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Tech Tip July 2017 – Moodle 3.3 Emojis and utf8mb4

If you are considering upgrading to Moodle 3.3 there are a few things to be aware of…

As with all new versions of Moodle, it’s important to check the usual minimum requirements in terms of webserver, database, and PHP version.

One things that caught my eye when tesing Moodle 3.3 is the inclusion of support for Emojis – ideograms and smileys used in electronic messages such as Facebook and Apple Messages and web pages (a development of the more simplistic emoticons).

I’m not a huge user/fan in particular, and a simple smiley face is often enough for me 🙂   But the inclusion of Emojis is Moodle 3.3 does force administrators to ensure, if using MySQL, that the database has support for this feature.

Note that you don’t have to enable this for Moodle 3.3 to work, but some users, maybe younger users(?) may appreciate the Emojis.

Administrators need to understand that this feature requires the database to be in –collation=utf8mb4_unicode_ci format.  There is a script within Moodle to convert the database, but as mentioned in the official documentation this can be slow.  On a small test site it took me nearly a minute … and there was almost nothing in the database!  For those with multiple Gb size databases, it’s going to be vital to backup the DB first, and schedule some downtime for the upgrade to take place.

Additionally, administrators need to alter the Moodle config.php file, and MySQL configuration file – my.cnf.

Whilst these changes are relatively simple, for those non-technical enthusiasts who host their own sites, or use shared hosting, this could create real challenges.

We also found things a little awkward on Ubuntu as the my.conf file was actually a series of symlinks as a consequence of upgrading from Ubuntu server from LTS14 to LTS16 – something to be aware of.

The official documentation for Emojis and full unicode support is here:

There are also some useful discussions taking place in the Moodle.org Forums on this subject, such as:

But look around for other more recent threads too 🙂

Stuart Mealor
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Stuart Mealor

Stuart is interested in all things e-learning, with specific interests in Moodle, e-learning strategy, and business development. His experience in education over 30 years, MBA in International Business, and knowledge of e-learning systems implementation, together with graphic design background, give him a unique skill set for e-learning projects.

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