Moodle Blog

The trials of a Mass Move to Moodle 2

I’m just a small cog (teacher) in a large wheel (school) in a huge machine (Lancashire and Cumbria, NW England) As such, although I am passionate about Moodle, I don’t get to see the larger picture of  major initiatives. When I find a lack of progress frustrating, others are working very hard behind the scenes to move those initiatives on.  Not being on any committees or inner circles, I don’t  realise that, so this is my personal attempt (my own views, not those of my employers etc etc) to rationalise our current Moodle situation.

I first met Moodle in 2006 because my school Our Lady’s Catholic High School Preston was one of over 700 schools provided with a free Moodle installation as part of our broadband supply from the regional broadband consortium CLEO It was my opening to a new passion – and a new role – using, teaching with and eventually training with Moodle.  Although  as an individual school we couldn’t  access our files on the server to say, add new themes or modules or FTP in, the plus side of this was that we were regularly upgraded, we were kept up to date with security fixes, we had no limits on total upload (you should see our Site files!!) and if an admin accidentally broke their Moodle, a backup was always available. This was to a great extent down to LUNS who were responsible for large scale deployment over a significant part of North West England.

So what’s the issue? My school, like all the schools in Lancashire and Cumbria is still on Moodle 1.9. Over the next few weeks  I’ m giving  free “Moodle 2 taster sessions” to local schools in our area -anyone who wanted to come along. In fact, the first two sessions are full up and we have only a few places left for the last one. I’m looking forward to it because I get to show people Moodle 2, what it can do, allay their fears  and hand-hold them through the new features. Teachers in my own school  are beginning to take Moodle for granted – they need  some spice; they need some new functionality; they need to play with  a new Moodle.  So far so good. But  there is just one tiny cloud on the horizon: I don’t know when we 700+ schools will get  Moodle 2 and (being that small cog) I only partly understand what the delay is; I wish I understood it better.

Just over a year ago some sort of local re-organisation took place and now BT One Connect manage all our services, including Moodle.  While LUNS are successfully moving  on to newer Moodle pastures, our Moodle has ground to a halt. It still works fine (mostly) but our version of Moodle dates from October 2010. Our Moodle is  1.9.10 and the latest version is 1.9.16. Again – older versions work fine, but it is always better to try to be as up to date as possible. Any bugs found in our Moodle aren’t going to be fixed by Moodle HQ, and after June 2012 Moodle 1.9 will no longer be supported in terms of security issues. That means that if Jamie in Year 11 manages to hack into Moodle 1.9.10 we’re on our own. Or rather -we’re on our own with BT One Connect.

So when can we move to Moodle 2?  My impression in the Northern Hemisphere is that many establishments have been hanging on until Moodle 2 is more stable -which it most certainly is now. There have been retraining issues, not to mention whole mindset re-evaluation issues relating to course files. Many establishments will, I suspect, make the move over to 2 sometime this summer, giving time in the months before then to train admins and teaching staff and having time over the summer months to check everything has worked ok.

That’s fine if you are a single institution, albeit a large one. But what if you manage 700+ schools? It was always going to be a tough call, even before the takeover by BT One Connect. We have several non-standard modules: Book; Lightbox gallery; Questionnaire and HotPot and so there was no chance we could have been upgraded before as these were not yet ready for 2. (I think they mostly are now, although I am not sure whether you can upload zipped folders into Lightbox gallery and I am not sure whether 1.9 questionnaires transfer over to 2) Additionally, we have a MIS Upload tool created by ex-LUNS and now Moodle HQ developer Dan Poltawsksi. Apparently this has been updated for 2 by Darren Chandisingh and Andrew Nicols so that one is available too.
And it’s not just about functionality – it’s about Pretty! If any of those 700+ schools had a customised them then they will need updating for 2 as well. We just use the Standard logo theme so it’s not an issue but we are really keen to try all the fancy new themes that come as standard in Moodle 2

So…. from my small cog point of view, we several issues (1) the magnitude of the job (2) contributed modules needing to work fine in 2 (3) themes needing updating (4) staff training issues. (OK so I have the knowledge to help out with one of those at least!) Those of you involved in similar large scale deployments -have I missed anything? I know you need PHP 5.3.2 and we have PHP 5.2.6 but I don’t see that as any great problem for these guys who just build their own PHP. I can’t see any issues on the server side of things (igorance is bliss!)

So why not get your own Moodle 2, you ask? We have several actually, not to mention @moodlefairy who has so many she can’t remember where they all live. I’ m going to use one to show our  colleagues in local schools the potential of Moodle 2. We wouldn’t wish to run one on our own server for 1000+ users. But (and here I am being a small cog again) my understanding is that the money is taken out at source, so if we got a Moodle 2 hosted outside of our suppliers we’d have to pay twice over for it. And if we wanted all our data from the Moodle 1.9 provided us at the moment,we’d have to pay for that option as well. So I guess in these times of restricted funding we shall have to wait and trust that BT One Connect have employed Moodle developers who are working to get Lancashire and Cumbria schools onto Moodle 2.  (Hopefully before Jamie hacks the system on the 1st of July..)

PS And I’m not even going to mention our Mahara version…

Dieser Beitrag wurde am Sunday, 29. January 2012 um 17:02 Uhr veröffentlicht und wurde unter der Kategorie Moodle abgelegt. Du kannst die Kommentare zu diesen Eintrag durch den RSS-Feed verfolgen. Du hast die Möglichkeit einen Kommentar zu hinterlassen, oder einen Trackback von deinem Weblog zu senden.

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  1. I’m wondering the same thing with BT One Connect’s move to Moodle2.x.

    Although our school is in Cumbria so if you’re a small cog we’re just a speck of dust! I agree that there were/are issues with Moodle 2.x for example I filed this bug with Moodle 2.2 that has just been fixed.

    To me this shows that even now Moodle 2.2 has regressions from Moodle 1.9 and still needs some polish. Our school does have a custom theme, and it’s ready for 2.2 (now MDL-30714 is fixed). It can be implemented solely using custom CSS without ever bothering our host.

    The fact that we are not even on the latest version of 1.9, and that it has not been updated since BT One Connect has been in existence is very worrying to me. Is it a sign that Moodle does not matter to BT One Connect?

    Comment: John Bracegirdle – 01. February 2012 @ 3:00 pm

  2. Dan Poltawski gave some useful reflections on the Posterous version of this blog, which I will paste into here:

    Disclaimer: I worked on the CLEO Moodle Platform up until LUNS contract to support it ended in early 2010. My team architected much of the infrastructure up until it was handed over to BT almost a year ago. I am no longer involved with CLEO or LUNS.
    Having done so much preparation work for this upgrade years ago (I think my first report on the work required to do the upgrade was in June 2009) it greatly saddens me that the platform has stagnated for the schools and there is no progress over two and a half years later.

    The magnitude is significant – however some of the trade offs in the design of the platform (e.g. no access to files, only approved modules for all, a theme evaluation process) should make this an achievable proposition. It is perfectly possible to support this magnitude if your prepare and plan for the task.

    Regarding your points 1) Magnitude is scary, but its what we were used to and designed the platform to support. 2) Contributed modules were limited and shared amongst all installs so this is relatively straight forward piece of work which benefits all sites 3) I’ll come back to, 4) Agreed, training is a major issue (which wasn’t my realm)

    Coming back to themes – they are a significant problem where there was a difficult tradeoff between flexibility (customise look and feel for schools) goes against this kind of support headache. But I still think this is achievable and at worst could be taken on a case by case basis. Side point: – When the theme changes in 2.0 were being discussed in 2009 I was well aware of this headache and still argued in favour of breaking backwards compatibility (see: ) so sorry for that 😉

    In summary I believe this a political, not technical challenge.

    Comment: admin – 01. February 2012 @ 4:13 pm

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