Who’d have thought it, not only would I be looking for the Moodle logo for the blog, but other strange things have been happening this week:


  • We’ve released two projects under the open source GPL v2 licence for the first time ever
  • Following on from the experimental OfficeLabs project, we’ve launched Education Labs, to allow ‘quick’ projects to release helpful applications (or more likely ‘applets’) specifically to support teachers and learners
  • We’ve released software development kits to allow programmers to connect our Live services into other applications (like web portals)
  • …and it is only Thursday

The background

Let me go back to the beginning…

  • Moodle is an open-source virtual learning environment used in the majority of universities and colleges in the UK, and in a minority of schools. (More on Moodle at moodle.org)
  • Universities typically either implement Moodle as a stand-alone web portal, or use the SharePoint webparts for Moodle as one way of integrating it with the rest of their ICT systems. And in many universities, Moodle is something that has been adopted at departmental level, often bypassing the university-wide VLE of choice.
  • GPL is the licence scheme that most open-source software is released under. We don’t normally use it, because once something is released under this licence, control of it passes over to anybody who wants it. It’s different to the usual licences we use, where we retain the rights to the software – eg to modify it, or to introduce a fee for it.
  • OfficeLabs was started a year ago, to share some of the projects we work on internally, that produces prototypes products (a bit like ‘concept cars’). Previously these projects would have been used by Microsoft staff, but only the occasional product would make it out in the big wide world. But OfficeLabs allows the release of small projects which can add to the Office experience, even without them being fully engineered products. It’s come out with things like PPTPlex for PowerPoint (which completely transforms presentations from being a start-on-the-first-slide-and-go-all-the-way-to-the-last-slide experience) and the Forgotten Attachment Detector for Outlook (which looks out for key words like ‘attached’ in your email, and reminds you when you’ve actually forgotten to attach the document in your email). Oh, and it’s free.
  • Education Labs is the new equivalent for education projects from Microsoft. If you imagine Microsoft as a car factory, then Education Labs is the guys around the corner building a Go Kart – it’s the fun, hobby side of the team.

The Live Services plug-in for Moodle

What we’ve released on Education Labs this week is a toolkit that allows you to integrate the Live@Edu services onto your students’ Moodle homepage. Live@Edu is our hosted mail and collaboration service for students, which provides a free 10GB mailbox, 25GB of general online file storage, and additional 5GB of online document storage for collaborative projects. A large number of UK universities have started using it – with budgets so tight, the idea of outsourcing student email to a free provider is looking more attractive!

What the plug-in does is allow a student to see their live, real-time inbox and calendar on their Moodle home page, via a single login. And it also allows lecturers to do things like send out student alerts – things like “Your homework assignment is due in tomorrow” with an easy step, and the system will handle the delivery of it to students (through email, mobile phone etc).

When I saw a brief demonstration of it yesterday, the bit that impressed me was seeing the email inbox on the home page of Moodle – not just a link to it, but the actual emails themselves. It is another step towards making your school Learning Platform the core of everything that your students and staff do.

You can download the Moodle plug-in from Education Labs, or watch the video of it on this page.

With this project, you’ll need the technical skills to get it working (but then you’ll have needed those to get Moodle working in your university too). But if you are using Moodle already, this project is a step in the right direction to help integrate a range of your ICT services together, and builds on the work we did a couple of years ago to help the integration between SharePoint and Moodle.