Workflow Upgrade

Following consultation with colleges, work to upgrade Workflow is scheduled for 11th and12th September 2018. During the upgrade Workflow will be taken down and will not be available to colleagues or students. We apologize for the inconvenience, but the upgrade is essential to keep the platform inline with the most stable release of the software and to maintain platform performance and security.

Time Scales

  • Tuesday 11 and Wednessay 12 September 2018 – Workflow upgrade*
  • Thursday 13 September 2018 – Workflow will be back online for User Acceptance Testing**
  • Friday 14 September 2018 – Workflow upgrade sign off**

The Digital Learning Support team are currently upgrading the dev environment so that we can analyze any new features or changes to functionality. Digital Learning support will issue guidance about any key differences prior to the end of the Summer term.

*During this time Workflow will be taken down and will not be available to colleagues or students.

**Although Workflow will be available to use on these days, it is still ‘at risk’. We advise that colleagues and students do not make any critical edits to Workflow sites during this ‘at risk’ period as any changes are likely to be lost should problems arise requiring us to roll back to the current version of the software. We will put up a message in Workflow during the ‘at risk’ period to warn users of this.

 

NO Moodle UPGRADES scheduled for this summer

As you might have already read in one of our previous posts, Moodle hosting is planned to move in-house this July. There will be a necessary downtime in order for the full transition to be completed, but please note that there is no Moodle upgrade scheduled for this summer. Once the hosting transition is complete Moodle will continue to look and work the same way as before.

For more details regarding the move of Moodle hosting and the downtime dates, please read our previous post – Moving Moodle Hosting to UAL.

Digital Learning Support Self Service

You can now raise a help request directly with the DL Team through the MySupport Self Service.  

Why use The Digital Learning Support Self Service?

  • If you are working within the UAL network it is quick and easy to use!
    *It is not yet available outside of UAL network
  • Using Self Service will enable the team to process the requests more efficiently than by email. It automatically generates and sends you a support ticket that confirms your request for support.
  • Using Self service helps capture all the required information up front and saves time spent by the team contacting the sender for additional information before work can start on resolving the requests
  • Using Self service will ensure requests are automatically directed to the correct team, for example, login issues will be automatically directed to IT Services rather than Digital Learning Support
  • Through Self Service you can track the the progress of your request, or update your request with further information. This helps keep all communication about your request in one place, rather than dispersed across various emails.

Please do bookmark the link and consider using Self Service next time you need to contact DL Support. We look forward to supporting you!

 

 

 

 

DLS team away day

The DLS team got together last Tuesday for the annual team day. This time we thought it would be good to spend the day away from everything digital and to try something new to all, so we decided to have a go at pottery and started the day early in Peckham, at  The Kiln Rooms – a wonderful open access ceramics studio based at Peckham Levels.

The staff at The Kiln Rooms were incredible – great artists, teachers and people too – and they helped us quickly get from a handful of clay to not so perfect but still functional pots.

 

  

Catering was provided by Wildflower Cafe – super yummy and a must go, especially if you are vegetarian/vegan!

Moving Moodle hosting to UAL – key dates

For more detail about Moodle hosting please read the longer version – Moving Moodle Hosting to UAL

When we first moved to Moodle from Blackboard back in 2012 there was insufficient capacity, resource and expertise within UAL to host a platform as complex and heavily used as Moodle.  Since then, however, IT has acquired state-of-the-art hosting facilities in Slough, and re-organisation of the Digital Learning Team has helped build strong and collaborative working relationships with IT Services, placing expertise and resource where most appropriate to manage and maintain a robust and reliable service.

These developments have enabled us to review our hosting options, and over the past couple of months IT Services have been designing and building a prototype environment that has allowed us to assess the feasibility of hosting Moodle in-house. The testing and assessment of the prototype was highly successful and the decision has been taken to transfer Moodle hosting from our current provider to being managed and supported by UAL’s IT Services teams.

Expected Downtime

  • Tuesday July 3rd – Hosting switched to UAL. Moodle out of Service. 
  • Wednesday 4th July – Digital learning Team Testing. Moodle out of Service 
  • *Thursday 5th July – UAL Final User Acceptance Testing
  • *Friday 6th July – Final proceed / roll-back decision.  
  • Monday 9th July – Moodle back in service 2018_19 course sites available for rollover
    * Moodle will be available, but users should note that if any critical issues arise during UAT and the decision is made to Roll back and not change our hosting arrangements  all changes made in Moodle during these dates will be lost and not recoverable.

Moving Moodle Hosting to UAL

When we first moved to Moodle from Blackboard back in 2012 there was insufficient capacity, resource and expertise within UAL to host a platform as complex and heavily used as Moodle.  Since then, however, IT has acquired state-of-the-art hosting facilities in Slough, and re-organisation of the Digital Learning Team has helped build strong and collaborative working relationships with IT Services, placing expertise and resource where most appropriate to manage and maintain a robust and reliable service.

These developments have enabled us to review our hosting options, and over the past couple of months IT Services have been designing and building a prototype environment that has allowed us to assess the feasibility of hosting Moodle in-house. The testing and assessment of the prototype was highly successful and the decision has been taken to transfer Moodle hosting from our current provider to being managed and supported by UAL’s IT Services teams. We have now served our notice with ULCC and are in the process of planning with them the transition to UAL. 

What does this mean for our users? 

Bringing Moodle in house will not have any impact on how Moodle functions. It will look exactly the same and continue to work in exactly the same way as before. There will need to be some downtime while we make the switch and users should expect Moodle to be out of service for a couple of days. Details of the schedule are below. 

Hosting Moodle ourselves will, however, bring a number of benefits: 

  • It will give us much more access and control over our data, and the processes that ensure the relevant course spaces appear in the right order, with the right students enrolled.  
  • We will no longer be dependent on a twice daily sync process for changes to course structures or enrolments to be updated in Moodle. Any changes will appear instantaneously. 
  • We will no longer be dependent on a third-party for managing our annual upgrade process. We will have full control over the upgrade, and ensure that procedures are properly planned to ensure the upgrade proceeds smoothly and with minimal disruption for our users. 
  • Some of the costs saved by moving Moodle in-house are being used to recruit an additional team member within IT Services to support the management and maintenance of the platform.

What are the time scales? 

  • Tuesday 1 May until 31 July – Moodle code freeze for functionality change requests 
  • Friday 22d June – New hosting environment build complete 
  • Monday 25th – 29th June – UAL User Acceptance Testing 
  • Tuesday July 3rd – Hosting switched to UAL. Moodle out of Service. 
  • Wednesday 4th July – Digital learning Team Testing. Moodle out of Service 
  • *Thursday 5th July – UAL Final User Acceptance Testing
  • *Friday 6th July – Final proceed / roll-back decision.  
  • Monday 9th July – Moodle back in service 2018_19 course sites available for rollover
    * Moodle will be available, but users should note that should any critical issues arise during UAT and decision is made to Roll back, all changes made will be lost and not recoverable.

How does this project fit with the SITS Project? 

We are working in partnership with the SITS project team to complete the SITS-Moodle integration at the same time as bringing the hosting to UAL. Bringing these two projects together will minimise the amount of downtime needed for our end users. 

It sounds a complex project what are the risks? 

As with any institutional project there are a number of risks and the project team are conscious that the SITS integration brings in another layer of complexity. Below is an overview of those risks and how we are working in partnership with the SITS project team to mitigate the likelihood of them having a negative impact on our ability to deliver both the change of hosting and the integration with SITS 

Risk  Mitigating Action 
New hosting environment can’t be purchased and implemented in time scale  We have collaborated closely with the relevant teams and they are aware of our timescales and requirements. Budgets have been agreed and hardware requirements specified ready for procurement 
SITS integration work can’t be completed on time  We are holding fortnightly meetings with the SITS project team to review project plans and timescales. Key milestones have been identified to monitor progress. 

 

We have tested the Moodle prototype with data from the current student record system, QL, and, if needed the SITS integration can be rescheduled for a later date. 

 

Testing of the new hosting environment reveals a systemic problem.  We have agreed a rolling contract with our external provider so that we can continue with the current hosting solution. 

 

Process Arts – retired from service

 

Process.arts, was a grass roots web2.0 open educational environment for sharing day-to-day arts practice and research of UAL staff, students and wider communities of practice. Developed in 2012 the platform straddled the institution/educational (formal learning) environment and the social (informal learning) environment by  creating an ‘experimental’ space for open educational practitioners to develop and define a new language for open edu-social practice without conforming or being influenced by pre-existing academic structures and processes.

Now, several years on, we have decided to retire the platform. It is now provided as an archive to the rich and varied content that was contributed over the years but is no longer running as a dynamic and interactive site. The decision to archive this platform was partly based on the fact that it needed a major upgrade that would have required a lot of redevelopment of the custom features. The platform also wasn’t fully meeting users requirements for collaboration with external partners, and evolving practices across UAL in working openly and flexibly beyond the boarders of UAL.

Rather than try to rebuild  Process Arts, the Digital Learning team are now considering leading a discovery project to work with interested parties to examine the many ways across UAL in which staff and students are engaging in open practice  and how the digital can best support these ways of working.

 

Getting started with MyBlog, Moodle and Workflow

UAL Digital Learning Platforms – Workflow, MyBlog and Moodle form the core of our digital provision for supporting student learning facilitating reflection, exchange of knowledge and ideas, and documentation of creative practices between students, staff and wider communities. The Digital Learning team understand, however, that before you can use these with your students, you need to have some familiarity and confidence in navigating the platform and understanding in how to use some of the core features.  We run regular workshops that will help get you started and give you the opportunity to chat through any issues to build both your understanding and your confidence. 

The workshops are delivered online using a virtual classroom called Blackboard Collaborate where you can chat in real time with the tutor and other participants from a location convenient to you.  The workshops are usually structured in 3 steps. Firstly, the tutor will deliver a short presentation giving examples of how the platform is being used in different teaching contexts and highlighting use of various tools and features. You will then engage with a number of short tasks that guide you through the core features of the platform.  During this time you can stay online and speak directly to the tutor if you require further help or support. The session will conclude with a discussion where you can share with the tutor and the other participants your thoughts on the platforms, something you created with them or any other ideas you have. 

The workshops last an hour and a half and are scheduled on a weekly rolling basis. You don’t require any special equipment or software – just a quiet space, a laptop connected to the internet, and a set of headphones. Using a microphone would be a plus, but it is not essential.

All the workshops with full details can be found from the Teaching and Learning Exchange website, along with a booking form.  

Previous participants told us:

Being able to try out things without worry. I mistakenly deleted an entire course! 

‘The live element was great.’ 

Sign up and come and join the discussion and find out more about how you might use these platforms in your teaching!

Rationalising content and accounts in DL Platforms

Moodle, MyBlogs and Workflow  were first introduced over 6 years ago. In that time we have not removed any content or student accounts. We have now reached a point where the amount of content accumulated on each platform is causing a number of issues that we need to address.

  1. The sheer amount of content is now putting pressure on the performance of our platforms and particularly with Workflow, growth in the amount content is at constant risk of exceeding our capacity to provide sufficient storage space.
  2. One of the core principles of New General Data Protection and Retention rules is that personal information should not be kept beyond the life of its original purpose. We need to ensure that we are not retaining personal data on our platforms beyond its intended purpose.

Alongside these needs to manage the amount of content on each of our platforms we do recognise that there are some teaching contexts content and resources are collated and used iteratively and progressively by both staff and students supporting numerous communities of practice, many of which continue to exist beyond a student’s study at UAL. The Digital Learning Services team will work with course teams to look at how such teaching resources might be supported over the longer term.

Principles for managing data in our DL Platforms

Over the past few months the Digital learning Services team have been working with colleagues from Assessment and Quality, IT Services, and Records Management to agree the following core principles that will inform our approach to managing student accounts and associated content in Moodle, MyBlog, and Workflow.

  1. Digital Learning platforms only need to hold onto content for assessment/exam board purposes. QL/SITs holds long term and definitive data on grades.
  2. A student account and all associated content will remain on the DL platform for the duration of the student life-cycle. (i.e. from offer acceptance through to exit from UAL).
  3. Student accounts and associated content will be removed to an archive facility 150 days after the user’s course end date as per use of email facilities specified within IT Regulations.
  4. A student account and any content associated with that account will be deleted from the Digital Learning Archive after 1 year following a student’s exit from the University.
  5. Students will be formally advised to export their content / work from a DL Platform prior to their exit from UAL.
  6. There may be some teaching scenarios where there is a requirement to keep student generated content beyond the life-cycle of the student at UAL, for example, as exemplars and resources to be used with other students, or where students have collaborated with an open, or on-going project. Where explicit consent has been obtained, content will be retained in accordance with the terms that have been agreed with that user (if technically possible).
  7. The Digital Team will work with the Legal team to review Terms and Conditions of use for each platform in light of new GDPR legislation.

What will happen next?

The next stage will be to work out processes for putting these principles into practice.

  1. We will prioritise Workflow as this platform is the most demanding in terms of storage requirements.
  2. The team in the Exchange will work with course teams to draft out various teaching scenarios for us to carry out tests of deleting content and accounts on our dev environments. This will enable us to assess the wider impact of deleting content and users from shared resources before we removing any content or accounts from the live envrionment.
  3. We will design and develop workflows and procedures that enable us to remove and delete content and accounts whilst retaining the  integrity of that platform within identified, and specific teaching contexts.