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.
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.
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:
Build prototype with existing QL data to test proof of concept ( internal Digital Learning testing)
Build test environment using Data from new student record system SITS – (wider UAL testing)
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.
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.
What is Moodle? Not an easy question to answer succinctly – even for those people who have been using it for a while.
Feedback from students tells us that they also struggle to understand what Moodle is: the problem, we think, is compounded by the Log-in page, which presents Moodle as being everything! From IT Support, to Timetables and Student Discounts.
This Log-in page acts much like a Portal to all the services and resources potentially useful to students. However, analyzing the statistics, it appears that students only use this page to Log in to Moodle. Once logged in to Moodle, you can’t get back to this page.
This Portal approach was necessary several years ago before the My.arts/student site existed. Now, it appears to be unnecessary duplication, and does little to convey the use and purpose of Moodle to students.
Over the next couple of months, the DL Support team are consulting with students to find out how they use the Moodle Log-in page and ascertain what information they use and access. We will then use this information to inform a new design for this page, retaining what students want and need, but also giving Moodle a clearer identity.
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.