Tag Archives: hosting

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. 

 

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.