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.
Sustainability – i.e. not relying on technologies that would rapidly date, or advanced skills and knowledge;
Scaleability – ideas had to be sympathetic to demands of large courses and student cohorts.
Responsive – course sites must respond to smaller screen sizes of mobile devices
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:
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 (email@example.com) who will include you in any communications.
The 18/19 course sites are expected to be available in Moodle from July 12th ready for you to prepare for the next academic year. Below you can find useful information that will help you copy content across from your existing course area to your 18/19 site. Please do take note of the activities (listed at the end of this post) which must not be copied between course sites.
New Courses Created
New ‘EMPTY’ 18/19 courses will be automatically created in Moodle.
Students will be automatically enrolled onto their 18/19 Programme, Course, Year Course and units based on the information held in SITS.
Students will see their 18/19 courses in Moodle as soon as they enrol in August/ September
We will enrol staff onto the 18/19 courses in Moodle based on current staff enrolments on 17/18 courses.
If you would like to be unenrolled please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a list of courses.
Previous Course Access
16/17 and 17/18 courses in Moodle will remain active and available to all staff and students enrolled on them
15/16 courses will be switched off.
To copy content from your 17/18 site to your 18/19 site…
Please note that there is a scheduled downtime in July for Moodle, necessary to complete the transition to the UAL hosting. 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. More information on our previous blog post Moving Moodle Hosting to UAL.
The work on moving Moodle hosting to UAL has progressed very smoothly and we are now in the final stages of the project. This week colleagues across the colleges are testing the new Moodle environment to check the integrity of their course sites, course content and enrollments. The next step will be to take Moodle out of service so that we can switch the hosting environment. Important information about how this will impact you is detailed below:
Tuesday 3rd July: Moodle out of service all day. If you try to log into Moodle you will see an ‘Under Maintenance’ screen.
Wednesday 4th July: Moodle out of service until approximately 3.00 pm. When we turn the service back on access will be almost instant within the UAL network, but can take about 24 hours to be globally available.
Friday 6th July: final decision to either continue with UAL hosting or roll back to former hosting arrangement.
Monday 9th July: Moodle back in service
IMPORTANT:Wednesday 4th July – Friday 6th July: Whilst we are confident the switching to the new hosting environment will be seamless, we strongly advise that users refrain from making any major changes or edits to their course content during these few days. During this period the DLSupport team will be checking and monitoring the new environment to ensure performance and reliability is as expected. Should anything critical arise that means we need to roll back to our former hosting arrangements and any changes made to Moodle course sites will be lost.
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 in line with the most stable release of the software and to maintain platform performance and security.
Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 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.
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.
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!
This week the DL Support team started a series of pop-up events aimed at finding out how students use the Moodle Log-in front page. Students were asked to fill in a very quick survey and were encourage to chat to the team about any other issues they encountered using the log-in page and to discuss ideas that could improve the user experience. All gathered information will be used in redesigning the front page to help students better understand what Moodle is all about and communicate a stronger sense of purpose for the platform. The first pop-up event took place in the Blueprint Cafe at LCF High Holborn and in less than two hours the team gathered over 40 responses. The graph below gives some initial indication of how students are using the front-page and highlights the links and content areas students access from this page. The team will be repeating this pop-up event at other colleges, the next one being Central Saint Martins, on Tuesday 1 May to get a representative snapshot from across the university.