Category Archives: General

Course sites now available in Moodle

Date(s): 10th July 2018
Platform: Moodle

Information:

An update to the problem of course sites not showing correctly in Moodle. The problem was caused by an issue with the server and databases that hold and process the course and enrolment data. This has now been resolved and successfully tested on our staging environment.

We have just updated Moodle live environment and all courses should now be available again, (please note: some of the 15/16 sites may not appear in quite the right order. We will look into this tomorrow).

Course Roll over:

We are now starting to enrol staff onto the new sites for the 18/19 academic year. We expect this process to complete tomorrow, and I will send a further update to let you know when next year’s course sites are available for colleagues to use.

We apologise for the inconvenience caused and thank you for your continued patience.

IT issues affecting Moodle – update

Date: 10th July 2018

Information:

Further to the yesterday update, we are aware of two IT issues that are currently affecting Moodle. Please be assured that work is being carefully co-ordinated across multiple teams in DL Support and IT services to try and resolve these as quickly as possible.

  1. Moodle appears to go ‘down’ or ‘offline’. This is an intermittent problem that is also affecting other web services. It is not related to the change in Moodle hosting or the SITS integration project. IT Services have been able to replicate the problem, which is the first step in diagnosing the underlying cause.
  2. Courses not showing correctly in SITS. Yesterday, there was a problem with the server that holds and processes the data from SITS. We are in the process of reinstating the data and carrying out testing on the staging server before updating the live environment.

We will update you as soon as we have any further information about either of these issues. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Moodle being unavailable to the users

We are receiving calls of a number of problems that are impacting on Moodle. Earlier today there was a problem with the data and some people reported not being able to see all their course sites in Moodle. This issue has now been resolved.

We are also being told of some cases where Moodle suddenly appears to go offline. We are constantly monitoring the server availability and have not detected any unexpected downtime. There is also some odd behaviour being reported from other areas such as the UAL website so these issues may be related. IT Systems are looking into the issues to try and diagnose the underlying cause.

We will keep you informed with any new updates on the situation please take our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Regards
Digital Learning Support Team
Teaching and Learning Exchange

Tackling Course Site Design in Moodle

The challenges of creating course sites in Moodle that presents course information, resources and communications in a way that students can easily navigate through and find what they need are well known. Solutions aren’t easy  – not least due to the diversity and complexity of teaching approaches across UAL that need to be represented through Moodle course sites. Understandably, it is natural to consider Moodle course sites as any other web-page and we expect to be able to create a good ‘web-site’ experience for our students.  Good web-site design, however, does require a specific knowledge and skill set and, of course – time! Some courses are fortunate in that they have staff with this skill set who are able to develop quite complex  site designs and organisational structures for their materials. Relying on the skills of a few members of staff, however, is seldom sustainable in the longer term.

 

In June, the digital Learning Services team convened a small group of people interested in looking at how we can address this issue of course site design so that all staff can develop and maintain their Moodle site without specialist web-design and coding skills. The discussions were underpinned by the following principles.

  1. Sustainability – i.e. not relying on technologies that would rapidly date, or advanced skills and knowledge;
  2. Scaleability – ideas had to be sympathetic to demands of large courses and student cohorts.
  3. Responsive – course sites must respond to smaller screen sizes of mobile devices
  4. Reducing complexity

 

The group consisted of people from a cross section of support, teaching, training and leadership roles. Through the discussion we looked at examples of Moodle course sites, shared experiences of designing and maintaining Moodle sites, discussed the skills and knowledge required, thought about our training provision and explored ideas for new technical solutions.

 

By the end of the discussion, we agreed that the priority should be to focus on modelling what can be achieved in Moodle just using the tools and resources readily available – i.e. without any specialist knowledge of html / css. We agreed that we would collaboratively design three different scenarios for course site design that would help:

  • Reduce scrolling
  • Make resources easy to find / locate
  • Have visual appeal
  • Be easy for staff to add and manage their resources and content
  • Reduce unnecessary clutter and complexity

 

The more technically minded members agreed to explore the potential of ‘Markdown’ – an html / css editor that could enable greater flexibility within defined limits, but doesn’t require extensive coding knowledge. Another area to look at would be researching any available plugins that have been developed for Moodle.

 

We are going to experiment with using Slack (https://moodledesignworkgroup.slack.com)  to help continue our discussions. Our next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday September 19th, 2.00 pm. If you are interested, you would be warmly welcome to join in the discussions. Please email Andreea Stan (a.stan@arts.ac.uk) who will include you in any communications.

Moodle Hosting

The work on moving Moodle hosting to UAL has progressed very smoothly and we are now in the final stages of the project.  This week colleagues across the colleges are testing the new Moodle environment to check the integrity of their course sites, course content and enrollments. The next step will be to take Moodle out of service so that we can switch the hosting environment. Important information about how this will impact you is detailed below:

  • Tuesday 3rd July: Moodle out of service all day. If you try to log into Moodle you will see an ‘Under Maintenance’ screen.
  • Wednesday 4th July: Moodle out of service until approximately 3.00 pm. When we turn the service back on access will be almost instant within the UAL network, but can take about 24 hours to be globally available.
  • Friday 6th July: final decision to either continue with UAL hosting or roll back to former hosting arrangement.
  • Monday 9th July: Moodle back in service

IMPORTANT: Wednesday 4th July – Friday 6th July: Whilst we are confident the switching to the new  hosting environment will be seamless,  we strongly advise that users refrain from making any major changes or edits to their course content during these few days. During this period the DLSupport team will be checking and monitoring the new environment to ensure  performance and reliability is as expected. Should anything critical  arise that means we need to roll back to our former hosting arrangements and any changes made to Moodle course sites will be lost.

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!

 

 

 

 

DLS team away day

The DLS team got together last Tuesday for the annual team day. This time we thought it would be good to spend the day away from everything digital and to try something new to all, so we decided to have a go at pottery and started the day early in Peckham, at  The Kiln Rooms – a wonderful open access ceramics studio based at Peckham Levels.

The staff at The Kiln Rooms were incredible – great artists, teachers and people too – and they helped us quickly get from a handful of clay to not so perfect but still functional pots.

 

  

Catering was provided by Wildflower Cafe – super yummy and a must go, especially if you are vegetarian/vegan!

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.

 

Rationalising content and accounts in DL Platforms

Moodle, MyBlogs and Workflow  were first introduced over 6 years ago. In that time we have not removed any content or student accounts. We have now reached a point where the amount of content accumulated on each platform is causing a number of issues that we need to address.

  1. The sheer amount of content is now putting pressure on the performance of our platforms and particularly with Workflow, growth in the amount content is at constant risk of exceeding our capacity to provide sufficient storage space.
  2. One of the core principles of New General Data Protection and Retention rules is that personal information should not be kept beyond the life of its original purpose. We need to ensure that we are not retaining personal data on our platforms beyond its intended purpose.

Alongside these needs to manage the amount of content on each of our platforms we do recognise that there are some teaching contexts content and resources are collated and used iteratively and progressively by both staff and students supporting numerous communities of practice, many of which continue to exist beyond a student’s study at UAL. The Digital Learning Services team will work with course teams to look at how such teaching resources might be supported over the longer term.

Principles for managing data in our DL Platforms

Over the past few months the Digital learning Services team have been working with colleagues from Assessment and Quality, IT Services, and Records Management to agree the following core principles that will inform our approach to managing student accounts and associated content in Moodle, MyBlog, and Workflow.

  1. Digital Learning platforms only need to hold onto content for assessment/exam board purposes. QL/SITs holds long term and definitive data on grades.
  2. A student account and all associated content will remain on the DL platform for the duration of the student life-cycle. (i.e. from offer acceptance through to exit from UAL).
  3. Student accounts and associated content will be removed to an archive facility 150 days after the user’s course end date as per use of email facilities specified within IT Regulations.
  4. A student account and any content associated with that account will be deleted from the Digital Learning Archive after 1 year following a student’s exit from the University.
  5. Students will be formally advised to export their content / work from a DL Platform prior to their exit from UAL.
  6. There may be some teaching scenarios where there is a requirement to keep student generated content beyond the life-cycle of the student at UAL, for example, as exemplars and resources to be used with other students, or where students have collaborated with an open, or on-going project. Where explicit consent has been obtained, content will be retained in accordance with the terms that have been agreed with that user (if technically possible).
  7. The Digital Team will work with the Legal team to review Terms and Conditions of use for each platform in light of new GDPR legislation.

What will happen next?

The next stage will be to work out processes for putting these principles into practice.

  1. We will prioritise Workflow as this platform is the most demanding in terms of storage requirements.
  2. The team in the Exchange will work with course teams to draft out various teaching scenarios for us to carry out tests of deleting content and accounts on our dev environments. This will enable us to assess the wider impact of deleting content and users from shared resources before we removing any content or accounts from the live envrionment.
  3. We will design and develop workflows and procedures that enable us to remove and delete content and accounts whilst retaining the  integrity of that platform within identified, and specific teaching contexts.

 

 

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.