Category Archives: Moodle

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 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.

Preparing Courses for the next Academic Year

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 Enrolment
    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
  • Staff Enrolment/Removal
    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 dlsupport@arts.ac.uk 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…

  • Copy 17/18 Course ID
  • Import 17/18 course content into 18/19 course.

DO NOT IMPORT THE FOLLOWING ACTIVITIES: 

  • Turnitin
  • Bb Collaborate
  • News Forum
  • Moodle Assignments
  • Database
  • Glossary

UPDATE AND CHECK THE FOLLOWING:

  • Hide/Show Topic Sections
  • Check hyperlinks
  • Add/Remove Staff
  • Check course structure is correct

For a more in depth information please visit: Preparing Courses for the New Academic Year site on Moodle. If you do not have access to this site and you are responsible for adding content to your course site please email dlsupport@arts.ac.uk .

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.

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!

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

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 Digital Learning Workshops page on Canvas, 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.