Open source software is the perfect choice for educational institutions because it’s free (which is great for schools with very limited budgets), and the software’s flexibility and open nature suits the learning environment. Claroline might be one of the finest open source solutions for educational institutions. The elearning platform is well-suited for building online courses and managing online and collaborative environments. Before you follow my tutorial on how to set up Claroline, I highly recommend you check out the demo.


Claroline can be installed on Windows, Linux, BSD, UNIX, and Mac environments. The requirements are:

  • Web server (Apache recommended)
  • PHP >= 5.1 scripting environment configured with these modules: mysql, zlib, preg.
  • MySQL >= 4.23
  • MTA (optional, but highly recommended)

Step-by-step installation

Since Linux is my platform of choice, I will be demonstrating the installation of Claroline on a Ubuntu 11.04 operating system. The instructions for your OS of choice will only need to be modified slightly (according to the needs dictated by the environment).

1: Download and unpack the necessary file.

Download the latest, stable Claroline file and move the file to your web server’s document root (for Apache 2 on Linux, that will be /var/www but for a WAMP server that might be C:\Program Files\wamp\www\). Once the file is in the right location, unpack the file with the command:

sudo tar xvzf clarolineXXX.tar.gz

where XXX is the release number. You can rename the clarolineXXX directory for ease of use if you want. For the purpose of this how-to, I will leave the directory name as is.

2: Change permissions of the necessary directories.

Two directories need permission changes. This can be done with the following commands:

sudo chmod ugo+w /var/www/claroline-1_10_X/
sudo chmod -R ugo+w /var/www/claroline-1_10_X/module

where X is the release number.

3: Start the web-based installer.

Point your web browser to http://ADDRESS_OF_SERVER/clarolineXXX/claroline/install.php (where XXX is the release number) to begin the installation process.

4: Begin the web-based install.

The first screen of the web-based installer is the welcome screen. The second page will test to make sure your server meets the requirement needs. If you see that any of the requirements have not been met, install those requirements and refresh that page.

The first step in the web-based installation that requires any user interaction is the MySQL database Connection Settings page (Figure A). One nice thing about the installer is that it will create the database, so there’s no need for you to have to either use the MySQL command line or depend on third-party software to create it.
Figure A

This page is for the connection parameters. (Click the image to enlarge.)

One of the critical options in this page is the Database Usage option, of which there are two choices:

  • Single: A single database will be used for all courses.
  • Multi: Individual databases will be created for each course.

If the machine running Claroline only runs Claroline and you know there will be numerous courses added, choose the Multi option; if the server hosts more than Claroline (especially services that require databases), I recommend selecting the Single mode.

5: Configure the database.
On the next page (Figure B), the specifics for the database are required. Claroline will create the database (and the necessary tables) for you, so you can accept the defaults and click Next.
Figure B

If there is no name for the database by default, name it claroline. (Click the image to enlarge.)

6: Set up the Administrator account.
The next step is to set up the administrator account. Figure C shows the necessary options for the administrative user.
Figure C

All options here are required, as indicated by the red *. (Click the image to enlarge.)

7: Set up the platform.
In this step, the platform is overall configuration for your institution (Figure D). The Name will be the name displayed at the top of the Claroline installation. Make sure the absolute URL is correct (it should be filled in by default) and select the language for the site. The courses directory should already be configured for you, and the directory already included in the archive package.
Figure D

The last stage of this page is the user options; this is where you can select whether your users can self register. If you disable self-registration, all users will have to be registered manually by the administrator. (Click the image to enlarge.)

8: Fill out additional information.

In this step, if your institution has a related organization, the name and URL can be added; the Campus Contact information section is not optional — that is, you must fill it out.

9: Review your configurations and install.

This step will show all of your Claroline install configurations for your review. If everything meets your approval, click the Install button. If something in the install parameters is incorrect, click the Back button to go back and make the necessary changes.

10: Protect or remove the install directory.
Once the installation is complete, you need to either protect or remove the install directory; this is for security reasons and will not stop Claroline from functioning. If necessary, log in to your Claroline install and make sure it’s working before removing or protecting this directory. At the bottom of the “success” page there will be a link (Figure E) you clear instructions for what should be done next
Figure E

This page gives you clear instructions on what to do next. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Congratulations! You have a working Claroline installation. Log in with your admin account and start setting up your institution.