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Here you will find information to keep you up to date with the work we are doing to develop and maintain the digital learning platforms. Use the Categories and Tags on the right hand side to navigate the information and check out the Platform Enhancements page to see the more minor improvements made.

We welcome your thoughts and feedback – on areas we do well, as well as the things you want us to do better. You can leave comments on each blog post, or click the link at the top of the page to leave feedback.

Moodle Upgrade 2018_19

The DL Team would like to thank all colleagues for their patience and co-operation over the past couple of months as the integration of SITS with Moodle was completed. It was an extremely challenging project for all teams involved.

The next step for Moodle is an upgrade. Normally, we would have upgraded this Summer, but due to the other projects it wasn’t pragmatic to add in a further complexity. It’s important that we stay up to date with our release of Moodle, so ideally we need to upgrade this Autumn term if at all possible (we will resume our normal upgrade process Summer 2019).

Upgrade – Expected down time
IT Services have advised that the upgrade and testing will take two days during which time Moodle will not be available for use. Please can colleagues advise of:

a) preferred dates for us to carry out the upgrade
b) dates that we must avoid (i.e. assignment submission dates)

Agreeing dates
Because finding dates that are appropriate for all colleges is extremely difficult, we have set up a shared Google doc where dates can be entered, so that we can come to some agreement about the upgrade window. There never seems to be dates that suit all courses and any flexibility that can be offered by course teams to help us find a suitable date would be greatly appreciated. If you are aware of any dates when the upgrade can not take place (e.g. assessment submission dates) please do let your college TEL Coordinator know. Their contact details are at the bottom of this post.

Limitations on dates from DL Support
Unfortunately the Christmas vacation is not an option we can offer. An upgrade involves teams from multiple departments and not only is Christmas a time when we are very short staffed, IT Services also implements a code-freeze over this period. In addition, we do not carry out upgrades on a Friday due to the risk of Moodle being unsupported over the weekend.
Early in the New Year, i.e. Jan 2019 is a possibility, but we do not want to leave the upgrade later than this.

Upgrade version
We are currently assessing which version we will upgrade to and it will either be the latest release but one (3.4) or 3.5 if that contains critical bug fixes. Once the version has been decided the DLSupport team will provide details of any important changes or new features to be aware of.

College Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Co-ordinators

Bing Choong (y.choong@chelsea.arts.ac.uk) – Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon
Vija Skangale (v.skangale@arts.ac.uk) – Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon
Jennifer Williams-Baffoe (j.williams-baffoe@csm.arts.ac.uk) – Central Saint Martins
Caroline Rogers (c.rogers@fashion.arts.ac.uk) – London College of Fashion
dlsupport@arts.ac.uk – London College of Communication

Moodle Course Roll over

Date(s): 13th July 2018
Platform: Moodle

The DL team have now made the course sites for the 18/19 Academic Year available in Moodle and have enrolled staff to their courses (based on their 17/18 enrollment status).

We are still working to get the 18/19 courses to display in the correct order on the MyCourses page in Moodle. Staff are advised to navigate to their 18/19 course sites using their staff profile located under the drop-down menu from the user’s name in the top right corner. Whilst this work is in progress we have disabled the 18/19 courses in the Admin Tool. If any urgent changes are required to staff enrollments please contact dlsupport@arts.ac.uk.

Staff are now able to edit their 18/19 course sites and roll-over any required content from this year’s sites.

In addition to working on the Course List display, we are starting to process the student enrolments on the 18/19 course sites and we expect this process to complete today.

Moodle Course Roll Over

Date(s): 11th July 2018
Platform: Moodle

Following the IT problem that arose on Monday 09th July causing course sites to not display in the Moodle Digital Learning Support team have made considerable progress in resolving the issue and preparing the course data and enrolments for the 18/19 course sites.

Yesterday the server problem was resolved and course structures were restored and correctly displaying in Moodle. Today the team have been working specifically on preparing 18/19 course sites, meticulously checking staff enrolments to ensure that course sites and enrolments for the next academic year are correct. This is an extremely complex process and involves detailed cross-checking between the old QL data and the new codes and information we are receiving from SITS. Late this afternoon we started the process of pushing all the 18/19 course data to the staging server and will have to leave this to run overnight.

I apologise for the delay in providing access to the 18/19 course sites for staff. The earlier IT problems and the fact that we are managing new processes with the SITS data mean that we are having to proceed with extra caution so that we catch minor and fix any glitches in the data before making everything available to users.

We are hopeful that we will be able to give users access to their 18/19 course sites by tomorrow at the latest.

Intermittent problems with Moodle Access

Date(s): 11 July 2018


IT Services are continuing to investigate why Moodle suddenly appears to go ‘offline’. The Moodle server is constantly being monitored and we know that this server is stable and not going down in any way. We are also confident that the problem is not related to any of the recent maintenance work we have been doing on Moodle.

In terms of resolving the problem, IT Services have managed to replicate the issue and can ‘see’ the problem, but are still trying to diagnose the underlying cause.

The problem is only affecting users who are accessing Moodle from within the UAL network. External users aren’t affected. Chrome also seems to be more problematic than other browsers.

Whilst IT Services continue to identify the problem users may find that rebooting their computer or using a different browser helps minimise the problem.

We will update you with progress as I receive further information from IT Services.

Thanks for your patience and apologies for any inconvenience caused.

The Turnitin has been restored

Date: 11th July 2018
Platform: Turnitin

We’re happy to note maintenance is now complete and all services have been restored. The following Turnitin services were unavailable on July 10, 2018:

  • Turnitin and TurnitinUK (including all integrations)
  • Feedback Studio for iOS
  • iThenticate
  • WriteCheck

Thanks for your patience!

Stay up to date with Digital Learning Support news by following @dlsupportUAL on Twitter.

Course sites now available in Moodle

Date(s): 10th July 2018
Platform: Moodle


An update to the problem of course sites not showing correctly in Moodle. The problem was caused by an issue with the server and databases that hold and process the course and enrolment data. This has now been resolved and successfully tested on our staging environment.

We have just updated Moodle live environment and all courses should now be available again, (please note: some of the 15/16 sites may not appear in quite the right order. We will look into this tomorrow).

Course Roll over:

We are now starting to enrol staff onto the new sites for the 18/19 academic year. We expect this process to complete tomorrow, and I will send a further update to let you know when next year’s course sites are available for colleagues to use.

We apologise for the inconvenience caused and thank you for your continued patience.

IT issues affecting Moodle – update

Date: 10th July 2018


Further to the yesterday update, we are aware of two IT issues that are currently affecting Moodle. Please be assured that work is being carefully co-ordinated across multiple teams in DL Support and IT services to try and resolve these as quickly as possible.

  1. Moodle appears to go ‘down’ or ‘offline’. This is an intermittent problem that is also affecting other web services. It is not related to the change in Moodle hosting or the SITS integration project. IT Services have been able to replicate the problem, which is the first step in diagnosing the underlying cause.
  2. Courses not showing correctly in SITS. Yesterday, there was a problem with the server that holds and processes the data from SITS. We are in the process of reinstating the data and carrying out testing on the staging server before updating the live environment.

We will update you as soon as we have any further information about either of these issues. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Moodle being unavailable to the users

We are receiving calls of a number of problems that are impacting on Moodle. Earlier today there was a problem with the data and some people reported not being able to see all their course sites in Moodle. This issue has now been resolved.

We are also being told of some cases where Moodle suddenly appears to go offline. We are constantly monitoring the server availability and have not detected any unexpected downtime. There is also some odd behaviour being reported from other areas such as the UAL website so these issues may be related. IT Systems are looking into the issues to try and diagnose the underlying cause.

We will keep you informed with any new updates on the situation please take our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Digital Learning Support Team
Teaching and Learning Exchange

Moodle comes home!

A final update on this project.

On Tuesday 3rd July we carried out the final synchronization of data between our and ULCC’s Moodle and pointed moodle.arts.ac.uk to UAL servers, making Moodle live on our own systems.
A number of issues were identified, which we were not able to test during the development or User Acceptance Testing stage. A summary of these issues is below, but they are all now resolved.  (As part of the work, we have increased the security of Moodle and this will prevent embedded content from displaying in certain circumstances. Details of this, and how to manage the problem is at the bottom of this blog post.)
The other good news is that the Web Services team have successfully recruited to the post of VLE Application Support Analyst and Fardin Amiri is due to start with the Web Services team, 7 August. Fardin will be a great boost to the team, providing vital resource to support the in-house provision of our Moodle platform.
That’s not the end for Moodle: we still have the SITS integration and the 2018/19 rollover scheduled next week. We are, however, in a strong, and exciting position in terms of what we can now consider to do to continue improving the experience and service for all staff and students that rely so much on Moodle for teaching and learning.

Summary of issues:

  • Loss of connection to Blackboard Collaborate: Resolved
  • Unable to send external emails: Resolved
  • Course list not displaying correct hierarchy. Resolved
  • SSO for Workflow and MyBlog not working Resolved
  • Un-enrolling users – In Progress this is not a bug or an issue with Moodle but related to the SITS project. This will be resolved when we switch on the data feeds from SITS next week.
  • New student applicants not showing as enrolled in Moodle: – In Progress – this is not a bug or an issue with Moodle but related to the SITS project. The Registry team are still working on enrolling new applicants in SITS and this work is expected to be complete by the end of July ready for pre-sessional activities in Moodle starting in August.

Embedded Content

As part of moving Moodle in house we have also increased Moodle’s security and implemented https.  Content that has been embedded in Moodle sites using iframes may not display if the content comes from a third party webiste which doesn’t allow or support https.

It’s important to note that this is not Moodle or the UAL environment which is preventing this from working – it’s actually the browser.  The reason for this behaviour is that it’s seen as a security risk to mix http and https content in one page.

As many browsers are now moving to support https many websites will be converting their sites accordingly, so this problem will gradually be less and less of a problem. If embedded content isn’t working because https isn’t supported, then the only option is to use a regular link to point to the content, rather then embed it into a Moodle site.

Moodle is now fully back in service and colleagues are able to edit their course sites. If there are any issues or problems in using Moodle that you feel have arisen from this recent work, please do report these to dlsupport@arts.ac.uk for the team to investigate.

Tackling Course Site Design in Moodle

The challenges of creating course sites in Moodle that presents course information, resources and communications in a way that students can easily navigate through and find what they need are well known. Solutions aren’t easy  – not least due to the diversity and complexity of teaching approaches across UAL that need to be represented through Moodle course sites. Understandably, it is natural to consider Moodle course sites as any other web-page and we expect to be able to create a good ‘web-site’ experience for our students.  Good web-site design, however, does require a specific knowledge and skill set and, of course – time! Some courses are fortunate in that they have staff with this skill set who are able to develop quite complex  site designs and organisational structures for their materials. Relying on the skills of a few members of staff, however, is seldom sustainable in the longer term.


In June, the digital Learning Services team convened a small group of people interested in looking at how we can address this issue of course site design so that all staff can develop and maintain their Moodle site without specialist web-design and coding skills. The discussions were underpinned by the following principles.

  1. Sustainability – i.e. not relying on technologies that would rapidly date, or advanced skills and knowledge;
  2. Scaleability – ideas had to be sympathetic to demands of large courses and student cohorts.
  3. Responsive – course sites must respond to smaller screen sizes of mobile devices
  4. Reducing complexity


The group consisted of people from a cross section of support, teaching, training and leadership roles. Through the discussion we looked at examples of Moodle course sites, shared experiences of designing and maintaining Moodle sites, discussed the skills and knowledge required, thought about our training provision and explored ideas for new technical solutions.


By the end of the discussion, we agreed that the priority should be to focus on modelling what can be achieved in Moodle just using the tools and resources readily available – i.e. without any specialist knowledge of html / css. We agreed that we would collaboratively design three different scenarios for course site design that would help:

  • Reduce scrolling
  • Make resources easy to find / locate
  • Have visual appeal
  • Be easy for staff to add and manage their resources and content
  • Reduce unnecessary clutter and complexity


The more technically minded members agreed to explore the potential of ‘Markdown’ – an html / css editor that could enable greater flexibility within defined limits, but doesn’t require extensive coding knowledge. Another area to look at would be researching any available plugins that have been developed for Moodle.


We are going to experiment with using Slack (https://moodledesignworkgroup.slack.com)  to help continue our discussions. Our next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday September 19th, 2.00 pm. If you are interested, you would be warmly welcome to join in the discussions. Please email Andreea Stan (a.stan@arts.ac.uk) who will include you in any communications.