Talk:Projects for new developers

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Note: You are currently viewing documentation for Moodle 2.0. Up-to-date documentation for the latest stable version is available here: Projects for new developers.

2012 project ideas

Workflow support in the Database activity module

Add the ability to control the state of a database record, permissions at different state levels and email notifications.

Skills required: PHP and understanding UML syntax of state diagrams, workflow principles
Difficulty level: Medium
Mentors: David Mudrák

For further details see:


2008 project ideas

Benchmark-Framework for Moodle

Moodle is developing rapidly - in terms of acceptance and features. One of the initial questions a potential user faces is "How much hardware do I need?". And people who have Moodle running often want to know about the scalability.

The answer to this simple question is complicated because

a) various possible configurations of operating system, webserver, database server, PHP, Moodle itself
b) different bottlenecks, CPU, RAM, disk, network, etc.
c) the user behaviour, the expected peaks, acceptable response
d) which feature of Moodle being used. etc.

This project takes the approach of a test bench:

  1. do a fresh installation of Moodle
  2. import the test data provided
  3. install the server monitoring tools provided
  4. run regression tests provided on client(s)
  5. plot the measuered performance (client) and server load vs. requested load
  6. Tune, change parameters and back to step 4

Mentors: Visvanath Ratnaweera, Wen Hao Chuang

Discussion: Forum "Student Projects"

XML templates for admin settings

One of the disadvantages of the proliferation of settings --although part of Moodle's increasing flexibility and power-- is that a particular combination of settings may be difficult to reproduce from one site to the other. Also, administrators who want to "play with the settings" are afraid to be unable to restore the settings to their original values.

The proposed solution is to implement a simple interface allowing administrators to export the settings in an XML file, which could later be restored. The features will include:

  1. Selection of settings to export (grouped in a tree format as displayed in the administrator panel)
  2. Naming and saving of XML files as special "templates" to be applied to a new install of Moodle for specific situations.
  3. An interface listing the templates (XML exported files with the "template" attribute set)
  4. A way to record the registered templates (beyond detecting the filesystem)
  5. A view of the settings available for restore in a given XML file
  6. Partial export/import

Note: This needs to work nicely with the command-line installer code.

Other ideas:

  • An option to mark certain admins settings as is_sensitive() - a method in the admin setting base class. This would be true for passwords and things. Then you could have an option for exporting all the non-sensitive settings to attach to a forum post when you ask for help.
  • Use YAML instead of XML (sam opinion: ugh, no!)
  • Very detailed logging of admin setting changes - to allow for undos, among other things - or just simple logging of each set_config change with its new and previous value in the info field would be a good start
  • A text field, like CVS commit messages, for people making admin changes
  • The ability to "switch" a template on/off. While on, it overrides the original settings without replacing them. When off, the original settings are restored
  • In addition to the previous point: ability to switch several templates on/off, and to organise them by priority. If a setting is defined in two templates, the one in the template with the highest priority overrides the other one.

Mentor: Petr Skoda (Skodak)

Create Moodle Plugin Templates

The M in Moodle is for Modular, meaning that it is designed to be extended, either for sharing with others or for customization within an institution. There are, in fact, at least 20 different plugin types.

Your job is to create a template version of each of these plugins, with lots of inline documentation and examples of common Moodle code practices. The example plugins should install correctly in Moodle 1.9 but not actually do very much, just show placeholders etc. These template plugins should be useful starting points for new developers to start editing to create their own plugins.

Some examples already exist but will need to be brought up to date and improved.

Other plugin types don't have anything yet.

There is also a lot of scattered documention here in the Development wiki such as this Block Tutorial (oldish).

Requirements:

  • The initial scope of the project should be templates for /mod, /blocks, /enrol, /auth, /admin/report, /course/report, /grade/import, /grade/export, /grade/report, /question/type and /mod/assignment/type, although expanding it to more or all would be helpful if time permits and it does not diminish the quality and testing of the initial examples.
  • Full consideration should be given to standards (such as using language packs, check for access permissions, XHTML, styles, etc.) See the Coding guide.
  • Current examples in the core code should be considered in the development of each plugin when applicable.
  • Each template should be documented in the form of a step-by-step tutorial such that a beginner to intermediate php programmer could recreate the steps for construction. These instructions should be placed on https://docs.moodle.org under Development.
  • Field tested with real beginning/intermediate level developers and changes made based on reports from that field experience (we can help in finding these testers).
  • Designed for Moodle 1.9.

Potential Mentor: Gary Anderson

Integration with bibliographic systems such as Wikindx

Managing references and citing them is an important behaviour in university education and research. Bibliographic facilities are quite complicated and go beyond the capabilities of Moodle built-in technology (e.g. the database activity). Integrating Moodle with open-source bibliographic software such as Wikindx could much facilitate this practice within Moodle.

Design and construct an integration with Wikindx (or other open-source bibliographic tools, if appropriate).

Teachers should be able to easily refer to wikindx bibliography items throughout a Moodle course, and be able to:

  • Generate correctly-formatted in-place references (using standard styles e.g. Harvard, APA) for the commonly-cited reference types (e.g. journal article, book chapter, book). It may be possible to delegate the formatting directly to wikindx (since it already performs functions like these) rather than implementing a whole new set of logic in the Moodle integration.
    • Possibly, allow some kind of direct searching of a wikindx database from within Moodle, so as to make it easier to refer to items
  • Generate reading lists / bibliographies
  • Allow export of the above into common machine-readable formats such as Bibtex or RIS. (Wikindx can perform this so again it's a question of hooking into, or expanding, wikindx functionality.)

See also Development:Wikindx and this forum discussion too

Implement CATs in Moodle

This book describes a number of assessment techniques that involve collaboration and group work, and therefore fit very well into Moodle's Social Constructivist philosophy. The book about using these techniques in the classroom, but at an conference I attended there was a talk by Jean Runyon and Thomas Gorecki from the College of Southern Maryland saying how well these techniques work online.

Some of them just need a forum of something basic, but others would need to be done as a database module templates. Doing this would

  1. Make Moodle an even better teaching tool.
  2. Provide some good exemplars of how to do interesting things with database templates.
  3. Possibly highlight limitations in the database template system, that would require improvements to the database module code to overcome.
  4. One of the outcomes of this project could be some really good 'How to write a database template' tutorial, which would be very valuable to the community.

This is my (Tim Hunt's) idea, but I would not be interested in mentoring it. It would need to be someone who knows all about the database module.

Moodle Target tracking + rewards/gifts

This one would suit a facebook enthusiast! The Facebook gifts system is very popular and an ideal motivator for students at school level. Moodle needs an equivalent.

The aim is to develop a system for setting targets e.g. 'get at least 60% in this assignment/quiz/whatever' and for reward credits to be awarded automatically when it is completed. These reward credits translate to a system of Gifts similar to Facebook ones (small images, akin to stickers, which can be bought for a small fee and sent to friends who then display them on their profile). Admins can control what the reward images are for their site, maybe having them in some sort of rank order of value, or having different ones with different meanings. There are several ways they could be implemented beyond that:

  • Teachers could choose which rewards can be earned for a specific task. For example, there may be different rewards for forums and assignments
  • Teachers may want to specify different rewards for different levels of performance on the same task
  • Teachers decide how many points a certain target is worth and the students cash in those points for rewards of various values
  • Teachers decide how many rewards a target is worth and students choose that many rewards. None are worth more than 1 point each, the only difference is the graphic.

Once students have rewards, they need a way of allocating them (presumably permanently) to their friends. A system for logically displaying them on the friend's profile page would be needed too and will need to take into account

  • Students with only a few stickers given to them by friends will want them to maximise their display
  • Students who are very popular with hundreds of stickers may need to groups of 10 similar ones substituted for a super-sticker to use less space
  • Hovering over the sticker should give details of who awarded it and when and possibly a short message.

Additionally, the social rating/ranking that this achieves will have most effect when it is publicly visible in various places e.g. under forum avatars and maybe in the online users block as well as the user profile.

Maybe this would sit well with the 'Friends' part of last years GSOC social networking project if it were finished.

I can't offer to mentor in coding terms, but will help with ideas all I can. Matt Gibson 05:26, 4 March 2008 (CST)

Martin Dougiamas 20:32, 25 March 2008 (CDT) : I would rather see some base work being done first to allow "user profile plugins" similar to facebook applications so that ideas like this can be added easily later.

Use of Video Material Effectively within Moodle

The main purpose of this module will be to get use of video content, most probably a lecture, in a more formal/controlled/effective way within Moodle.

The main features of this module will be;

  • Stream the video file (most probably in flv format)
    • Should be able to stream by using multiple ways (e.x. FMS, Red5, lighttpd, etc..)
    • Develop a front-end to configure the streaming server settings
    • automatic media conversion (controlled by other Moodle settings like max file size, etc..)
  • The teacher can give related notes, websites or other resources with the video
  • The students can keep a note related to each video
  • Share/view other student's notes (probably controlled by the teachers and/or students)
  • Optionally assess the student notes and include them in the grade book

The above list may expanded based on your views.

Difficulty Level: Easy/Medium

Skills Required:

  • Familiarity with streaming servers like Red5 and video streaming in general.
  • Should be able to install and configure required products (Moodle, Red5, lighttpd, etc..) in any OS (Windows, Linux, Mac, etc..)
  • Understanding of UI design concepts.
  • Familiarity with Moodle APIs and Developing Moodle in general

Join the discussion thread

References

Potential Mentor: Rashan Anushka

Web-based upgrade and plugins interface

A system for Moodle to be upgraded along with its plugins from within the admin interface.

Currently, adding third party modules/patches can be messy and can especially slow down the upgrade process if CVS is not used. The aim would be to develop a way to package plugins in a standardised way so that a single zip file could be retrieved and installed automatically, similar to the way courses are restored. An added feature would be for the modules and plugins database on moodle.org to have an XML index so that you could browse available plugins from within your own moodle instance and have a one-click install option. Version compatibility info could be included so that only those which will work with your install will be shown. At upgrade time, the new third-party components screen could then show which ones could be upgraded along with the rest of the code and which would need to dropped because there is no compatible replacement.

Potential Mentor: Ken Wilson

(I can't see a way of doing this securely. You'd basically have to give your PHP script the ability to rewrite themselves. It might be possible to just do the checking part (extension of existing environment scripts probably) and at least give admins a neat report with links and information to do the upgrade more easily. Martin Dougiamas 09:32, 31 March 2008 (CDT))

As a compromise, I would look into how the drush module for drupal works. It is a command line tool that makes installing and updating modules easy. For example type "drush pm install views" and it downloads and installs the views module. "drush pm update" updates all existing modules. Also someone is working on a successor to drush with extra features: drush mm. Doug Holton 06:07, 17 April 2008 (CDT)

Enhance the current Reports feature

As I mentioned in this discussion thread: http://moodle.org/mod/forum/post.php?reply=416580

I think it might be a good idea to enhance the current Reports feature in moodle so that it could have some "data visualization" features and help administrators or teachers to analyze the trends as well as usage/learning pattern, etc.

The spec needs to be worked on a little bit more, but there would be two possible different approaches:

(1) Enhance the current Reports features (codes will be integrated with future moodle version)

(2) External integration with other open-source data mining solutions. That is, write some codes to create an interface (with options) under the current Reports link, so that system admin, administrators (e.g. directors, department chairs, teachers) could see some visualized data through the interface. The data could be retrieved from some other 3rd party data-mining solutions..etc.

Some current examples are:

[Gismo]http://gismo.sourceforge.net/

Co-mentor welcome! :)

Potential Mentor: Wen Hao Chuang

Enhance the current Functional/Regression Testing Practice and Build a Framework

For moodle, other than the current build-in unit tests (based on SimpleTest framework, see: https://docs.moodle.org/en/Development:Unit_tests) and the existing limited Test Cases that are located at https://docs.moodle.org/en/Development:Tests. For larger institutions who has their own development teams, there is a missing link for good functional/regression testing tools/process/practice to automate some of QA efforts. There are some discussion about using Selenium IDE for such efforts (see http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=43569) but it is not really organized or systematic. This project has the following goals:

(1) To improve the existing test cases "system" (https://docs.moodle.org/en/Development:Tests) and to create a more comprehensive test plan and/or to modularized the test plan so that we could coordinate the testing efforts among different volunteer institutions to assure better quality of moodle (for future versions).

(2) To investigate open-source functional/regression test tools (e.g. TestNG, JMeter, Selenium IDE/RC, etc.) to see if we could come up with scripts to automate most of the functional/regression tests.

Also see: http://www.opensourcetesting.org/functional.php

Co-mentor welcome!

Potential Mentor: Wen Hao Chuang