Skip to main content

Getting the most out of Moodle Blocks

The other week I blogged about the myth that Moodle looks rubbish compared to for-profit VLE systems.  Along a similar vein, I have begun to wonder just how many people using Moodle realise the power they have right at the end of their typing digits?




This week, I have been talking to people about how to embed social media into their Moodle courses.  For some of them, this idea was decidedly 'old hat' - after all, it is something Moodle has been able to do for a long time.  For the majority though, it seemed to come as a surprise that their humble Moodle course could be seamlessly linked in to the power of social networks.

And this is about more that just making your Moodle course page look pretty and all gadgety - because it is precisely these kinds of activities that can encourage greater levels of engagement from students, as well we helping to develop supportive peer groups.  Increasingly, we need to accept that students are simply better at communicating and engaging through external social networks than they are through VLE-specific forums, and rather than trying to persuade them away from Facebook or Twitter in order to navigate their way through several pages to find a Moodle forum, it is often easier and more effective to bring the conversation to where they already are.

Now, I am not going to go through exactly how to plug a Twitter or Facebook feed into Moodle - there are plenty of guides available on how to do this using the HTML block - including my own:



However, I did think it might be worth mentioning some a couple of other nifty things you can add to Moodle courses using the HTML block in order to make them more dynamic and engaging.

1)  Live RSS feeds:



An RSS feed is anything like a blog, or a website or a podcast.  Embedding a feed into your Moodle course means that any time there is a new post, or new podcast, that update is automatically 'fed' into your block.  Moodle does of course have it's own RSS feed plugin, but you can have much more fun by using the free Feedwind system.  Feedwind, when plugged into the HTML block, can not only be used to feed in a huge array of dynamic content, but can be customised to a huge extent to fit the tone of your course page, and the amount of space you have.

Feedwind has been going for some time now, so it quite stable.  Several years ago I posted a guide on how to combined Feedwind with the reference management software Zotero, and create dynamic reading lists - and that guide may still be of use if you want to give Feedwind a try.

2)  Embedding Dropbox folders using Box:


Imagine have a folder on your computer, and every time you add a file to it, or modify a file, then those changes are instantly updated on your Moodle course?  Well, it is possible when you embed a file from Dropbox.  If you create a Box account, you can have your Dropbox files on your computer.  If you make sure that folder is listed as 'public' then you using Box can paste the embed code from it into your HTML block, meaning that students can access any files within it.

If you were to change one of the files - say, by adding slides to a PowerPoint - then that change will be instantly synced with your DropBox account, and those changes will by dynamically linked to the HTML Block.  In other words, change your PowerPoint, and students will instantly be able to see those changes without you needing to do anything!

I'm sure there are tonnes of other ways people have found of using dynamic content in their Moodle pages - if you have any other suggestions, why not add them as a comment?

Popular posts from this blog

2) Introduction to morphemes

So does language begin with words?

No. Language begins with sounds. It is important to understand this first and foremost. We have already raised this point, but it is worth raising again – language begins with sounds!

If I appear to be emphasizing this with a rather bizarre desperation, it is because it would be easy to think that since we are beginning our exploration of language and linguistics with words that this is where language begins. When you think about it logically though, all words are composed of various sounds grouped together. The word ‘cat’ is composed of three distinct sounds - /c/, /a/ and /t/.

So why aren’t we starting with looking at how sounds create language?

Well, in the not-too-distant past, when European football used to be free on the telly, Manchester United or Arsenal would jet off to Spain for a titanic contest with Barcelona. When the commentators referred to Barcelona, they would pronounce it ‘Bar-se-low-nah’ (bɑ:sɜ:ləʊnæ). After a few years th…

A fond farewell

Every time a new term starts, I find myself wondering what the hell happened to the supposed weeks inbetween?  We leap from teaching, to marking, to assessment boards to enrolments - and after all that, BANG!  Back in the classroom!  At which point we often start wishing there had been at least some time to prepare our classes...

But things have been rather different this time.  About a three months ago I was (admittedly to my own surprise) considered worthy enough to be offered an incredibly exciting job with the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) and the University of East London.  The regular whirlwind of activity over the Summer then, is having something of a more terminal period: Teaching, marking, assessment boards, enrolments and BANG! I'm walking out of Newham College for the last time!

It is now almost exactly 10 years since I joined Newham College.  The plan then was, at heart, very simple: The residents of Newham Borough represented a vast population …

Moodle looks rubbish: The myth that may be costing HE institutions

It was interesting, but not entirely surprising to read Phil Hill's blog on e-Literate suggesting a dramatic slow-down in the take-up of Moodle in HE Institutions.  Not surprising because there seems to be a myth about Moodle that has always flickered in dark corners and is fanned into flame by for-profit LMS providers at the nearest opportunity.

This myth is that Moodle looks rubbish.

Other LMS providers set up a course content page filled with as many html5 gadgets as they can imagine, and compare it to the most basic topic-format Moodle page.  "There we are!" they declare, "Look how rubbish Moodle looks compared to our system!  And in the modern world where students are using tablets and mobile phones more and more, isn't it important that your University LMS looks smart and contemporary?"

And so Universities look at these other LMS systems and think: 'Ooo, it has this, or it has that!  Our Moodle doesn't have them!'  Which in turn prompts a…