In this article, I’m going to give you an introduction to the new Media Player module for Moodle. It’s a flexible, robust and feature-rich method of deploying video in Moodle as an activity.
In November 2009, I started the FLV Player module for Moodle project. It was a way of deploying video in Moodle that was robust, standards compliant and above all easy to use for non-developers. It’s been a great success and I’ve have a lot of feedback from teachers, course content developers and admins. As a result of this, I’ve decided to update the module and include a number of new features. I’ve developed this new version as a separate and distinct module to avoid teachers and course content developers having to redeploy existing instances of the FLV Player module due to conflicts between the old and some of the new module’s settings.
You can already deploy video in Moodle. Why create a Module for it?
Moodle already has media filters that automatically convert HTML links to video files into instances of video player plugins, including Flash, QuickTime, RealPlayer and Windows Media Video. These work well for basic video deployment but don’t allow users to:
- Decide which video player plugin to use
- Control how the video player looks and behaves
- Allow you to deploy streaming video from a media server
- Do anything other than basic video playback functions
The Media Player module uses a single, extremely well developed and supported Flash video player (JW FLV Player) which effortlessly and gracefully handles the majority of web video formats, including FLV and F4V (Flash video), M4V and MOV (Quicktime) and MP4. It also supports the new and popular H.264 (Blu-ray) video CODEC and of course the most asked for feature in web video players, a variety of playlist formats.
Also, the only way to deploy captions with video is to hard-code them into the video file which is inflexible, doesn’t adjust when the video is scaled and doesn’t support multiple languages. External captions, on the other hand, are very flexible, easy to edit and easy to read at any magnification.
Obviously, many teachers and course content designers would like to do much more than basic video playback deployment for e-learning purposes and that’s where the Media Player module comes in.
But video is a resource. Why is Media Player an activity module?
If you only deploy video and nothing more, then it isn’t interactive and it would be unreasonable to call it an activity. The Media Player module includes options that have quite a high degree of interactivity such as Snapshot and Searchbar. As you’ll see while you read this article and try out the demos, it’s much more than a video player and will continue to support more features as they become available.
So what can I do with the Media Player module?
There’s a lot you can do with it and you can also use all of these features in combination with each other. The features are difficult to describe and I think it’s much better to see them demonstrated. See the links at the end of this article for some demos.
Here’s a list of the available options:
- External captions files: Supporting the popular SMIL and SubRip captions standards which allow very detailed control over how captions are displayed. You can also deploy the same video multiple times with different captions that play in the same playlist. Learners can immediately see what captions are available and there is no screen refresh when they select different ones. The captions can also be turned on or off at any time during playback.
- High and normal definition video files: You can deploy two versions of the same video, one normal definition and the other HD. Users can switch between the videos according to the speed of their Internet connection. If you use a streaming media server, you can also use automatic bandwidth checking so that the video player automatically finds the optimum definition of video to play.
- Info box: A consistent way to display information about the video being played (title, description, author and date deployed). An easy way to comply with copyright and licensing requirements.
- Livestream: This one if for live video broadcasts from media servers. Normally, users have to keep checking manually and refresh the web page every few seconds to see if a live broadcast has started. This feature automatically checks at defined intervals to see if the broadcast has begun without refreshing the web page and then plays the video so users are free to do other things while they’re waiting.
- Logobox: Include a logo with videos and also a link. It also supports Flash animation files so you can have an animated logo. The link could be to a web page or to a downloadable ZIP file.
- Metaviewer: Displays metadata information of the video files being played. It’s a convenient way for teachers and course content developers to find out essential information about the video file such as the exact width, height and duration.
- Playlists: By far the most asked for feature on video players is the ability to deploy several videos in one player. For example, if you have a video which is very long, it’s necessary to split it up into shorter (5 – 10 minute) sections or chapters and deploy them in order in one presentation. It supports thumbnail images, titles and descriptions for each item on the playlist. This means that users can easily return to a video and carry on watching from more or less where they left it. It’s also much easier to find a particular section without having to download the entire video. It supports several standard playlist formats including those produced by YouTube.com and iTunes.
- Search bar: Allows users to perform keyword searches on sites such as YouTube.com or, if you have a custom search script, anywhere you wish to define. It’s useful if you’d like users to do research without leaving your site.
- Snapshot: Allows users to take snapshots of frames of the video being played. The snapshots are stored in the course files directory and a link returned to the user. They could use this to post snapshots in course forums or blogs. The ability to store snapshots is controlled by creating a special directory in the Moodle course files directory for each user. To protect your server and users’ computers, the Snapshot feature follows the Flash Player security model and only allows users to take snapshots of videos hosted on the same site as the Moodle. It’s possible to enable other sites but only with a correctly configured crossdomain.xml policy file.
- Use YouTube.com as a video hosting service: Play videos directly from YouTube.com without any annoying advertising or popups and without users accidentally “clicking through” to the YouTube.com site. Only a small unintrusive YouTube.com logo appears in the bottom right of the screen. A cost-effective solution if you don’t mind making your video content publicly available and has the additional benefit of promoting your e-learning courses to a huge audience.
How can I start using it?
The Media Player module plugin for Moodle is open source and available to download and install from the project site hosted on Google Code. Please use the project Issues Tracker to report any problems or requests.
Can I see a demo?
There’s an HD (1280 x 720) video tutorial, deployed using the Media Player module, demonstrating how easy it is to deploy video with it here (login as a guest).
There are more demos of the various features on my Moodle here (login as a guest).