Types of Plugins in Moodle and Totara: When to Create Which One

| By Webner

What are Moodle and Totara?

Moodle is a modular system. Totara extends the core structure of Moodle. The LMS is meant to handle the core necessities expected of a high-end company LMS. This means that Moodle and Totara both were built to be able to include additional functionality to its core platform. We can add additional features with the help of plugins. Plugins allow users and organizations to extend and customize the functionality of their system. This flexibility is what makes Moodle/Totara collaborative and community-enhanced.

Plugins can allow you to customize your site to match the particular requirements of your organization. The plugin is the easiest and most maintainable way to add new functionality to your LMS System. No matter what kind of functionality you want to add in Moodle/Totara you can add by creating one of these types of the plugin (Activity, Block, Auth, Report, etc.). Although there are many different types of plugin, and every plugin has its own work and functionality. Here I’m going to introduce you to some of the types of plugins.

Activity Plugins:

An Activity is a general name for a group of features in a Moodle/Totara course. Activity Plugins are also called activity modules because these are situated under the mod directory. Activity modules are essential types of plugins in Moodle/Totara as they provide activities in courses. There are many different types of activities in the standard Moodle/Totara that can be found when the editing is turned on and the link ‘Add an activity or resource’ is clicked. Here are some of the examples of Activities like Assignments, Chat, Lesson, Quiz, Survey, Seminar, etc.

When To Create: Activity Plugins refers to provide the main activities in the course, such as Forums, Assignments, Quizzes, and so on. Usually, an activity is an action that students can perform to interact with other students and/or teachers. For example, when we need to discuss something with other people we can use the existing Chat Activity plugin.

Report Plugins:

Reports in Moodle are very powerful and will tell you what your students have been doing in a module and when. It provides useful views of data in a Moodle site for admins and teachers. In Simple terms, Report plugins provide us a detailed view of activities, participations, or users log in a more meaningful way. There are different types of Report Plugins in Moodle/Totara. Here are the types of reports available in LMS System: Logs, Live Logs, Activity Report, Statistics, Last access to the course.

When To Create: Reports tell us what students have been doing on our System. We generate reports when we need to know which pages students are accessing, the times at which they access and the activities they perform within modules. When we need to check or provide a detailed list or report or need to store data as a backup for future use, we can create a report.

Block Plugins:

Blocks are items that are added to any page in Totara/Moodle. We can add additional content or functionality to existing pages by using these plugins. This is a small information-displays or tool that can be moved around pages. Blocks are managed by a site administrator or another role with the Manage blocks capability. There are a variety of blocks available in Totara such as the HTML or Featured Links, Quiz results, Current Learning, etc.

When To Create: When we need to show some information or message to users about something happening in the system then we need to create small blocks of information that we can show anywhere in the system. Like you want to display a list of courses of only logged-in users then this can be easily possible by Blocks. There are some existing Blocks in the system that we can use or create custom according to our requirements.

Local Plugins:

Local plugins are Generic plugins that are used for local customizations. A local plugin is that work as a trigger. It works automatically when an event is fired. Local Plugins’ behavior is event-driven, it will occur within page loads. The local plugins are mostly appropriate for things that don’t match standard plugins.

When To Create: As we discussed in the local plugin introduction, it works as a trigger when some event fires this plugin, it works immediately after that. For example: if you want to enroll the user in every course on user creation, in this case, we need to create a custom local plugin that will execute after the user creation event will fire.

Authentication Plugins:

These plugins allow connection to external sources of authentication. The authentication use case in Moodle starts once a user clicks on the Login link within the UI or struggles to access a protected page. There are two broad categories of authentication plugins, the regular type wherever moodle handles the password and ones wherever the password is handled by a third party page eg SAML, OpenID, etc.

When To Create: We need to create Authentication Plugins when we want to add some more features to the system like login via Google / Facebook / Messenger Oauth2 Authentication. At this time, we need to create authentication plugins.

Theme Plugins:

Theme plugins are used to change the look of the LMS System by changing the HTML and CSS. Moodle contains a powerful theme system that allows for a range of effects by using HTML and CSS. A Moodle/Totara theme allows the user to change the look and feel of an LMS site. Themes can also be based on parent themes with only a few customizations.

When To Create:
We create Theme plugins when we want to change the design of our LMS System. As we know, look and feel is the most important thing in all systems. We need to create as the system can easily interact with users.

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