Blog Archives

Starter Guide to Customising Moodle Themes

At the iMoot this year I did two sessions on how to customise Moodle themes if you don’t have a lot of experience already with PHP and CSS.

This PDF is my presentation, but of course there’s a huge section where I did some demonstration.

Basically what it boils down to is:

  1. Get yourself a theme that has a custom settings page with a custom CSS box. There are quite a few standard Moodle themes that already have this, so you don’t even need to download and install one.
  2. Get yourself Firebug for whichever browser you prefer to use. For theme design, I prefer using Firebug in Firefox, but the browser extension is available for several different browsers.
  3. Watch this quick YouTube video on how to use the Firebug extension specifically with Moodle and a custom CSS box.

Away you go!

Just remember a couple of things:

  • Never, ever make back-end code changes directly to a core Moodle theme. Reasons why are in the PDF presentation.
  • Your changes in Firebug are temporary and will be lost if you refresh the page. To keep any changes, they must be put into the custom CSS box of your theme.
  • If you do want to make back-end code changes to a theme, DUPLICATE it first.

If you want to learn more about Moodle theme design, try our MoodleBites for Theme Designers course!

    One of those posts

    It seems that whenever I get a blog, I (eventually) fill it up with posts that start with, “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while…”


    So what have I been doing?

    I presented at Wintec at their eLearning conference. I did two presentations, the first one was about the changes in Moodle 1.9 to 2.x, and was basically a condensed version of the MoodleBites 1.9 to 2.x course we run. The second was a brief slot during a wider presentation on PD opportunities, and I talked about what MoodleBites had to offer for lecturers and other staff at Wintec.

    I have been working on the MoodleBites for Theme Designers course.

    I currently have three courses on MoodleBites that I am facilitating, so that is keeping me busy, too. MaharaBites, MoodleBites for Theme Designers, and the Moodle 1.9 to 2.x Upgrade course.

    My work at Unitec has also been keeping me busy with our pilot of Moodle 2.2 site launching just before Christmas, then right up to this week (the first week of Semester 1, 2012). The campus is teaming with students again and has really come to life after a quiet Christmas period where there was no one here but us chickens.


    I have done some training here and there onsite, which is always great fun. I love going to different schools or tertiary institutes and working with their lecturers. It gives me a great buzz to show people new things about Moodle, especially if they’re keen to learn.

    Dave’s Moodle 2 File Adventures

    Because I am getting questions a lot now that Unitec is going to upgrade to Moodle 2, and one of the questions I get is around the files area (or lack thereof).

    Here are two little slideshows I think you should watch if you are struggling to understand the whys and wherefores of the behaviour of files in Moodle 2.



    Thank you so much, Mark, for creating these!

    Quiet on the western front

    Yep, it’s been all quiet in here. I think I detect an echo, and maybe some tumble weeds. This is my usual thing where I only get around to posting if I’m really procrastinating doing something else (which at the moment is writing my NaNoWriMo novel, developing some themes for a Moodle client, mowing the lawns…).

    I have been trying out some pretty neat Moodle stuff. Let’s see if I can find it all again.

    Sloodle for Moodle 2 – I tried and broke the Sloodle Alpha for Moodle 2. Seems that the ports on my domain are locked down just a little too tight, but the Sloodle team were making noises that eventually they would look at a work-around for that. Otherwise, the Sloodle tools installed just fine on my Moodle 2.1 site, and the new Sloodle rezzer is just… brilliant. This is a definite MUST TRY!

    Drag and Drop upload block – This looks and works so great, the only drawback is that when you drag and drop files into your course using this block, they don’t appear anywhere in the file viewer, and there was something else I couldn’t do with the files because they just didn’t seem to ‘be’ anywhere. Don’t remember what, though. But a definite time-saver for teachers to upload resources to a course.

    Flexii_ii theme – I had a play with this on my Moodle 2.1 site, and it looks great. Does not seem to work too well on IE, but I haven’t had a proper play to see if it is specific to the version of IE or operating system or a combination of both.

    MobileMoodle theme – Not much to say here except that it is great. Yep.

    Moodle Mobile App – I managed to scrounge an iPad off work (borrowed, of course) to install the Moodle app and have a play. I got it all working with my Moodle 2.1 site and had a play. There’s not a lot to it yet, but I have hopes for the future of this app.

    Grid format – a Moodle custom course format that hides all topics and creates a grid of images, which when you click on them it brings up a lightbox-style popup with the resources. I tried this out on my own Moodle site and I like it a lot. I can see how this can make a course page so much more appealing!

    I think that’s all for now… so perhaps not so quiet on the western front, after all…

    Themes, CSS and HTML5

    Needing to get back into theme design for Moodle 2, and needed to update the look of my site at to reflect a new logo and also abolish the use of tables in favour of divs. So, I sat down with the w3schools site and self-taught myself some HTML5 (which looks awesome, by the way) and played around with a lot of CSS. Dragonslair hasn’t been updated to the new theme yet, though, because I need to still rework a bit of code in the existing structure to match how I’ve rearranged some things.

    But… it certainly gives me the confidence to now go and have a look at Moodle 2 theme layouts. Yes, layouts. I spoke with Julian Ridden during the NZ MoodleMoot 2011 and he told me some exciting things about layouts that I just can’t wait to go off and try. Then it’ll be time to keep working on MoodleBites for Theme Designers.

    On a personal note – got the inlaws coming to visit this weekend, which will be good. 🙂 I enjoy their company. Also, on the Saturday night I have a photography job (hence the sudden rush to get the Dragonslair site looking how I want it). Then the following weekend I’m going skiing! Woohooo! Hoping to be able to get up north and visit my parents the weekend after that. Been doing Zumba in an effort to get fit, but all I’ve managed to do so far is make myself feel very old and stiff. Ah well, I will persevere.

    Moodle for Teachers – resources

    Just quickly putting together a list of some great Moodle for Teachers resources.

    First one is a book on Issuu called Moodle 2.0 for teachers – an illustrated guide. Even if you are still using Moodle 1.9, there are still some very handy and relevant hints and tips in there on how to set up some of the activities and add resources.

    Another resource is the Getting Started for Teachers page on MoodleDocs.

    Below is also a PDF file called Moodle for Teachers and Trainers. This document takes you through all the different aspects of Moodle that you need to know to get started, from using the HTML editor through to installing your own version of Moodle.

    A really awesome Moodle Tool Guide created by Joyce Seitzinger! It’s published under Creative Commons so you can print out and distribute happily.

    This is by no means all the resources available, but certainly a good start.

    Happy Moodling!


    New adventures

    As you have probably realised by now, I am not a very reliable or frequent blogger, I am more of a micro-blogger. I use Twitter and Facebook as my main forms of keeping people up-to-date, sharing my thoughts, and finding out what other people are doing.

    But I am embarking on new adventures both in my work and personally, so perhaps it is time to put more of an effort into blogging. 🙂

    I have started work at the awesome Te Puna Ako in Unitec. Got a really friendly team and am feeling right at home. My official job title is Learning Management System and Web 2.0 Advisor – but it comes down to it that I’m basically the go-to person for Moodle support here at the moment. I’ll also be quite involved in organising the MoodleMoot here in Auckland, which runs from Tuesday 26th to Thursday 28th July 2011. It’ll be held here at Unitec, and organised by HRDNZ (Moodle Partner).

    Speaking of HRD… I am still working for them, too. I am developing courses on MoodleBites (especially the MaharaBites course) and facilitating some courses there as well. There are other future plans on the horizon for me at HRD, and I look forward to those!



    Our MaharaBites course started yesterday. Anna, Maryel and I have been working hard to put together an 8-week course all about Mahara, the ePortfolio system that works so well with Moodle. On April 1st it was launched!

    We’re excited to be facilitating this course, because Mahara is such a fun ePortfolio system it’s more like playing on a social networking site at times than actually doing work – and yet it is about resources, reflection and sharing.

    I really look forward to seeing how people’s ePortfolios grow as the course progresses.