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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Where's Wally? Add a Facebook-like wall to your Moodle 1.9 coursepage!

My latest project.

A Facebook-like wall on your Moodle front coursepage. Here's what it looks like on my Moodle 1.9.15 production site.



WHY build one for your Moodle site?
  1. It's FUN!
  2. It's more PERSONAL!
  3. It's great for scrolling on MOBILE DEVICES like smartphones and tablets
  4. It's like Facebook and I haven't yet met a student who didn't like Facebook
  5. It can function as a forum discussion thread
  6. It allows students to collaborate asynchronously
  7. It brings a Web 2.0 dimension into good-ole'- clunky-Moodle1.9-2.x
  8. It allows you to enbed videos fro Youtube and Vimeo (yeah!)
  9. It allows auto URL linking
  10. WHY NOT?????
In case you and your students find the wall too distracting, you can also configure the Wall as a collapsible Accordian resource object. For example, on my production site, I can click the green cube icon to expand the Wall. See the image below. Goodbye distracting wall, hello clickable green icon.



Here it is!



HOW TO BUILD IT

Your starting point to build a Facebook-like wall is here at Srivinas Tamada's website with the stock zip file here. If you follow the installation instuctions, you will end up with a Wall that looks like this.


The problem with the wall above is that I could only display my own updates, and not updates from others. In addition, the Wall requires me to hardcode my Google email address into a file so that the Wall can retrieve my Gravatar icon. The script has room to create a separate login.php file that allows the user to login in with a username and password. But that would mean that the user has to first login with his or her Moodle username and password, and then login with another set of username-password data to use the wall.

The good news is that I've modified Srivinas' Facebook wall script 3.0  for instant login with your Moodle login account. Plus a few other features which you won't find in the stock zip file. In other words I've spent N hours customising it for Moodle 1.9 use. In another post, I'll tackle a Moodle 2.x version of the code. Since Srivinas' code is written for a generic LAMP website, I am sure that it can be coded to run in a Moodle 2.x environment. For Moodle 2.x it'll may take more than a few tweaks since the user table name may differ.

Working demo:
Username: studentscm
Password: studentscm
http://www.moodurian.com/course/view.php?id=39

Discussion on this Wall's development: http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=197229
For a pedagogical and an interesting academic discussion of the use of a Wall and Facebook with a Moodle site: http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=212705




IN closing, here's a list of features that I have added on to Srinivas' Facebook Wall Script 3.0:
  1. The wall is ready to be integrated into your Moodle production site.
  2. The wall is now multi-user. Any number of coursepage participants can post on the same wall.
  3. You can paste in TED video links and they will expand
  4. No more double Youtube video bug (solved that pesky bug)
  5. Shows Firstname and Lastname instead of userid
  6. Compatible with Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome - no more CSS issues (on my PC at least!)
  7. Wiggly icons!!! Nice effect that one.
  8. You can add some text before the Youtube http link and both the text and youtube embed video will  be posted on the wall.
  9. Videos embedded in the wall can be viewed by iOS and Android devices.
  10. The Moodle course administrator can delete others' posts and comments directly off the wall
  11. I have managed to allow the single Wall to be shared among any number of coursepages. With each coursepage loading a different view or subset of the wall. We're talking about a single comments table and a single messages table being used by N number of coursepages. Each coursepage displays only the messages and comments posted by participants of the coursepage.
  12. Using an iframe embed code, I can add a wall as any type of Moodle resource. A label, a webpage resource, an Accordian resource.
  13. The user's name is a live link that shows the Moodle user's profile tab when clicked.
Plans for the future:
  1. Allow users with teacher roles to delete messages and comments of students and users.
  2. Integrate the impressive-looking Facebook Wall Script version 5.0 (commercial version) with Moodle integration code so that what I have done with Version 3.0, I can duplicate the same made-for-Moodle features,
  3. Adapt the code for Moodle 2.3 and above!
  4. To tell you the truth, I think that it's very possible to even create separate walls not just for separate coursepages, but for separate resources within separate coursepages. I believe that this is possible because each resource in Moodle (be it a forum, book, label etc) has its own id=value. So just like where you can have various forums in each coursepage, you can actually (I believe strongly) have separate (virtual) walls for each coursepage. ALL THIS FROM JUST ONE messages TABLE AND JUST ONE comments TABLE!
Interested to know more? Email me at boonsengkam@gmail.com

regards
Frankie Kam

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