January 17, 2007

More on Moodle blog

Again, I had a need to look at Moodle blog as I had done in my last post. This time my scenario is different. I am working on creating community portal prototype site for UMN international students ( . If you are interested in looking at the course, please send me an email .

I envision that there is a designated publisher for this site whose role is to involve other students in discussions, create new activities, and publish a blog. Ideally this publisher would be an international student.  Publishing a blog would be one of the ways in which energy could be created in the site. I imagine that other students may be interested in what goes on in another student's daily life.

I want this blog to be created in Moodle to keep the entire site self contained. For this I had to figure out a few things first. In order to add a blog to the course you need to add a blog block. One would expect that there is a blog activity in Moodle, but there is not.  This makes sense since blogs in Moodle are not related to the course, but instead are site wide or public. Once I had added a blog block to the site, I was able to create new blog entries. All is well and good, but how will these blog entries show up on the site?

I figured out that in order to do this, I need to first add a external RSS feed block to the site and then grab the RSS feed from my blog entries. Adding an RSS block was easy enough. Testing with Yahoo word of the day RSS feed worked seamlessly as well. But how do I find the RSS feed for my entries? This too was not too difficult. I clicked on "view, edit my blog entries" inside the blog block and was taken to the page with my blog entries. There I noticed an RSS button. I copied the link location and used it in my RSS block. Once, I added the RSS feed, I also configured my RSS block to include this feed to be displayed.

After all was done I fully expected my blog post to show up on the course site, but no luck. I posted to the Moodle support forum asking if this Moodle blog RSS feature was really working. A few days later I learned that RSS is not working currently in Moodle blogs.

I hope that this will be available in a future as my scenario, I think, for using Moodle blogs in this way is quite common.

Moodle 1.6 blog

I needed to figure out how blogs work in Moodle An instructor asked me how would be best to have students work on an assignment, then submit their assignment for grade, and later post comments about each other's work. My initial thought was that assignments could be submitted with the Assignment activity. Then an instructor could grade them and later make them available in the instructor's blog for commenting. Looking into this more, I found that this would not work well.

There are two main reason's blog's are tricky to use in Moodle:

  • You cannot limit access to the Blog based solely on the class. Access could be limited site wide, essentially University wide, or entries could be made public.
  • Moodle blogs currently do not allow commenting.

There is a long discussion on Moodle blogs that were introduced into Moodle with version 6 here: (you will need to have registered at the Moodle site to read this discussion) and . The primary concern with adding commenting to Moodle blogs was that with commenting Moodle blogs would be too much like discussion forums. Then the question becomes on how to have a blog well integrated into Moodle that does not take away from features that blogs provide (commenting being one of the main ones).

Now that have learned that I cannot use blogs for this purpose, I am going to recommend using a discussion forum for letting students comment on each others' work. This should work OK as forum is limited to a class and allows commenting. An instructor can make an initial entry by posting a student's work and then ask other students to discuss it.

An alternative to using a forum would be to use a wiki. I considered this, but saw two challenges with that. Wikis require students to become used to a new syntax which can be a little too big of a burden for simply commenting. Instructor and students would have to agree on the format of the wiki and adhere to this format throughout the creation of the document.