09 November, 2015 · 3 minutes to read
Automatically linking Moodle to Sims.Net and Facility CMIS
I'm regularly asked about whether it's possible to link Moodle to school MIS systems. There's a number of ways to link Moodle to Sims.Net or Facility CMIS, both open source and commercial and here's a summary of the ones I know about. If you know of any others, or feel I've missed some information out, please let me know and I'll add them.
CLEO MIS Upload Tool
The CLEO tool was originally developed by Dan Poltawski for the CLEO Regional Broadband Consortium. It's not a fully automatic tool as you need to create a csv file from your MIS system first. It then simplifies the process of creating users and courses from the data. Once the tool has been run, changes in Sims/Facility CMIS are not automatically reflected in Moodle. I think that if you re-export the data and re-run the tool it will update the courses, but I'm not sure about that. This tool will run with any MIS system you can export csv files from. Suport is via the Moodle forums notably this thread.
The Definitive Guide to SIMS.net, Moodle and LDAP Integration by Penfold_99
Penfold_99 is a highly active EduGeek member who has posted documentation and scripts on how to link Moodle to Sims. The documentation can be found on the Moodle Docs site. It consists of VB scripts to populate Active Directory from Sims, and then a number of scripts to create views in the Sims database so that the enable external database setting for creating courses can be used. It also includes a module to show the timetable from Sims within Moodle. Penfold_99 has given a lot of support on the Edugeek forums around setting it up, for example this thread. This is an automatic solution as Moodle is looking directly at the Sims database. The AD provisioning is run as a scheduled task. You don't need to use the AD provisioning, but you do need a pupil identifier (their UPN) in a certain field in AD as the integration depends on using Active Directory authorisation in Moodle.
There's now a sticky thread on this on Edugeek http://www.edugeek.net/forums/virtual-learning-platforms/28487-definitive-guide-sims-net-moodle-ldap-integration.html.
Guy Thomas's Facility to Moodle Integration Block
Guy Thomas from the Ossett School has developed a Moodle block to integrate Moodle with Facility CMIS. It allows the bulk creation of pupil and parent accounts, and also a teacher to add Facility CMIS teaching groups a Moodle course. The initial creation of accounts is done manually through the Moodle front-end as it is a Moodle block, but there are then scheduled tasks to keep the pupil, parents and teaching group membership synchronised. The documentation it comes with looks good and Guy provides support via the Moodle forums. It does require initial preparation of Active Directory and your existing Moodle accounts to ensure that they all have the Facility CMIS Student ID in to make sure Moodle knows which user is which in Facility.
Salamander Moodle from SalamanderSoft
I'm obviously biased about this one. It will automatically create student, staff and parent accounts from the data in your MIS system (Sims, Facility CMIS, Phoenix, Integris, any csv file or database I can figure out the schema for). It will also create courses based on your criteria, if you can describe it I should be able to do it e.g. course per teaching group or course per subject year combination with teaching groups as Moodle groups. The provisioning is run as scheduled tasks so not quite live. I update the database directly, so if there's other items you'd like doing I should be able to figure it out.
Which should I go for?
That's entirely up to you and what you want out of the integration. The advantages of the Open Source solutions are that the cash price is £0 and you are contributing to the community by using them. The downside is that it can take a long time to get them working in your network and you are reliant on the goodwill, inclination and availability of the writers for support (so far the support from all the above open source tools looks pretty good). For commercial solutions, it's pretty much the opposite, it's going to cost you money, but will take less of your time sorting it out and the commercial company will be responsible for making sure it works and keeps working.
Managing Director / Founder
Richard started SalamanderSoft in 2007 after a successful career as a software developer. Wanting to start his own company and with experience in integrating school systems he set out to build the best integration system for schools and to exceed customer expectations. He starting out on his own, doing all the coding, support and sales until finally the growing number of customers meant he needed to start growing the team. He is still heavily involved in coding the core Integration Suite product in addition to running the company and being the first point of contact for prospective customers.