Today the eagerly awaited Official native Moodle app for iPhone has been released on iTunes!!!!! This article provides a review of the Mobile app and what it can do.
There have been some unofficial apps available for Moodle 1.9 and Moodle 2.x which work in various ways. One works with some extra web-services added into Moodle to provide the gateway to the data from the Mobile app, while the other takes the data from the Moodle page. Although these were okay, they were an attempt to implement Moodle into a mobile solution rather than come up with an application which worked with Moodle by design, enabling the key features that people would use the phone for rather than the whole LMS. Some of the applications were MoodleTouch (also known as mTouch), mPage and Mbot (created for Android).
There was also effort to create alternate web-app or web interfaces for Moodle which worked better on Mobile than the default themes. There were a number of projects which tackled this, including the well publicised iPhone4Moodle which had a lot of interest for Moodle 1.9. However, there was pros and cons to this approach as well.
Taking all the approaches into account, Moodle HQ decided to focus on writing native mobile apps initially. As some may know there was a number of web-services built into Moodle 2.0 and these were expanded for Moodle 2.1 so that the native apps could have a secure and consistent interface with the Moodle site.
One has to start somewhere and Moodle HQ has started with the iPhone Moodle app which has just been released. HQ has publicised that they will be tackling the platforms in the following order:
- Android Tablets
- Other platforms
HQ also decided to get a version of the app out as fast as possible, so rather than replicating the functionality of Moodle, they focused on some initial tasks. They held public brainstorming sessions and welcomed feedback on the process to help define the roadmap.
So what can it do?
When you download the Moodle mobile app for the first time it will prompt you for your site url, your username and password. The site must have the mobile web-services enabled(details on this at bottom of the article).
Once you log in, you are presented with the initial dashboard of four options:
There is also two other icons, one for handling offline synching and the other for handling multiple accounts to the same or different Moodle sites.
When you choose the Upload option, you are presented with a new screen.
This presents you with a number of options allowing you to either
- Browse photo albums
- Take a picture or video
- Record Audio
Browsing the photo albums works as you would expect, you see your albums and can select a photo or video from them. Once you select the photo or video, you are shown a preview and given an option to Upload. If you are online this will upload to your Moodle site immediately. If you are offline, this will place the upload action into a queue for later synchronisation.
Taking a picture or video, brings up the camera and allows you to take a picture or video and see the preview. You are then given an option to retake it, or Use it. When you select Use it will then upload it or add it to the queue.
The Record Audio option is one of my favourites. This will allow you to record some feedback or sounds as you decide and then automatically upload into your Moodle site. You are given the option to Replay or to send to Moodle. If you choose send it will prompt you to upload and let you know the size of the file.
One crucial aspect is where the files go.
These will upload the file into the users Private Files area on Moodle 2. Once in the Private Files repository the user can use it for adding to posts, or assignments, or as a teacher for use in an activity or resource. Such a nice easy way to get your media into Moodle securely.
The participants section is one of the most useful for keeping in contact with those running or on a course. When you load this section it will download the list of your courses with the Full Name and the shortname.
You can then select a course which will then fetch the list of participants on the course.
When you view a participant it shows your some of their public information. There are four actions available
- Email – If you click on the email address it will bring up the send email interface on the iPhone.
- Send Message - If you click this option you can send a message to the user through the Moodle Messaging system
- Add a note – If you are able to add a note (like a teacher can) then you can add a note to the user
- Add as a contact – you can automatically add the user details into your iPhone contacts.
This is shown over 2 screens which you can scroll down.
It should be noted that it will correctly not download or show the email address if this has been hidden on the profile. This follows the standard Moodle security policies.
As is common with the iPhone if you drag the course list or participant lists down, it will update the data from the server. I liked this consistency.
The web link brings up the Moodle site in the browser. You are not logged in and will be required to log in again. This is useful if you need to do something which goes beyond the features of the native app.
This section loads the main page of the MoodleDocs with a nice Mobile interface for the wiki. This is one site I often jump to on my mobile to double-check some aspect of Moodle, so having it in the app is really great.
The task queue enables you to queue up actions (upload picture, send message, add note etc) while you are offline and then once you are online you can select to process the queue. This is quite handy to help avoid using your 3G and waiting until you are on wireless.
The config icon allows you manage multiple logins, either to the same Moodle or different a different Moodle. Each login just requires the URL, the username and the password. You are able to just select the other account which will then swap you over to that session. I found this very useful in testing access to courses.
You can easily add a new connection or delete the existing connection.
There are a list of features which are on the roadmap for the native app, some already added to the issues tracker. Here is a selection of the items on roadmap
- Resources – select a course you are enrolled in and see the list of the resources so you can choose to download and view the file (if it is a PDF for example)
- Attendance – As Moodle has not got this feature natively, I would imagine that functionality something like the attendence module would have to be added first to Moodle.
- Messages – reading and sending the messages like in Moodle
- Calendar -
Well done Moodle HQ on a great first version.
Moodle has taken a huge step forward with the release of this native application for iPhone. It will be very interesting to see which features are released in what order, as the community gets more and more used to the Official iPhone app. I imagine the audience feedback / Live poll activity will be one which could perhaps replace clickers longterm.
I for one hope to see a native “Dropbox” type interface for the Private files at some stage, but as it’s not mentioned on the roadmap yet, who knows when if ever.
Enabling the Mobile web services on your Moodle 2.1 site.
As a matter of security, web-services are not enabled by default, and only the administrator can turn them on. The steps are quite simple
- Go to the Settings Block
- Select Site Administration
- Select Plugins
- Select Web-Services
- Select External Services
- Tick Enable mobile web service
The Mobile app will now work.