and project lines.

Taxonomies / Tagging
It is an important feature to provide users the ability to add descriptive words and phrases to a file. These tags can be part of a structured and predefined list of classification tags such as a taxonomy or a user defined set of tags (social tagging) which is often called folksonomy.

Multi-User Permissions
Each organization usually has more than one level of user. There may be a user who can create something, another who can edit it, someone else who may need to approve it and then the end users who can access it or publish and distribute it. These different roles have different permissions and often are not just site-wide but also linked to categories. So it is important to consider the level of permissions that a repository provides.

Audit controls
Who did what when? When a repository provides reporting on uploads, edits, deletes, downloads and on any other activity it enables a greater level of overview on the success of the repository in the organization.

Mobile Access
Some repositories provide a custom mobile interface for accessing and submitting to the repository. This may be an iPhone or android app, or a webapp which supports multiple devices.

© Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

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Repository Feature Matrix
This section shows the details of the repositories mentioned earlier in a matrix report for each feature with different levels of support   Yes Available (Y) Blank – unknown or not specified

To fit the table on the page, I have grouped the repositories into 3 different sections    Default and Generic repositories Default and specific repositories Custom repositories

Default and Generic repositories
Web Upload/Download WebDAV/FTP/CIFS Check-in/out Version Control Workflow Metadata Categories/ Structures Taxonomies / Tagging Multi-User Permissions Audit Controls Mobile Access Task Management Alfresco Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Box.net Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Dropbox Y GoogleDocs Y AmazonS3 Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y WebDAV Y Y

Y

Y Y Y

Y Y

Default and Specific repositories
Web Upload/Download WebDAV/FTP/CIFS Check-in/out Version Control Workflow Metadata Categories/ Structures Taxonomies / Tagging Multi-User Permissions Audit Controls Mobile Access Task Management Flickr Y Flick Public Y Merlot.org Y Picasa Y Wikimedia Y YouTube Y

Y Y Y

Y Y Y

Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y

Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y

Y

Y

Y Y

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Custom repositories
Web Upload/Download WebDAV/FTP/CIFS Check-in/out Version Control Workflow Metadata Categories/ Structures Taxonomies / Tagging Multi-User Permissions Audit Controls Mobile Access Task Management ELIS Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Equella Y HIVE Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Kaltura Y Y SharePoint Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Amvonet Y

Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y

Y Y Y Y Y Y

Y Y Y Y Y

Some thoughts
For the most part all content repositories have a good stable set of features which can be used to help input and manage the content that you want to store. It is important however to consider what type of content you want to store and which features you want before deciding on a solution. Although some of the free or cheap solutions do not offer the level of features that most generic and custom repositories do, they may be suitable for your requirements - for some a complicated workflow will be extra work that isn’t needed or wanted. On the other hand, the premium solutions are most likely going to offer you the options you need when your requirements are complicated and require strong audit controls and enhanced workflows and metadata. But the repository itself is just one part of the puzzle, how it works with Moodle is the other part.

© Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

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6. What are the features of the integration with Moodle?
Types of Integration options
This section discusses the types of features that the integration with Moodle can offer; what they do and don’t do. It also includes the four headings for how this integration can manifest itself in Moodle. It would be fair to say that the features mentioned could be further split into sourcing content and management of content. However, as most repository integrations do not provide management of content features through the integration interface I felt that keeping them together was the best approach.

Browse repository
This feature is based on being able to browse the repository content and structures from inside Moodle. The browsing ideally would be using the structures that have been set up within the repository which may be curriculum or subject based. Does the integration expose the repository to be browsed Flickr Search options in Moodle by the categories, or a curriculum structure, tags, or a defined taxonomy or does it just provide a flat approach to displaying the content?

Search repository
There is more than one way to search for files, and this feature relates to the type of search options the integration allows. Is it keyboard based searching or does it provide more advanced searching by category, keyword, dates and perhaps even file size? Does it allow compound logical searching “Apple and Banana but not Oranges”?

Copy file into Moodle
The best practice in storing files from repositories is allowing them to be copied into the Moodle course resource/activity so that the course backups are complete in themselves and there is no extra latency or logic required before delivering the file locally. Is repository->Moodle copying possible or is it just linking?

Public link to file in repository
Although it is best practice to copy the content or file into Moodle sometimes this is not possible. One such example is a YouTube video or another is where the license does not allow copying so there is only the possibility to embed or link to the external content publically. Does the integration offer this option or must you copy the content into Moodle.

Dynamic pull of a file in repository
If the content is stored in a secure repository which requires authentication by the teacher does the repository integration allow for linking in such a way that the file is pulled over and delivered to users just when it is requested and not stored within Moodle permanently? This method would not require users to have an account on the repository.

Private Link to a file in repository
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If the content is stored in a secure repository which requires authentication by the teacher and user, does the repository integration allow for linking in such a way that the user is required to have an account and authenticate (directly or with single-sign on) to the repository. This method requires users to have an account on the repository.

Upload into repository
Although copying or linking a file from the repository is common, it is much less common to have the option to upload a file from Moodle to the repository, or just directly to the repository through the Moodle web interface.

Replace file in repository
Similar to uploading, being able to replace an existing repository stored file from within Moodle is not common. Does the repository offer the option to upload a file from Moodle to replace or update the existing file in the repository through the Moodle integration?

Delete file in repository
Although most repository APIs allow you to copy a file down from the repository into Moodle, few enable you to control the files on the server or delete the file that is there on the repository through the Moodle User Interface.

File Picker Interface (Repository Plugin)
As people will be adding files to Moodle 2 mostly through the Moodle File Picker interface - this criteria is for recording whether the content in the repository is available through the file picker or not. The alternate is usually the next option.

Custom Resource type
Some repositories integrate by providing a custom resource option rather than going through the File picker. There could be many reasons for this including the complexity of the integration. This criteria is to record whether they provide this option or not.

Assignment Type
Some repositories have an assignment type included in the integration. This can be where the files uploaded go into and are stored in the repository rather than the Moodle server, or where the assignment is selecting the files in the repository as the assignment.

Block options
Some of the repositories provide extra controls such as Workflow task management through a block within Moodle. This exposes extra features from within the repository into the Moodle user interface.

© Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

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Integration Feature Matrix
This section shows the details of the repositories mentioned earlier in a matrix report for each feature with different levels of support   Yes native feature (Y) Blank – unknown or not specified

To fit the table on the page, I have grouped the repositories into 3 different sections    Default and Generic repositories Default and specific repositories Custom repositories

Default and Generic repositories
Alfresco Browse Search Copy File Public link Dynamic link Private link Upload File Replace File Delete File File Picker Custom Resource Assignment Type Block Option Y Y Box.net Y Y Y Dropbox Y Y GoogleDocs Y Y Y AmazonS3 Y Y WebDAV Y Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Default and Specific repositories
Flickr Browse Search Copy File Public link Dynamic link Private link Upload File Replace File Delete File File Picker Custom Resource Assignment Type Block Option Y Y Flick Public Y Y Y Merlot.org Y Y Picasa Y Y Y Wikimedia Y Y Y YouTube Y Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Custom repositories
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Browse Search Copy File Public link Dynamic link Private link Upload File Replace File Delete File File Picker Custom Resource Assignment Type Block Option

ELIS Y Y Y Y Y Y Y

Equella Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y

HIVE Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y

Kaltura** Y Y Y Y Y Y

SharePoint Y

Amvonet Y Y

Y Y

Y Y

Y

Y

** This is based on the Moodle 1.9 integration and expected integration of Moodle 2. No reply on clarification was received from Kaltura.

Some thoughts
So as you can see from the tables, most repositories just allow search access to find the content in the repository and enable the user to copy it into Moodle 2. Some do provide more advanced integration, but it is usually down to the type of repository, and the reasons it is being used. For example:    YouTube streams videos from its website. So the integration with Moodle cannot copy the video in, but provides a slick way to search and link (and embed) the video into the content. Flickr allows users manage the images on its website. But because it is just an image the integration into Moodle facilitates copying or linking to the file, as both are possible technically. Equella provides strong DRM and license management for the content, so those who need those features want the content stored and delivered from Equella and so the integration options are aimed at satisfying those needs. ELIS (which has Alfresco behind it) provides a range of integration options to cater for a variety of use cases and hence offers options of delivering content from repository or copying into Moodle. The content in Amvonet is mainly used for delivery of the lessons themselves within the virtual classroom with the exception of the SCORM object, so all the integration options and capabilities are focused on this.

 

So when considering which repository solution to use, you not only need to understand its own native features, but the type of integration it has and whether it meets your use case or not.

© Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

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7. Moodle 2 Private Files
One of the repository types in Moodle 2 is the Private Files. This is a private files are provided to each user for uploading and managing some files. This is a feature that once enabled is made available to all users, students, teachers, admins and managers. Users can perform a few tasks such as:     Upload & Download files Create directories Zip directories Rename Files

Private Files Block

Usage
Of course, is everyone going to use it? That’s going to be hard to tell.

Workplace
It’s a safe place to store files for a student, a “cloud based USB stick” that they won’t lose, so perhaps it will be good place to keep the versions of an assignment while they are working on it.

Mobile App – Student usage
The emergence of the native iPhone app for Moodle (My Moodle) will probably lead to a lot more usage. If you enable the mobile web services to allow users use the app, users will be able to upload images, video and recorded audio directly into their Private Files repository space in Moodle. With this feature, there can be a lot of types of courses where students may be encouraged to take a photo, or video or something, or record audio and upload it and link into a forum, wiki, or assignment in Moodle. Think of the use cases for even just a few areas:        Architecture Engineering Real estate Art and Design and Printing Culinary, Food and Hospitality Music and Drama Languages
Upload screen options

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Mobile App – Teacher usage
Now that you have considered the potential student usage, you can also add in how a teacher may now use it, if they can just take a short video, picture of something and upload it for later usage. How about a teacher assessing assignments which are created / delivered offline (paper, or physical things), they could record the audio feedback on their phone, directly upload and when back at their computer fill in the assignment grade and link in the audio file.

Decisions
The default space is 100 MB (104857600 bytes). This is set with the User quota (userquota) setting which is found in Administration->Security->Site policies in the Settings block.
Upload Audio

If you have 10,000 active accounts with 100MB each by default that is a potential extra space requirement of nearly 1 Terabyte (10,000*100MB). What does this mean? So every time you take a backup of your Moodle site, you have to consider the extra space your Moodle site might take up. So depending how you do backups and how often this could bring a small or significant extra hit on your resources. So there are two fundamental questions to be answered for this feature if you want it used, namely: 1. 2. Do we enable it for students and staff? What space setting do we enable?

To enable or not enable
If you decide to not provide it to teachers or students then all those nice use cases that you have thought about while reading the Usage section above are not possible and the coolest feature of the Mobile app is not available to them either. If you hold it back from teachers and students then you take away one of the nicest and easiest ways for them to add content into their Moodle courses. It is possible to use the capabilities and prohibit students from accessing the private files feature. If you hold it back from students, where do you recommend they keep their files online? Do you recommend Dropbox or Box.net or somewhere else? Or perhaps you already have Mahara for this. Unfortunately the mobile app, at least currently, only goes into the private files area. It is something to think about.

How much is enough?
If you consider the use cases presented above and the excellent usage that a teacher or student may get out of this new feature, how much space is useful? How long will 100mb last to a student recording short videos of drama performances or a teacher recording feedback for 200 student assignments?

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Infinite space isn’t possible, and although space is one of the cheapest resources for servers, with live, and backups it multiplies.

Some options
There are many shades of options available, and these are just two such options.

Wait and see
If the feature is made available and is not promoted, it will probably grow organically. As people find it and figure it out it will get use. If the iPhone app takes off and people start uploading you should be able see and track the impact pretty quickly.

Plan and Promote
If you promote the availability of the private files area to students, and suggest how it can be used (iPhone app, and for storing files for assignments) it will probably grow faster. So you will need to plan for the max usage sometime and monitor it closely to see how much is actually used. If you promote it to teachers as a way of getting content and audio feedback to students into Moodle, and as something they can further encourage students to use to submit multi-media, then the usage may grow quickly so planning needs to be more advanced.

Final thoughts
This repository feature in Moodle 2 is a great opportunity to have students more engaged with the learning environment and for organisations to assist teachers to see more options for learning possibilities within their courses.

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8. Getting files into a Moodle course
This section walks through the processes for uploading files and adding one file into Moodle and uploading and adding in multiple files. To provide some context, it also deals with the workflows as they were in Moodle 1.9 and as they are now in Moodle 2.

Moodle 1.9
In the times before implementing a content repository, users of Moodle got files into Moodle one of two basic ways, through the web interface via upload, or via FTP into the Moodledata directory. Web interface – Moodle 1.9.x In Moodle 1.9.13+ a user would follow the next steps to get a single file into Moodle and linked on the course. 1. 2. 3. 4. Click on Add a resource Select Link to a file or website Type in the resource name /course link text Click on Choose or upload a file

File upload screen on Moodle 1.9

5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Click on Upload a file Click Choose file Select the file they want to upload Click on Upload this file Click on Choose under actions for the uploaded file Click on Save and return to course

FTP – Moodle 1.9.x The alternate method was to use FTP to upload the file, which would usually involve the following steps © Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com 21 

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1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.

Open the FTP client Connect to the Moodle site Browse to the correct folder for the course in the moodledata structure Drag/drop or upload the file to the Moodle site Swap to the web browser with the course showing Click on Add a resource Select Link to a file or website Type in the resource name /course link text Click on Choose or upload a file Click on Choose under actions for the required file Click on Save and return to course

In both these cases the process is simple and direct. First get the file into Moodle and then link to it/use it. Linking bulk uploaded files – Moodle 1.9.x However, when a lot of files were being uploaded (usually via FTP or with a zip file into Moodle where it was unzipped), this changed things. The workflow 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Click on Add a resource Select Link to a file or website Type in the resource name /course link text Click on Choose or upload a file Click on Choose under actions for the required file Click on Save and return to course

So although the first file was 10 or 11 steps, bulk uploading made it a lot faster to link in the subsequent files so making the overall process neater.

Moodle 2
The new file picker and file system behind Moodle 2 changed the workflow for users. The upload of a file was linked to where it was being used, removing the old logic of “upload then link/use”. So what impact does this have? Web interface – Moodle 2.x In Moodle 2+ a user would follow the next steps to get a single file into Moodle and linked on the course. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 22  Click on Add a resource Select File Type in the resource name /course link text Provide the Description Click on Add Click on Upload a file repository option Click Choose file Select the file they want to upload Click on Upload this file Click on Save and return to course © Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

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This is 10 steps again, with the key differences are that a text description is now required but the “choose”

File picker on Moodle 2

when uploaded is automated and gone. So this will take a small bit longer.

FTP account – Moodle 2.x There is no native FTP upload into the Moodle course like it was in Moodle 1.9.x. However if the File System repository plugin is enabled and the server is configured to allow ftp into the correct folder, FTP can work. The Files are not going into the Moodle course, but instead into an “on-server” simple file repository. It should be noted that giving FTP (or sFTP) access is a system administration task which is done outside of the Moodle site. The new method to use FTP to upload the file would involve the following steps 1. Open the FTP client 2. Connect to the Moodle site with the repository user credentials 3. Browse to the correct folder 4. Drag/drop or upload the file to the repository folder 5. Swap to the web browser with the course showing 6. Click on Add a resource 7. Select File 8. Type in the resource name /course link text 9. Type in the Description © Gavin Henrick – Solutions Consultant – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com

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10. 11. 12. 13.

Click on Add Click on the folder name of the file repository option Click on the file they want to include Click on Save and return to course

The process here is longer for one file, as the user needs to fill out the description and also select the repository type to include the file - there are extra steps from Moodle 1.9. Linking bulk uploaded files – Moodle 2.x The FTP process however, also benefits when a number of files are being added at once. When a lot of files were being uploaded via FTP to this file system repository this changed things big time. As the file picker remembers your last repository choice each time you go back in, the workflow becomes 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Click on Add a resource Select File Type in the resource name /course link text Type in the Description Click on Add Click on the file they want to include Click on Save and return to course

So this time it is one extra step with the description, however it is still nearly half as long as the single file uploaded via FTP.

Thoughts
So it comes down to whether the forcing of providing the extra description is worth the impact on the workflow. Once the users are used to the process I believe they will embrace this and new users will have no problem. Ultimately, I believe that the extra repositories that are now just one click away once configured, make up for any initial impact.

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9. About the Author
Gavin Henrick is a solutions consultant based in Dublin, Ireland who works with assisting organisations to implement a range of open source learning technologies including Moodle and Mahara. He facilitates project consultancy and training workshops on e-learning project rollouts and upgrade strategies. Gavin has worked with technology in business, learning and development for over 10 years. He has been working with Moodle, Mahara, DSpace and other open-source applications for the last 4 years. Gavin currently focuses on supporting organisations with e-learning projects including Moodle 2 rollouts and upgrade strategies through project consultancy and training workshops. Gavin recently co-authored the book for Moodle 2.0 for Business Beginner's Guide with Jason Cole and Jeanne Cole. This was published by Packt Publishing in May 2011. Gavin blogs at (http://www.somerandomthoughts.com) where he regularly provides information on Moodle including reviews of community created plugins and themes. He is a regular speaker at a number of Moodlemoots and conferences on the use of Moodle focusing on practical examples of usage.

For more information: Email – gavin@somerandomthoughts.com Blog – http://www.somerandomthoughts.com Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/ghenrick LinkedIn - http://www.linkedin.com/in/gavinhenrick Slideshare – http://www.slideshare.net/ghenrick Book - http://www.moodleforbusinessbook.com/

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10.Creative Commons Copyright
Please feel free to copy, share and reference this e-book. All we ask is that you acknowledge Gavin Henrick as the source and link to http://www.somerandomthoughts.com when citing the publication. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.somerandomthoughts.com To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/

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Appendix 1 – Some repository settings in Moodle 2
Common repository settings in Moodle 2
There are some common settings which apply to all repository plugins, and these are managed in the Common repository settings page.

Settings Cache Expire

Explanation This setting by default is set to 120 seconds. This is the amount of time that file listings are cached locally when a user is browsing external repositories. By default this is enabled. Some repositories allow you to link to the item in their site. This enables a user to choose if they want the media copied into Moodle or not (assuming the repository offers that option). Where existing courses may have a need to access the legacy course files option, you need to enable this if you want the feature for new courses. This is not advisable.

Allow external links

Legacy course files in new courses

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Repository enabling options
In Moodle 2 a repository plugin can have 3 settings when enabled:    Enabled and visible Enabled and hidden Disabled - default setting

The difference between the first and second is subtle but specific. When the plugin is Enabled and visible it appears in the file picker and can be used to pick/, however when it is Enabled and hidden it does not appear in the File Picker.

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Appendix 2 – List of criteria used for comparisons
Actual repository feature           Web Upload/Download WebDAV/FTP/CIFS Check-in/out Version Control Workflow Metadata Categories/ Structures Taxonomies / Tagging Organisational Structures Audit Controls

Integration feature through Moodle interface              Browse Through Categories Search via keywords/tags Copy File into Moodle Public link to file in repository Dynamic link to pull file from repository on -demand Private link to secure file in repository Upload File into repo Replace File in repo Delete File in repo Appears in File Picker Has a Custom Resource Has an Assignment Type Has a specific Block Options

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Appendix 3 - Sources
The information gathered for this paper was taken from the various websites and documentation for each of the different services and the integration module as a best effort to detail the features and functionality. The following are tables of information with the links to the primary websites for each of the services. Where possible, confirmation of the features of the custom repositories was sought from the specific organisations and companies, most responded with clarification, not all did.

Default Repositories
External Systems Repositories Alfresco repository Box.net Dropbox Flickr Flickr Public Google Docs Merlot.org Picasa Web Album Amazon S3 WebDAV repository Wikimedia YouTube Videos Description http://www.alfresco.com http://www.box.net https://www.dropbox.com/ http://www.flickr.com/ http://www.flickr.com/ http://docs.google.com/ http://www.merlot.org http://picasa.google.com/ http://aws.amazon.com/s3/ n/a http://www.wikimedia.org/ http://www.youtube.com Contact Details Mike Churchward http://www.remote-learner.net/elis Simon Wilkinson http://www.equella.com

Custom Repositories
Repository ELIS (Alfresco) Company Remote-Learner

Equella

Pearson / Equella

HIVE

Exact Learning Solutions http://www.exactlearning.com/en/products/harvestroad-hive-digitalrepository

Kaltura

Kaltura Corp http://www.kaltura.org (community version) http://www.kaltura.com (enterprise version)

SharePoint

BFC Network

Alex Pearce http://www.bfcnetworks.com/ Justin Williams http://www.amvonet.com/

Amvonet

Amvonet

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Appendix 4 – Further Reading
The following are some sites, blogs articles and presentations which have some useful information on this area. Moodle Docs   http://docs.moodle.org/20/en/Repositories http://docs.moodle.org/20/en/Managing_repositories

www.SomeRandomThoughts.com (my blog)     http://www.somerandomthoughts.com/blog/2011/09/09/official-moodle-mobile-app-for-iphonereleased/ (native iPhone app for Moodle) http://www.somerandomthoughts.com/blog/2011/07/28/moodlemoot-new-zealand-2011repositories-a-road-less-travelled/ (repositories presentation from NZ moodlemoot 2011) http://www.somerandomthoughts.com/blog/2010/06/15/ftp-files-into-moodle-2-0-with-therepository-api/ (how to ftp files into Moodle 2 for using in courses) http://www.somerandomthoughts.com/blog/2010/05/02/repositories/ (overview)

http://www.markdrechsler.com/    http://www.markdrechsler.com/?p=234 (Moodle 2.0 File Management) http://www.markdrechsler.com/?p=696 (Mahara as a content repository) http://www.markdrechsler.com/?cat=28 (Moodle 2.0 files – an inconvenient truth)

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