Monthly Archives: March 2009

Current projects

OK, I’m trying to get back into this blogging thing. This month my main project has been setting up a system to automatically populate Moodle courses with the students who have registered for them. Currently, if the course has an online component in Moodle, each student has to get an enrollment code from their professor and then sign on to Moodle and enter that code to enroll in the Moodle course.

To save this extra step, I’ve developed a system that can look at a CRN entered in Moodle, and go to Banner and get the roster of students registered in that course, then create an enrollment record for them in that Moodle course. This was a little hairy to figure out because the Moodle database doesn’t just say “this student is enrolled in this course”; there’s an abstraction layer I don’t fully understand, but I did figure out how to use it to enroll a student.

I’m just waiting for the CRNs to be entered into Moodle, and then I can run the script. I’ll set ut up to run every morning for the first few weeks of the term, to catch late adds. I don’t yet have a good way to unenroll a student from a course, so the professors are going to have to handle drops on their own.

The ultimate goal is to automatically create a Moodle course component for every course listed in Banner for a given term, but that’s still a ways off. I’ll need to dissect the process by which Moodle course shells are created, and find a way to do that via a script.

The next major project is to clean up our user database before we move to the new LDAP, email and calendar servers sometime in the next few months. We have several thousand accounts ont he system for students who did not graduate but have not registered for any classes for two years; over the long term, we’re going to delete accounts when they reach that point, but the first time we do it, we’ll be getting rid of about five years’ worth at once.

This will mean cleaning out a lot of disk space, too, at least hopefully. Students already lose access to their files after they leave or graduate, but a lot of that stuff is still on the system. Graduates will still keep their email addresses, as long as they log in every couple years or so, but they won’t have an on-campus network login, or any file storage.

I feel like we’ve been running around putting out fires for so long, it’ll be really nice to actually make some progress on something like this.

Oh, and I’m on Facebook now if anybody’s into that. Just look for me by name; there are more Swartzendrubers than you might expect, but only one Ron who is listed as Western Oregon staff.

Felt like I got hit by a train

I’ve been fighting a low-level cold for a couple of weeks, and I thought I had it beaten, but last Thursday it came back and bought its friends. That pretty much shot my weekend, but I’m feeling better now and ready to get caught up on the stuff I got behind on from taking sick time.

Other than that, the main thing I’m working on now is a way to automatically create everybody a Moodle account, so we can link Moodle to the WOUPortal. In case you aren’t familiar with Moodle, it’s our main tool for online classes, or for adding online content to normal classes. Some of our online class stuff is still on the old WebCT server, but most of it has been moved to Moodle. To check out Moodle, go to

The next project is to automatically enroll students in the Moodle courses as soon as they register for the class in Wolf Web. I’ve figured out the basics of how to do this, but the tricky part will be to detect when people drop courses, and un-enroll them in Moodle.