Sunday, April 8, 2012

Improving the Journal Activity for Moodle 1.9x - great for reflections

David MonllaĆ³'s Journal activity for Moodle 1.9 is one of my all-time favourite Moodle activities.

Applications for the Journal (what's hot about it)
I use it a lot in my Intensive English classes where students have to post a write up of their speech. I can see each student's work, but each student only can view his or her write up. In other words, the student has a private view of his workspace. Very nice. The Journal can also be used by the student to reflect on a particular topic, and the student can edit and modify and refine his or her answer over time.

What's not so hot
In my opinion, there are two major weaknesses in the Journal activity. Firstly the Teacher's feedback edit box does not support HTML. I'm sure that this can be improved upon and an HTML editor can be implemented but I haven't got my mind onto this project yet.

Overcoming the 60-pixel column width limitation.

Secondly, the default minimum width of the edit box is very narrow compared to the student's text box that contains the student's writeup. You can actually manually change the width of the feedback textbox by clicking and dragging the lower right corner of the box which is extensible.

But try doing the same thing for 10 or 20 feedback forms and it soon becomes very tiresome. So, there MUST be a way to change the default minimum width of the feedback edit box. Now this I can do. After some tinkering around, I managed to pin-point the actual code and the PHP file responsible for the width property. Here it is - line 595 of /mod/journal/lib.php.

echo "<br /><textarea name=\"c$entry->id\" rows=\"12\" cols=\"60\" wrap=\"virtual\">";

I nailed that code down to this line!

Just change the 60 pixels to your fancy. I changed the cols value to 80 and after saving and FTP'ing lib.php back to the server, this is the result:

Ah, now the view is a bit more panaromic, won't you say so? 80-pixels wide. Nice.

It is nice to know that the Journal activity is available in both Moodle 1.9 and Moodle 2.0 versions. Click here to download.

Problems and Solutions
If you face any problems with extra backslases "\" being added to the students' entries, here is the solution.

This link that gives very detailed information on how to change the size of the Journal editor. As a final tidbit, if you need any further information about the Journal activity, read and participate in's forum for the Journal.

So I hope you found this short and sweet post useful for your Moodle site. Until the next time amigos, let's keep Moodling. My job is done for now, so, what to do next? LET'S RIDE!!

Rango - Animated movie of the Year (2011)

Frankie Kam

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