OpenSocial plugins for Moodle
Moodle is a Learning Management System used in many Educational Institutions (Universities) to manage courses. It is a plugin based PHP application that can be extended by installing additional modules. These modules have to be installed on a Moodle server by a system administrator. The Moodle interface usually consists of a main central area and a rather narrow right column with blocks. The central area contains main resources, such as wiki, forum, lessons, quiz, etc. The right block contains some additional plugins, such as calendar, upcoming events, latest news, recent activities, etc. extending the functionality of the main page.
Two plugins, developed in scope of the ROLE project, allow bringing OpenSocial gadgets rendered via Apache Shindig (extension of version 2.0 that supports Spaces) into Moodle and using them to extend the LMS with additional features.
ROLE OpenSocial plugins
The first plugin adds a new module to Moodle, which is very similar to usual Moodle pages; additionally, OpenSocial gadgets can be specified. Once the plugin is installed, a teacher can choose a widget space to be added to the course and specify OpenSocial gadgets for it. The teacher also chooses whether one-, two- or three-column view should be used for gadgets. As a result, a widget space (similar to an iGoogle interface) is created and can be used by students to work with gadgets.
The second plugin adds to Moodle a new block. Teacher can add OpenSocial gadgets to the right column for pages already existing in Moodle, such as wiki, lessons, forums, etc.
New Module PlugIn: https://github.com/vohtaski/shindig-moodle-mod
New Tool PlugIn: https://github.com/vohtaski/shindig-moodle-block
Advantages of the plugins
The main benefit of using these plugins is a big pool of OpenSocial gadgets that can be used in a class. Thus, once the OpenSocial plugins are installed in Moodle, a teacher can extend the functionality of Moodle without bothering system administrators with plugins installation. The teacher can easily add and remove gadgets and even create her own ones. The plugins increase flexibility in finding and selecting resources and applications appropriate for a specific course.
Contextual gadgets and OpenSocial API allowing reusing of the applications existing in the Cloud bring additional advantages. OpenSocial API provides a standard way to retrieve and exchange social information between different Moodle installations and other social networks to improve data portability and interoperability. Moreover, space extension allows gadgets to adapt to a specific context. For example, wiki gadget saves data (wiki history) and manages user access separated for each particular course. Such space extension is already used in Graaasp and is planned for the Apache RAVE project.
The Moodle plugin was used at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China (SJTU) to add ROLE technology to the courses Business English, English Newspaper...