Monday, August 15, 2011

Two more third-party Chat widgets for your Moodle site

For the past two weeks, I've been experimenting with Chat for Moodle. I've looked at some cool tools that are Web 2.0 chat services that you can embed into a Moodle block, as well as free PHP chat programs. Why would I want to "waste" my time with this quest? Didn't Moodle already have a standard, inbuilt Chat module? The meaning behind this madness was two-fold:

  1. Moodle chat is resource-hungry and is one of the ways to bring a Moodle site to a grinding halt when many users are chatting. So I was curious to see if other chat systems could be faster;
  2. Moodle chat opens up as a separate window. I wanted a chat window within my Moodle course. Could I have a chat window open up in a block? Or be embedded as HTML code within a Moodle label or webpage?
As a result of my Chat Quest, I've since discovered PHPFreeChat of which I created a modified version that I christened "FreeEmbedChat". I have also modified the interesting ShoutPro shoutbox so that it is easier to use and more integrated with your Moodle site. I've modified that one too and christened it "Whisper".

Now I want to turn my attention to some third-party chat widgets that are easily enabled on your Moodle site by copying-and-pasting their embed code. Fasten your seatbelts, here we go!

1. Chatango

Type: Web 2.00 service.
Install method: Just copy the embedded HTML code (http:// into your Moodle HTML block.

My likes:
  • How many Chats do you know of that allow you to embed a Youtube video in a chat post? I don't know of any. This is a very, very cool feature. And the video plays within the chat window! How cool is that?
  • Colours are easily configured to match your Moodle theme. You can use a colour picker to choose a colour for a chat window element and the change is reflected immediately in the preview window. Check out my gaudy colours below!

  • Your avatar is shown with every post. A green dot lights up above your profile pic (avatar) when you are logged in.
  • A very Web 2.0 chat service that allows you to network with many others.

My dislikes
  • to have a profile image, you have to signup for an account. In your account's dashboard, it is very easy to start chatting with absolute strangers - which is very dangerous! Your homepage's "Meet people" tab is activated by default. Chatango encourages you to meet many people on its service, and one could get carried away with the chatting with strangers. 

  • Well for all the bells and whistles that is included in this Chat, it is no wonder that it takes a bit longer to loadup the Chantango chat window compared to a PHP chat window.
  • Not integrated with Moodle's user database. It would have been better if there were a way to access the Moodle system variable $USER->username.

Setting up a 99chats widget is simple enough. Sign up an account, the in the dashboard, click on the "Create a new Room" button.

Once you have setup your room with its parameters, click on the "Code" link to get the HTML embed code.

Here's what the embedded widget looks like on my Moodle site:

Enter your nickname to begin chatting!

My likes:
  • easy to setup an account
  • easy to embed into a Moodle block or a Moodle label.
My dislikes:
  • Setting the colours to match your Moodle theme is not as easy as in Chatango.
  • You have to enter a nickname to start chatting. Doesn't integrate with user's Moodle username

This post completed the quadrilogy of Chat for Moodle. There are so many to choose from! 
Until the next time, happy Moodling.

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