How to Install Moodle on Ubuntu 20.04 | 18.04 with Nginx and Let’s Encrypt

This brief tutorial shows students and new users how to install Moodle, a Leaning Management System (LMS) on Ubuntu 18.04 | 20.04 with Nginx HTTP server and Let’s encrypt wildcard SSL certificates.

Moodle is an opensource, mobile friendly learning management system (LMS) that makes it easy to create and distribute your own courses and training materials for any purpose.

You can use Moodle to power your online course and learning websites with ease, without the need to learn how read and write complicated codes and scripts.

When you’re looking for an opensource, free, and useful LMS to run your coursework online, Moodle should probably be a starting point for you. And if you want to learn how to easily install and mange it, then this post is all you need.

For more about Moodle, please check their Homepage

To get started with installing Moodle, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Install Nginx HTTP Server

Moodle requires a web server to function, and Nginx is one of the most popular opensource web server available today.

To install Nginx on Ubuntu, run the commands below:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install nginx

After installing Nginx, the commands below can be used to stop, start and enable Nginx service to always start up with the server boots.

sudo systemctl stop nginx.service
sudo systemctl start nginx.service
sudo systemctl enable nginx.service

To test whether Nginx is installed and functioning, open your web browser and browse to the server’s IP address or hostname.

http://localhost

nginx default home page test

If you see the above page in your browser, then Nginx is working as expected.

Step 2: Install MariaDB Database Server

You’ll also need a database server to run Moodle. A database server is where Moodle content get stored.

A true open source database server that you can use with Moodle is MariaDB database server. It is fast, secure and the default server for almost all Linux servers.

To install MariaDB, run the commands below:

sudo apt-get install mariadb-server mariadb-client

After installing MariaDB, the commands below can be used to stop, start and enable MariaDB service to always start up when the server boots.

sudo systemctl stop mariadb.service
sudo systemctl start mariadb.service
sudo systemctl enable mariadb.service

Next, run the commands below to secure the database server with a root password if you were not prompted to do so during the installation.

sudo mysql_secure_installation

When prompted, answer the questions below by following the guide.

  • Enter current password for root (enter for none): Just press the Enter
  • Set root password? [Y/n]: Y
  • New password: Enter password
  • Re-enter new password: Repeat password
  • Remove anonymous users? [Y/n]: Y
  • Disallow root login remotely? [Y/n]: Y
  • Remove test database and access to it? [Y/n]:  Y
  • Reload privilege tables now? [Y/n]:  Y

To verify and validate that MariaDB is installed and working, login to the database console using the commands below:

sudo mysql -u root -p

type the root password when prompted.

mariadb welcome

If you see a similar screen as shown above, then the server was successfully installed.

Next, run the commands below to open MariaDB default config file…

sudo nano /etc/mysql/mariadb.conf.d/50-server.cnf

Then add the highlighted lines below and save.

[mysqld]
#
* Basic Settings
#
user = mysql
pid-file = /run/mysqld/mysqld.pid
socket = /run/mysqld/mysqld.sock
#port = 3306
basedir = /usr
datadir = /var/lib/mysql
tmpdir = /tmp
lc-messages-dir = /usr/share/mysql
#skip-external-locking
innodb_file_format = Barracuda
innodb_file_per_table = 1
innodb_large_prefix = ON

Restart MariaDB after that…

sudo systemctl restart mariadb.service

Step 3: Install PHP 7.4 and Related Modules

Moodle is a PHP based application, and PHP is required to run it. Since some versions of Ubuntu don’t have the latest versions of PHP, you can add a third-party PPA repository to install PHP from there.

The command below will add a third-party PPA to Ubuntu.

sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ondrej/php

Then update and upgrade to PHP 7.4

sudo apt update

Next, run the commands below to install PHP 7.4 and related modules.

sudo apt install php7.4-fpm php7.4-common php7.4-mysql php7.4-gmp php7.4-curl php7.4-intl php7.4-mbstring php7.4-soap php7.4-xmlrpc php7.4-gd php7.4-xml php7.4-cli php7.4-zip

After installing PHP 7.4, go and configure some basic settings that may be required for Moodle to function properly.

Run the commands below to open PHP

sudo nano /etc/php/7.4/fpm/php.ini

Below are good settings to configure for most Moodle websites.

file_uploads = On
allow_url_fopen = On
short_open_tag = On
memory_limit = 256M
cgi.fix_pathinfo = 0
upload_max_filesize = 100M
max_execution_time = 360
date.timezone = America/Chicago

That should get PHP 7.4 installed with some basic settings to allow Moodle to function.

Step 4: Create Moodle Database

When all the servers are installed above, it’s now time to begin setting up Moodle environment. First, run the steps below to create a blank database for Moodle to use.

Logon to MariaDB database console using the commands below:

sudo mysql -u root -p

Then create a database called moodle

CREATE DATABASE moodle;

Next, create a database user called moodleuser and set password

CREATE USER 'moodleuser'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'new_password_here';

Then grant the user full access to the database.

GRANT ALL ON moodle.* TO 'moodleuser'@'localhost' WITH GRANT OPTION;

Finally, save your changes and exit.

FLUSH PRIVILEGES;
EXIT;

Step 5: Download Moodle

At this point, Moodle is ready to be downloaded and installed. Use the commands below to download the latest version of Moodle. At the time of this writing, the latest version is 38.

To view Moodle releases, see this page.

sudo apt install git curl

After installing git and curl above, change into the Nginx root directory and download Moodle packages from Github… Always replace the branch number with the latest branch.

cd /var/www/
sudo git clone -b MOODLE_38_STABLE git://git.moodle.org/moodle.git moodle

Then run the commands below to set the correct permissions for Moodle to function.

sudo mkdir -p /var/www/moodledata
sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/
sudo chmod -R 755 /var/www/
sudo chown www-data:www-data /var/www/moodledata

Step 6: Configure Nginx

Below is where you configure Nginx VirtualHost file for the Moodle site you’re creating. This file defines how client requests are handled and processed.

Run the commands below to create a new VirtualHost file called moodle in the /etc/nginx/sites-available/ directory.

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/moodle

A very good configuration settings for most Moodle site on Nginx server is below. This configuration should work great.

Copy the content below and save into the file created above.

server {
    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;
    root /var/www/moodle;
    index  index.php index.html index.htm;
    server_name  example.com www.example.com;

    client_max_body_size 100M;
    autoindex off;
    location / {
        try_files $uri $uri/ =404;
    }

    location /dataroot/ {
      internal;
      alias /var/www/moodledata/;
    }

    location ~ [^/].php(/|$) {
        include snippets/fastcgi-php.conf;
        fastcgi_pass unix:/run/php/php7.4-fpm.sock;
        fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
        include fastcgi_params;
    }
}

Save the file and exit.

After saving the file above, run the commands below to enable the new site, then restart Nginx server.

sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/moodle /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/
sudo systemctl restart nginx.service

At this stage, Moodle is ready and can be launched by going to the server’s IP or hostname.

http://localhost

However, if you want to enable SSL or accept web traffic over HTTPS, then you can continue below to install and configure Let’s Encrypt free SSL certificates.

Step 7: Install Let’s Encrypt Wildcard Certificates

At step 6, Moodle is ready to use without SSL. However, if you want to serve web traffic over HTTPS, then installing and configuring Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate or other public certificates is a must.

To install Let’s Encrypt, run the commands below.

sudo apt update
sudo apt-get install letsencrypt

The commands above will install certbot tool and all dependencies that will be allowed to make the tool function.

Let’s Encrypt provides many ways to challenge you to validate that you own the domain you want to provide SSL certificates for. You will not be able to generate certificates if you can’t prove that you own the domain you want to secure.

For wildcard certificates, the only challenge method Let’s Encrypt accepts is the DNS challenge, which we can invoke via the preferred-challenges=dns flag.

So, to generate a wildcard cert for domain *.example.com, you run the commands below:

sudo certbot certonly --manual --preferred-challenges=dns --email admin@example.com --server https://acme-v02.api.letsencrypt.org/directory --agree-tos -d example.com -d *.example.com

The command options above are explained below:

  • certonly:                                     Obtain or renew a certificate, but do not install
  • –manual:                                    Obtain certificates interactively
  • –preferred-challenges=dns:      Use dns to authenticate domain ownership
  • –server:                                      Specify the endpoint to use to generate
  • –agree-tos:                                 Agree to the ACME server’s subscriber terms
  • -d:                                               Domain name to provide certificates for

After executing the command above, Let’s Encrypt will provide a text string to add a text record to your DNS entry…

Example:

Saving debug log to /var/log/letsencrypt/letsencrypt.log
Plugins selected: Authenticator manual, Installer None

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Would you be willing to share your email address with the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, a founding partner of the Let's Encrypt project and the non-profit
organization that develops Certbot? We'd like to send you email about EFF and
our work to encrypt the web, protect its users and defend digital rights.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(Y)es/(N)o: y
Obtaining a new certificate
Performing the following challenges:
dns-01 challenge for example.com

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
NOTE: The IP of this machine will be publicly logged as having requested this
certificate. If you're running certbot in manual mode on a machine that is not
your server, please ensure you're okay with that.

Are you OK with your IP being logged?
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(Y)es/(N)o: y

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Please deploy a DNS TXT record under the name
_acme-challenge.example.com with the following value:

x4MrZ6y-JqFJQRmq_lGi9ReRQHPa1aTC9J2O7wDKzq8

Before continuing, verify the record is deployed.

Go to your DNS provider portal and add a text record for the string above and save…

Let's Encrypt DNS

Wait a few mins before continuing from the prompt.

Some DNS providers take a wile to propagate changes so it may depend on your provider’s platform.

After the changes above and Let’s encrypt is able to validate that you own the domain, you should see a successful message as below:

IMPORTANT NOTES:
 - Congratulations! Your certificate and chain have been saved at:
   /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/fullchain.pem
   Your key file has been saved at:
   /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/privkey.pem
   Your cert will expire on 2020-01-09. To obtain a new or tweaked
   version of this certificate in the future, simply run certbot
   again. To non-interactively renew *all* of your certificates, run
   "certbot renew"

The wildcard certificate is now generated and ready to be used.

To verify that the certificate is ready, run the commands below:

sudo certbot certificates

That should display similar screen as below:

Found the following certs:
  Certificate Name: example.com
    Domains: *.example.com
    Expiry Date: 2020-01-05 07:48:04+00:00 (VALID: 85 days)
    Certificate Path: /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/fullchain.pem
    Private Key Path: /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/privkey.pem

Now, Let’s Encrypt’s certificates are valid for 90 days… You’ll want to setup a crob job to automate the renewal process… To do that, open crontab and add the entry below:

sudo crontab -e

Then add the line below and save…

0 1 * * * /usr/bin/certbot renew >> /var/log/letsencrypt/renew.log

Save and you’re done!

With Let’s Encrypt installed, reopen Nginx VirtualHost file created above and add Let’s Encrypt configurations to secure your website.

Run the commands below open the file.

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/moodle

Then add the highlighted lines to the VirtualHost file as shown below:

server {
    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;
    server_name *.example.com;
    return 301 https://$host$request_uri;
}
server {
    listen 443 ssl http2;
    listen [::] 443 ssl http2;
    root /var/www/moodle;
    index  index.php index.html index.htm;
    server_name  example.com www.example.com;

    if ($host != "example.com") {
      return 301 https://example.com$request_uri;
    }

    ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/fullchain.pem;
    ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/privkey.pem;
    ssl_trusted_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/chain.pem;
    ssl_protocols TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2 TLSv1.3;
    ssl_ciphers 'TLS13+AESGCM+AES128:ECDHE-ECDSA-CHACHA20-POLY1305:ECDHE-RSA-CHACHA20-POLY1305:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256:ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:DHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256:DHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-SHA256:ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-SHA:ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA384:ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-SHA384:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-SHA:ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA:DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256:DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA256:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA:ECDHE-ECDSA-DES-CBC3-SHA:ECDHE-RSA-DES-CBC3-SHA:EDH-RSA-DES-CBC3-SHA:AES128-GCM-SHA256:AES256-GCM-SHA384:AES128-SHA256:AES256-SHA256:AES128-SHA:AES256-SHA:DES-CBC3-SHA:!DSS';
    ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
    ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:50m;
    ssl_session_timeout 1d;
    ssl_session_tickets off;
    ssl_ecdh_curve X25519:sect571r1:secp521r1:secp384r1;

    client_max_body_size 100M;
    autoindex off;
    location / {
        try_files $uri $uri/ =404;
    }

    location /dataroot/ {
       internal;
       alias /var/www/moodledata/;
    }

    location ~ [^/].php(/|$) {
        include snippets/fastcgi-php.conf;
        fastcgi_pass unix:/run/php/php7.4-fpm.sock;
        fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
        include fastcgi_params;
    }
}

After the above, restart Nginx and PHP 7.4-FPM

sudo systemctl reload nginx
sudo systemctl reload php7.4-fpm

Next, open your browser and browse to the server domain name. You should see Moodle setup wizard to complete. Please follow the wizard carefully.

https://example.com/

Then follow the on-screen instructions.

Select the installation language, then click Next to continue.

Moodle Ubuntu setup

On the next screen, choose a database drive [MariaDB] and click Next to continue.

ubuntu moodle install

On this screen, type in the database info you created above, including the database name, username and password.

Then click Next to continue.

Ubuntu install moodle

Here is where you type in the admin username, create a password and other details.

Moodle wizard ubuntu

When you’re done, Moodle should be installed and ready to use. Login as admin and begin configuring your site.

Ubuntu moodle setup

That’s it!

Congratulation! You have successfully installed Moodle CMS on Ubuntu 18.04 | 20.04. If you find any error above, please use the comment form below to report it.

Thanks,

You may also like the post below:

10 thoughts on “How to Install Moodle on Ubuntu 20.04 | 18.04 with Nginx and Let’s Encrypt

  1. Hi,
    A great tutorial, only you left the moodle folder inside the ‘web’ folder and it doesn’t work when you go to the domain via the browser.

    or it doesn’t work for me.

    Kind Regards
    ken

  2. Hello,

    good job, it saved me because i’m just start on ubuntu and dependancies.

    so, just a lottle error for SSL :
    server {
    listen 443 ssl http2;
    listen [::] 443 ssl http2;

    just correcte by :
    listen [::] :443 ssl http2;

    My Nginxwas able to start now

  3. This is amazing, thanks for this explanation, could you help me with one more thing?

    I’m trying to publish my website for external access, my address is ead.flyeagle.com.br, but I only see the NGINX pages and I can’t access ead.flyeagle.com.br/moodle

    could you help me with these settings?

    Thank you

  4. Sorry, I’m new to nginx. I went through steps 1-6 and am still getting the Welcome to nginx screen. I’m sure I can just delete “/etc/nginx/sites-available/default” file but is there a more elegant way?

  5. Thank you for the step-by-step tutorial
    I followed till the end of step 6 without any issues on a fresh installation of Ubuntu. Unfortunately, when opening localhost it still shows “welcome to nginx” etc. but no Moodle.
    The upper post from ken collinson already mentions an issue but I couldn’t figure out how to solve it on my own. Can someone help out

    1. Figured it out.
      Go to /etc/nginx/nginx.conf and change the line where it says include /etc/nginx/sites-enabled*; . Add your site to the end of that line. So for me it was /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/moodle*;

  6. Can’t renew the SSL certificate

    Could not choose appropriate plugin: The manual plugin is not working; there may be problems with your existing configuration.
    The error was: PluginError(‘An authentication script must be provided with –manual-auth-hook when using the manual plugin non-interactively.’)

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