Developer Profile – Dan Marsden

This is part of a blog series of short profiles on plugin developers within the Moodle community. Today it is Dan Marsden.

Name: Dan Marsden
Source Code:

Tell us something about yourself

My wife and I have 5 great kids; Justin, Britney, Tori, Larissa and Malea, and my work hours fit around school pick-ups/drop-offs.

I maintain the Choice and SCORM Modules in Moodle, Developer of the Plagiarism API in 2.0. I have worked extensively on a range of other areas in Moodle including various 3rd party plugins.

I now work as the “Christchurch office” of Catalyst (a Moodle Partner) from a home office which allows my time to flex around the needs of a large family!

When did you first start programming?

I started with quickbasic as a 14yr old hacking on various programs including one that replicated the school login screen (dos based) (which I didn’t use for malicious purposes – honest!)

My first paid gig was a bit later developing an ASP based website connected to some data from a filemaker db.

When did you first encounter Moodle?

My first introduction to Moodle was in a position at Lincoln University after being hired as the “educational developer” to look after their in-house LMS based around Microsoft FrontPage and a back-end Microsoft Access Database….. I quickly spent time looking for ‘something better’ and started playing with Moodle 1.3/1.4 – I then got on board with a Government funded project that collaborated with a range of higher ed institutions in NZ looking at the range of open source LMS that were available at the time and recommend one to be adopted by the institutions involved in the project. (Moodle was selected)

My first bits of Moodle development were to add the “limit” function to the choice module (the Lincoln LMS had a lab booking app written in perl that needed to be replaced by functionality in Moodle) I then created the ntlm auth plugin (which has since been merged into the standard ldap auth plugin in core) to allow SSO.

What did you use Moodle for?

In my first job it was both Moodle admin and dev, but now it is 100% as developer.

What was your first Moodle plugin? Why did you write it?

My first “plugin” was the NTLM Auth plugin – when I first started at Lincoln the in-house LMS used a separate username/password to access each course which was given to students at the start of the year and they would have 6 or 7 different passwords to access the different courses so they were always forgetting them, having difficulty accessing the courses, so before we moved to Moodle I implemented NTLM Auth across all course sites allowing them to use their “main” user login to access their courses – at this time we also implemented a process to pull user enrolments out of the SMS (PeopleSoft) and store them as groups in Active Directory so we could set group level permissions on the server. When we moved to Moodle we wanted to keep the SSO that NTLM provided for on-campus users.

What is your latest Moodle plugin & why did you write it?

My latest plugin is a generic courseformat called “singlemod” based on the SCORM course format that allows other modules to be loaded as soon as someone enters a course.

The SCORM course format allows a single SCORM to be loaded as the only item in the Moodle course – I saw a request from a user asking for another module to be loaded in a similar way so I wondered how quick it would be to develop a course format that would support something similar.

I’d be interested in replacing the SCORM course format in Moodle with this new code – it needs a little bit of work before this can be done and the only module that currently supports it is the SCORM mod.

What would you say to someone who is considering writing a Moodle plugin?

Find a recently developed core plugin to base your code on – DON’T look at SCORM!!!.

Final Thoughts

Google, Google, Google.

The community forums are a massive knowledge base – use Google to search through for keywords of a problem you have – then if you still can’t find anything, don’t be afraid to ask questions in the forums – try to find the most appropriate forum first – don’t cross-post the same question in multiple forums – then wait patiently for a response!

Some Plugins

This is a list of the plugins that Dan has contributed to that are currently (Jan 2012) in the Moodle plugins database. To view all these in the Plugin database check this page

Turnitin plagiarism plugin
Turnitin is a commercial plagiarism detection system which requires a paid subscription to use – This Plugin integrates with the existing Moodle Assignment module.
URKUND plagiarism plugin
URKUND is a commercial Plagiarism Prevention product owned by PrioInfo AB – you must have a paid subscription to be able to use this plugin.
My courses
An alternative to the Course Overview block used on “My” Homepage.
Course Contents
Course contents block produces a table of contents for the course – that is a list of all visible sections (topics or weeks) in the course. Clicking at one of these links will display that particular section. Read the review
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