Sunday, July 3, 2011

How I speeded up my Moodle site (two essential tips)

If you are a Moodle 2.x user (Moodle 2.4.1 is the latest as of now - January 2013) looking to speed up your Moodle production site, you might want to check out's article entitled "Boosting Moodle Performance - Tips To Speed Up Your Moodle Install", Jonathan Moore's excellent "Why Your Moodle Site is Slow: Five Simple Settings",  Frederic Never's equally magnificent "Make your Moodle courses load faster without fiddling with the server" and Jonathan Moore's "Why your Moodle site is slow: five simple settings".

My article below is still useful, but dated since I was using Moodle 1.9.15 during the time of writing. Anyway, I suppose you reading this because you're desperate for ideas to speed up your slow  Moodle site, right? If that is the case, Random Net Surfer, then you've come to the right place!

Credit: Warner Bros

This article was first posted on here on 15th January 2011. At the end of this post, you will know how to speed up your site with mod_deflate. You will also know how to enable PHP caching for your website by installing eaccelerator. Lastly you will know how to monitor your website's resources with munin graphs.

45 days ago, I started by journey of hosting my own Moodle site on a Web Host company. I started off with shared hosting, got turned off by the slow speeds, then upgraded to Virtual Private Server. The site just chugged along but my students complained that the site would load ever so slowly. Now, 1.5 months later, it's a different story.

I have spent countless hours and days, while others are asleep, surfing the Net feverishly for ways to optimize and to speed up my Moodle site. I've surfed to, googled my way through, gingerly typed detailed Linux commands along the way. BTW, I love Linux now.

I've experienced hundreds of emails to and from my Web Host company, had a major server outage, times when my domain didn't load, recovered from a full harddisk due to automated & unmonitored backup files (I can't forget that one!), blank Moodle pages, loss of data, recovery and backups along the way. I survived. But TODAY, I think I've finally got it. Henry Higgens of "My Fair Lady" would say, "By George! I think (s)he's got it!!!". are two reasons why I am SO HAPPY TODAY.

Reason1: My Moodle site FINALLY runs with mod_deflate page compression.
So my moodle http requested pages are compressed before they are sent to the users' web browsers. Benefit: faster loading of pages, less waiting by users for their Moodle pages to load.

Cool Video Quiz: Mashup of Xerte and Moodle quiz

This mashup was originally posted by Joseph Thibault in on 22 February 2011. As reported by Joseph, it displays "additional quiz information and content in tandem to a Moodle page".  It uses the Open Source e-Learning tool named Xerte. The mashup allows your students to view a video on the same page as the quiz questions that test their understanding of the subject matter taught in the video.

More links related to this quiz format "novelty":
1. forum discussing the mashup.
2. Youtube video demonstrating the mashup.

Embedding PDF files in Moodle – a concise tutorial by @LBCCeLearning

Note: Click here for a more recent, year 2015 post that works on Moodle 2.x.

Hi there!
LBCC eLearning Blog is the “the place to see the latest ideas for online education at Linn-Benton Community College” (follow them @LBCCeLearning).

In a March 2010 post, Eric Bryant explained how to embed a Portable Document Format (PDF) file inside a Moodle course. An embedded PDF file will, in my humble opinion, engage a student more than if he or she were to just see the PDF icon and description on your course page.  Which is how it would appear if you use the standard method of “Add a resource | Link to a file or website”.

If you want a truly embedded PDF, then Eric’s tutorial is for you [link]. The blog post is short, informative and concise. Sample html embed code is provided, and there are screenshots that show the effect of using different settings for each EMBED variable. Thanks, Eric!

There are other ways of embedding PDF files on the Net, but I found that this method (outlined here) works for me. Armed with this knowledge, I proceeded to create a book resource (Moodle 1.9) where each link was a embedded PDF file. It’s a very nice layout (see below for a screen shot of an embedded PDF using embedding!

Sample code to embed PDF content inside your Moodle page is:

<center><embed width="800" height="600" src="" quality="low" /></center>

I would love to hear from you If you have found this information useful, and have decided to use PDF embed code in your courses.  If you use a different method or have a favorite Web 2.0 technology to engage students with PDF content within Moodle, please share your experience.

Note: this article was originally posted by the author on on 25th March 2011.

DHTML News Ticker Wizard: A dynamic visual reminder tool for students:

Ever used a Javascript marquee or news ticker? Chances are you didn’t feel too impressed. Either the motion of the ticker wasn’t smooth enough for your taste. The default layout was too rigid. It wasn’t colourful enough. Perhaps you probably had to hard-code parameters by using a text-editor.
If the previous paragraph describes your experience, then the good news is that DHTML News Ticker, by Gokhan Dagli, is a smooth and highly configurable Javascript news ticker.
You can use it to create visual and animated reminders on your Moodle site. For example, “Reminder: Test1 is on next Monday”.
IMHO, the best part of this software is the process of creating a ticker. It is wizard-based. Just follow a series of 5 steps before publishing. At each step of the way, you can tweak the news ticker. Nearly everything about the ticker can be configured. What’s that? You want the colours to match your Moodle site’s theme? No problem!

The software also comes with a set of 5 pre-designed templates, some complete with images and navigation links!

Marking online submissions of PDF files

Thanks to this UploadPDF module by Davo Smith, and this post by Joseph Thibault, I've now enabled my Moodle site to receive online submissions of PDF files, AND direct annotation on those submissions.

To get the assignment module to work, Ghostscript (GS) has to be installed on your server. If your Moodle server doesn't have GS installed, then you might want to request your Web hosting company to do it for you. Or you might want to DIY it.  I use a Centos Virtual Private Server to host my Moodle site. At this time of posting, the latest version of GS is 9.02. These 2 links helped me to install GS on my VPS:
So NOW, I can get my students to save their homework or assignments in PDF format (Ms Word 2010 allows one to save in PDF format), and to submit their work in PDF format. Here's how it worked out for me. I created a dummy PDF file and logged in as a student account and uploaded it as a dummy test file.

Next, I logged in as my usual account and proceeded to annotate the PDF file submission.
After all, I didn't want Shakespeare to roll in his grave as a result of the "howlers" in the submission.
Here's what I did to the original PDF file while online on my Moodle site:

After I have finished annotating the PDF file, the (hypothetical) student is able to access/download the annotated PDF submission while logged in in his or her account. Now is that a great feedback mechanism or what? The best thing is the annotation tools of this module now allow me to give feedback to my students, RIGHT INSIDE THE PDF file itself! AWESOME. Simple AWESOME.

Note: this post was originally posted on on 19th April 2011.

Ratings and Recommendations by outbrain