Thursday, April 16, 2009

Moodle: Email Notfication Problems

A very common theme in the Moodle forums is problems with email notifications for things like submitted assignments, forum posts, graded assignments, etc. It's good to know that I am not the only one having these kinds of LMS problems. I was having issues with email notifications only working every once in a while and I finally had time to dive into the Moodle community and research the issue.

In my research I found that there are two common problems Moodle admins have with email notifications. Turns out I was having both of these problems. The first and more complicated issue is not having a Cron job set up on the web server hosting moodle and the second issue had to do with using SMTP to send email from Moodle.

The first issue was the tough one to figure out. Before researching this issue I didn't even know what Cron Jobs are which made it difficult for me to troubleshoot the issue. After trolling through Moodle forums I learned that a Cron Job is something that tells the server to run processes such as sending emails and running backup routines. I think I may have missed something in the moodle installation that automatically creates the Cron Job because I didn't have one created on my hosted server. Once I figured this out I jumped into creating a Cron Job using instructions from the Moodle Documentation Wiki. At first the instructions seemed easy but as usual the Cron Job I created using the instructions gave me errors. The error I was getting was a result of a UNIX command line that the server did not agree with. The Moodle instructions gave other command line options so I tried another option and it solved the problem. The Cron job started working but the email notifications still weren't working.

At this point the Cron job was working but the emails still weren't coming which lead me to the second common issue of using SMTP settings to send the email. In Moodle you have the option of sending email through SMTP or PHP. If you use SMTP you need to enter your servers information into Moodle which I did and I think I did correctly but it wasn't working. I came across several posts regarding this in the Moodle Forums and one post suggested simply not using SMTP and deleting the SMTP information you entered in Moodle. I did this and bang the emails started arriving. Moodle obviously didn't like what I entered for the SMTP information and wanted to send emails using PHP.

Now I have the email notifications working but they are working a little too well. Submitted assignment email notifications are going to people other than the "Teacher" of the class. I still need to do some fine tuning with this but I have a feeling it is something simple I overlooked.

I hope this post finds other rookie Moodle implementers and helps solve similar issues. Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions for the persisting email notification problems I am having.

11 comments:

Heike Philp said...

Hi Joe,

Thank you very much indeed for this blog which helped us to get the first notifies going by disabling the username in SMTP and all. But strange enough, we got the forums once and have posted replies to the forums and did not receive the notifications of those replies.

So, after the first euphoria that this started kicking off we seem to be back at square one.

Do you have any experience like this?

Joe Deegan said...

Hello Heike,
Glad to hear I helped you over the first hurdle. Are you getting any kind of emails from Moodle. If emails like change password confirmations are going through then maybe it has something to do with the forum. You may want to double check the forum settings and ensure that you are subscribed to the forum. This may have been the first thing you checked so let me know if it doesn't solve your problem. I'm curious to see what the resolution is.

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,

I have been using Moodles for about a year now and recently installed a new one and was experiencing the second problem. Thanks for your advice. I was able to reconfigure the e-mail settings and allow new users to create accounts on their own.

Bill Phelps

Joe Deegan said...

That's great to hear Bill. I'm glad that my post was able to help you solve your problem. I'm planning more Moodle troubleshooting posts in the future so hopefully I will continue to be of assistance. Feel free to shoot me an email or post a comment if you run across any other issues.

Anonymous said...

great post Joe.

Pavan

Josh said...

I'm having a similar problem... the Moodle emails appear to be going to the correct addresses EXCEPT for those at the domain where the Moodle site is hosted. This happens whether using PHP or SMTP in notification settings. We think it might be related to the fact that the client is hosting everything except their email with us, and the email is at the same domain. If anyone else has had this problem or has any ideas about how to fix it, please respond here! Thanks!

Joe Deegan said...

Hi Josh,
You may have already looked into this but is it possible that the problem may be due to filtering or Spam settings for the email domain? I have run into the problem of Moodle emails being blocked because they were filtered as junk mail. Hope you find an answer to your problem.

Bob said...

Hi Joe,

Having the same issue here. Thanks for your suggestions. We're looking at them one by one. The notifications used to work till we moved Moodle to a new server. I'll post when we get it solved and let people know what worked for us.

Josh said...

I changed Moodle's email settings back to use the internal mailer rather than external SMTP, and it rather mysteriously just started working. I think it had something to do with a firewall setting that the client's on-site tech guy messed with.

Joe Deegan said...

Thanks for sharing your solution Josh. I'm sure it will help somebody having the same problem.

Anonymous said...

E-goi has just lunch a Plugin that sends email and SMS notifications or campaigns. Take a look it could be useful: http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=4673