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.