Using filters to enhance Moodle™ courses

Did you know that Moodle™ provides teachers with the possibility of using filters to enhance the appearance of their courses? Just like you can do with digital photos Moodle™ gives you the chance of applying filters to change course content. For example by enabling filters you can allow the system to create shortcuts automatically embed images and flash content display mathematical expressions sensor inappropriate words and much more.

The application of filters in Moodle™ is quite granular; they can be applied site-wide course-wide or with a specific course activity or resource. Moodle™ filters are fairly easy to use. However they must be enabled by a site administrator for them to work properly.

If you are an admin you can enable filters for your site by navigating to Settings > Site administration > Plugins > Filters > Manage filters and setting each filter for your site as On (always available for all courses) Off but available (teachers can choose whether to enable the filter for the course or activity) or Disabled (always off for all courses). Teachers can modify filters at the course level within Settings > Course administration.

While filters are very helpful it is important to know that you should use them only when necessary because they have the potential of slowing your system by increasing the load on your server. In today’s blog I’d like to explain the functionality of commonly used filters and provide you with tips on how to apply them in your courses.

Multimedia plugins filter

The Multimedia plugins filter searches for links that point to multimedia resources (e.g. image files Flash videos PDF documents MP3 audio) and replaces the link with the multimedia player corresponded to the type of file loaded in the page. For example if you create a hyperlink to a mp3 file the filter will enable the audio player (that is installed in your computer) to steam it.

I recommend that you always use this filter because it allows students to access multimedia files without needing to download them. However if you do not want the player to display on a particular activity go to Settings> Activity module administration> Filters and turn off the multimedia filter. Learn more about using this filter for video and audio files.

Auto-linking filters

There are three types of auto-linking filters available in Moodle™: Activity names auto-linking Database auto-linking and Glossary auto-linking. These filters search for titles of activities or glossary/database entries within the content and create hyperlinks to access them.

The Activity auto-linking filter is helpful for teachers who have students that need extra help navigating in the course because it creates shortcuts to access course activities as the words written in the page match the title of the activity. Similar types of shortcuts can be used if the teacher decides to create a database activity in the course; in that case the Database auto-linking filter creates links that take students to entries posts of database activities. The Glossary auto linking filter works using the same principle but instead of taking the student to the glossary entry it opens a pop-up window with the content of the entry written on it. This type of filter is particularly helpful because it helps students remember important terminology that is often used in the course. However you may want to turn it off within a quiz activity.

Algebra and Tex notation filters

Creating mathematical expressions is one of the most time consuming tasks when building math and science courses. Many teachers use text expression syntax such as TEX to add formulas and equations to the content of their online courses. The Algebra and Tex notation filters available in Moodle™ work together to convert text expression syntax into GIF images.

The creation of such syntax could be quite cumbersome for people who are not familiar with TEX notation but luckily Moodle™ has a plugin called Drag Math that allows for the creation of mathematical expressions using a graphical drag-and-drop interface. The DragMath plugin is an open-source equation editor (written in Java) that teachers can launch via the WYSWIG HTML editor. If you are a math or science teacher I highly recommend reading the DragMath documentation to learn how you can use this plugin to create mathematical expressions in your courses.

Multi-language content filter

The Multi-language content filter is perfect for institutions that need to have the same course available in multiple languages. The filter works by looking at <span lang="xx" class="multilang"> HTML tags and matching them with the language selected in the user’s profile. The following picture shows a simple example on how to use this filter.

If the multi-language content filter is on students who have English selected in the user profile will see the words “Good Bye!” while students who have selected Spanish would see the word “Adios!”. This feature only works when the course setting for language is not forcing a specific language.

Word censorship filter

If you are concerned about students writing profanity in your courses consider using the Word censorship filter. This filter automatically sensor obscene words to students by blacking them out in any text submitted within a course.

Moodle™ has a default list of censored words that is included within the censor.php file. If you need to add more terms to the list your site administrator can easily enter additional bad words by going to Settings > Site administration > Plugins > Filters > Word censorship. Please note that as a teacher you will not see the words blacked out this was done intentionally so you can you to examine what has been written and take corrective action.

In this post I highlighted some of the commonly used filter in Moodle™ If you are interested in learning more about other feature in Moodle™ visit out site to learn about our training offerings.

Happy Moodling!

~Marcelo Mendes



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