Author Archives: Ruth Powell

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!

A new home for Moodle

When we first moved to Moodle from Blackboard back in 2012, we selected ULCC to host our instance of Moodle. At that time, ULCC were better resourced and provisioned than UAL to ensure a robust and reliable service and were able to support development of a number of customizations needed to manage the complex amalgamation of course data and student enrollments from our student record system.

The capability and capacity of UAL’s IT Services has developed considerably over the past few years, and with the new Data Center at Slough offering the resilience and reliability needed from a platform used 24/7, 365 days a year, its now timely to review our hosting options.

The Exchange are working closely with Web Services in IT to develop a prototype to explore the potential of bringing Moodle hosting in-house. Having Moodle in-house will give us much more access and control over our data, and all the clever bits of scripting that processes our data to present the relevant course spaces in the right order, with the right students enrolled.

Digital learning Services are hoping to start testing the prototype in the next few weeks and if the prototype looks promising, then we’ll continue to develop the plans to bring Moodle fully in-house. We would like to make all changes to the hosting environment by the start of the new academic year. There are, however,  important dependencies with the SITS project to be considered and factored in so a precise schedule has not yet been planned, and it will, of course, depend on the outcome of the prototyping stage. At a very high level there are three stages to the project:

  1. Build prototype with existing QL data to test proof of concept ( internal Digital Learning testing)
  2. Build test environment using Data from new student record system SITS – (wider UAL testing)
  3. Build live environment

Whilst this is a very technical project, with little front-end impact for our users, it is an exciting project and one that will ultimately enable the Digital Learning team to be more proactive, and responsive to the changing teaching and learning needs of both staff and students.

Data Center Migration of DL Platforms complete

After many months of quite complex logistics, MyBlogs, Workflow, OAT and connections to Moodle have now been migrated to the new Data Centre in Slough. This was a really important piece of work carried out by IT Services and whilst the benefits of the migration may not be immediately apparent, IT Services have already reported an increase in performance with MyBlogs and Workflow with pages now loading more quickly. Other benefits include a more resilient, and robust service due to more reliable power supplies and enhanced server security which will greatly reduce the risk of server failure and unplanned service outages. 

To migrate each platform required us to take each out of service for a period of time. Whilst we tried to schedule the work when there was minimal use of that platform, we know that some colleagues, and students, were inconvenienced by this.  I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you for everyone’s patience and co-operation in working flexibly with us to accommodate the scheduled maintenance times and help IT Services carry out the work necessary.

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 – 3rd July

Moodle will be undergoing its annual upgrade on Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th July. Please put this date in your diary. We will be upgrading to V3.4.

We are working hard with our supplier to minimise the downtime required but Moodle will need to be taken offline for the work to be carried out and for the new release to be fully tested prior to being released back for use.

I will post up further details about new features, or changes to the existing interface and a more detailed schedule nearer the time.

New Servers for OAT – 20th March

The current servers for OAT are old and out of date. To maintain the performance and security of OAT, IT Services will be migrating OAT to new servers on 20th March 2018 and will take a full day to do the necessary work.

OAT will be taken out of service for the day whilst the work is carried out.  We have tried to schedule the work for when the least number of people will be needing to use OAT but acknowledge that some people will be affected by this maintenance work. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.