Tuesday, 19 July 2011

1 - Making the move to Moodle 2 - starting the journey and launching the journey to the staff

We have been waiting for Moodle 2 for years! We knew we would want to upgrade as soon as a stable version was out.

As soon a Moodle 2.0 beta came out we installed it on our development server to have a good old play!  We tested how easy it was use, what was new, what worked and what didn't etc etc to see if we could upgrade.  The main features we were interested in were conditional activities, activity tracking and better tracking for assignments and course work.  Moodle 2 did indeed give us all this (although we would have liked further improvements to the gradebook but that is a development we may need to work on over the next year).  Having said that, the course completion features is a lovely way of tracking without needing to go into the gradebook.

We decided that the upgrade would be worth it!  From a teaching and learning perspective, the benefits were massive.  We are ready for it after using Moodle for over 5 years and we have teachers desperate for the extra functions.  We did consider the 'majority' of the college too and whether there would be benefits rather than just upheaval for them but the easier file uploading and management is a big benefit for all.

So, we decided to go for it!  We needed to convince SMT and also decide HOW we would upgrade.

The main area that would appeal to the SMT would be the benefits to learning and how learner progress could be tracked.  A lot of time was spent testing and playing with activity tracking, course completion and gradebook to see how it would meet the many different curriculum models and if there was a better way to track learners on a course and across courses without the need for lots of systems, spreadsheets etc.  This IS much easier in Moodle 2.  There is more that could be done but it still has lots of benefits over Moodle 1.  This was going to be the main selling point to SMT!

We planned to make a copy of live / production Moodle 1.9 server and upgraded that to Moodle 2.0 and called it Moodle 2 beta.  This was to be used between April and July for training, testing and preparation for the upgrade.  This was also used for the launch in May. 

We also needed to decide HOW to upgrade. My colleague at Cornwall College (@shirl24) asked if we were going to start from scratch with Moodle 2 when we first started talking about it over a year ago.  I thought that would be a bit too much (even if it would be preferred) but it got me thinking about how we could use the upgrade to make sure were weren't taking lots of unwanted courses and files.  All previous upgrades we have done 'in place' but this takes everything (BTW - I know no technical speak so forgive me if I use any I have heard in the wrong context!  I am lucky to have excellent technical support for Moodle in the form of @vaughany or @SDCmoodle).  

I liked Shirley's idea of starting from scratch but the minimum I wanted was for staff to consider their courses and do some housekeeping. 
We have used Moodle for over 6 years and, although we encourage 'Moodle Maintenence' every summer, we don't enforce it.  All Moodle users will know will know about the files area in Moodle that continues to store files and staff rarely manage or delete them.  I estimate around 50% of these files are out of date and 'orphaned' from the main Moodle page (eg: schemes of work going back 5 years).  We don't want to take all that!!  We are getting lovely new virtual servers for the process and don't want to half fill them with stuff we won't use.  More on this later - the options we used for upgrade still doesn't remove ALL the legacy files unfortunately :(

We wanted to do a good clear out and sort out of the Moodle courses.  This started in January 2011 when my fantastic Lead Moodle Administrator @clarehw (it sounds like I have more than one with 'lead' in the title but alas no - just the one!).  She started to work with staff to find out which courses on the site were no longer needed.  She eventually deleted almost 300 courses!!!

We then needed to work on the ones left.  We were giving staff 3 options for the upgrade. 

1) Take the version currently on the live Moodle 1.9 site.  However, we wanted the courses to meet the needs of the learners and be 'tidied' as much as possible.  The courses HAD to meet at least Bronze medal level in order for this version to be upgraded.  More on how this was managed in a future blog post.
2) Take the version copied and upgraded to Moodle 2 in April.  This gave some time to work on the courses and amend them prior to upgrade whilst learning Moodle 2.  We also hoped we could remove orphaned course files during the upgrade.
3) Start from scratch in Moodle 2.

With these decisions made, we presented the new features of Moodle 2 to the SMT, along with the plans for upgrade, options for moving courses and timescales.

It was agreed and the plan was to upgrade 25th - 29th July (whilst I was on annual leave as I wouldn't be needed for the upgrade) and we were going to do an upgrade in place and restore all courses from Moodle 2 (upgraded in April or new in Moodle 2) manually into the new Moodle 2 server.  
This would all be launched in May (first week after the Easter holidays) to all staff.

My apologies for a mix in tense is this post - trying to tell the story but this is all in the past!

Next post will be about the launch and the support given to staff

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