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Update: Noodle will continue to work after the July 21st 2011 transition, but see the updates section below for details.

What is Noodle?

For teachers and trainers - Noodle is a module, downloadable by your Moodle administrator, which makes it very easy to add NLN Learning Objects to Moodle course pages. By making a streamlined version of this website available from within Moodle itself, it makes adding Learning Objects to a course page even easier than adding Word documents.

For administrators - Noodle is a module for Moodle 1.8 and 1.9 that adds a new Resource type to Moodle. On selecting "NLN Learning Object" from the Add a resource drop-down menu, the Moodle user is presented with a streamlined version of this site and allows adding any NLN Material to a course. It's rather like a repository, except the actual materials are still held on our servers, so unlike a local copy, you don't have storage, bandwidth or upgrade responsibilities to worry about. Setup is straightforward and only involves the addition of a few files to your Moodle installation, typically completed in a few minutes.

Using Noodle to add resources to a Moodle page

This section is aimed at Noodle users (i.e. teachers and trainers). Staff trainers and Moodle admins - feel free to adapt this section for your own support materials.

  1. Log into your Moodle in the usual way, and find the course you want to edit.
  2. Turn editing on.
  3. From the relevant Add a resource menu, pick NLN Learning Object.
  4. Don’t worry about filling in all the required fields – just click the Browse the NLN Materials button. A popup window will take you to a simplified version of this web site.
  5. You can then browse the collection by subject and level, by expanding the various sections presented and clicking the buttons to the right.
  6. You'll then be presented with a list of matching Learning Objects. You can filter the list further by using the boxes on the left - finding a specific word, and/or excluding options you aren't interested in. You can also click column headers to sort by that column. Click a Learning Object's title to view its details.
  7. When you reach an LO's detail page, you can preview the LO's content. If this is an LO you wish to add to a course, click the Add to Moodle course button.
  8. You'll then be returned to your Moodle course, the required fields (title and description) will be filled in, though you can edit these further if you like.
  9. Click one of the Save buttons to complete the process.

Once the NLN resource is added, you can use Moodle's own tools to further edit the course at any time.

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Development background

As part of their role in supporting the NLN Materials service Xtensis received many requests from users wishing to use the materials within Moodle - indeed it is by a considerable margin the most common target platform for the materials. In response, they carried out a review of the various methods the materials can be used within Moodle, detailing the four available methods, giving instructions, pros, cons, and common issues users may encounter with each one.

Following this review, Xtensis found that none are perfect. Of the four, three require Moodle administrators to download large sections of the library, and store them locally, where practitioners will have to choose suitable LOs based only the filename or title - which misses out on the powerful search and browse facilities provided by the NLN site, as well as all the supporting documentation and tools, such as pertinent FAQ questions, tutor documentation, news feeds, case studies etc. In addition, any solution that requires local storage of the materials may end up not utilising any updates of the content.

When the materials were delivered via the Content Access Tool, many users were frustrated with the lengthy and complex procedure involved, and the Moodle community created an extension for Moodle to build a simple local repository - the IMS Repository module. This proved very popular, and eventually became part of the default Moodle installation for use as a general purpose repository, in a “grab-and-run” approach - getting all the materials from the CAT as simply as possibly, and then dealing with them locally. Another reason the module proved popular was that the CAT’s format for the materials was incompatible with Moodle’s inbuilt Scorm functionality, and the IMS repository module bypassed this limitation.

Given the above, an optimum solution for allowing practitioners to use the NLN materials in Moodle consists of:

  1. an easy and powerful way for practitioners who use Moodle to be able to locate NLN materials exactly suitable for their learners, utilising the metadata contained within them: level, FE Topic, ACL topic, batch, round, ratings etc.
  2. practitioners using Moodle should not need to leave the Moodle environment to be able to most effectively locate and utilise the NLN materials.
  3. Moodle administrators should not have to download the entire library (and keep it up to date) just to allow easy access for their practitioners.

This project therefore involved the development of a cut-down version of the NLN site, made available within Moodle. A new Moodle resource type was developed, specifically dedicated to NLN Learning Objects. It:

  1. utilises much of the existing functionality of the NLN site, being hosted at the same location, and thus minimising bandwidth and installation requirements for Moodle admins
  2. keeps all the significant functionality of search and browse of the NLN site, incorporating all relevant future developments of the main site
  3. does not require any download of the NLN materials
  4. allows a very simple and risk-free installation, staying entirely independent from the IMS Repository module (and its variants and upgrades). (Both can be used if required.)

Collectively these two elements - the Moodle extension and the cut-down NLN site - are known as the NLN Materials Browser for Moodle - or "Noodle" for short.

Installation for the Moodle administrator is simple - requiring only a couple of new files to be added. These will not overwrite any existing files, or effect existing functionality. Individual tutors and learners do not need accounts on the NLN site to use Noodle.

See the readme.txt file included in the download for full information on installation, configuration, and advice on publicising the facility to tutors.

Updates

The 'final' version of Noodle version 1.0 was released in 2009.

On July 23rd 2010, the NLN Materials Service has handed to LSIS. A new version of the main site has been created, which maintains all the key ways to access the materials, but without the need to register and log-in (and consequently, without collections or tracking of organisations). See the Transition section of the FAQ for details. To continue to use Noodle, you don't need to do anything, but please note:

  1. Due to the simplified technology used in the new site, text search from the front page of Noodle is no longer supported, and the search box has been removed. Users can still use text filtering after selecting a subject/level.
  2. A new version of the download is offered below (version 1.1). If you already have Noodle installed, there is no need to upgrade. Version 1.0 required a configuration file with your organisation ID and organisation password. These are are no longer required and the config file has been removed from the download. The readme file has also been updated accordingly. Noodle 1.0 will continue to offer the org ID and password, but these will be ignored. Because of this, existing installations will continue to function correctly.

License

Noodle is released free of charge, and can be freely modified if required, under the terms of the General Public License. The GPL covers only the files included in the download package, and confers no additional rights to the NLN website or NLN Materials.

In summary, to download the package you must agree to the terms of the GPL license for the code included. By using it to connect to the NLN site, or enabling others to do so, you must agree to the terms of the NLN Materials Service terms of use. See here for the latter.

Support

Noodle was developed by Xtensis during their role as developers of the service, and was released free of charge as a (hopefully) useful additional service to the NLN Materials community. As of July 23rd, Xtensis have no ongoing involvement in developing or supporting the NLN service, and as such, there is no ongoing formal support for Noodle. A dedicated thread on the Moodle.org forums has been set up for community support.

Download and Deployment

Noodle has been developed and tested on Moodle 1.8 and 1.9. It may also work with previous versions - we'd be very pleased to hear from any user who tries this. The current version does not work with Moodle 2.0.

Since the majority of the functionality still takes place within the NLN site, the actual installation is minimal, with no content to download, and no Moodle database changes required. The module simply adds a new resource type, with the installation consisting of a new folder named "nln". The zip file contains a readme.txt file that contains full installation instructions - please read it carefully to avoid any issues.

Download Noodle 1.1