Wednesday, 20 July 2011

3 - How we are actually upgrading

Midway through the preparation phase Moodle 2.1 was launched and, after testing that the back up and restore of 1.9 courses worked, we have decided not to upgrade in place but to install a fresh version of Moodle 2.1 and restore courses into it.  

We decided that a fresh install of Moodle 2.0 rather than an upgraded 1.9 to 2.1 would give a better long term solution with fewer problems.  We use Moodle A LOT so, although this is a much harder process to complete, being able to develop Moodle without legacy 1.9 issues will suit us better.

So, we have 2 versions of Moodle running side by side - the live 1.9 and a copy of that upgraded to 2.1.  Teachers are telling us which version they want taken to the live Moodle 2.1.  In most cases, the courses exist in two places and we need to make sure we are taking the right one during the upgrade week!!

This is where the categories come in.  In both Moodle 1.9 AND in Moodle 2.1 we have a new category called 'For Live Moodle 2.0'.  As courses achieve their bronze medal OR decided to use the Moodle 2 version, we moved them into the 'for live' category.  Alongside this, the tracker sheet listing all the courses currently in the live 1.9 site was used to record the option for every course - including if it wasn't needed in Moodle 2.  This enabled many of us to be supporting staff and this one tracker was the final decisions and options for upgrade.

During the last week of the preparation, an upgrade list was created.  This listed ALL the courses being upgraded from Moodle 1.9 (around 120) and all the courses being upgraded from Moodle 2.1 (over 350).  This upgrade list also contained the category that the courses needed to be restored in to reflect the college curriculum structure.  To create this upgrade list, the 'for live categories' were used to cross-reference against the tracker to double check the correct courses were to be upgraded (one of the worst scenarios would be for a teacher to tell us they are using the Moodle 2 version, they have spent some time updating it and then we upgrade the 1.9 version!).  DUring this process, the courses checked and moved into a sub-category called 'prepped for upgrade'. ONLY these courses would be upgraded!

So, how will the upgrade process actually happen?

  • The Moodle 1.9 and beta 2.1 sites were made in accessible to all users (except admins) at 4.30pm on Friday 22nd July.
  • Saturday morning sees the start of the course back-ups with user data from both sites.  These will be saved onto external storage and then stored safely on Monday 25th July (this may extend into July 26th as there is a lot of data to transfer to external storage).
  • Monday 25th - all courses NOT in the 'prepped for upgrade' folder to be deleted from the 1.9 and 2.1 servers.
  • All remaining courses are backed up without user data.
  • These courses are then put into a file repository on the LIVE Moodle 2.1 (one folder for 1.9 and one for 2.1).
  • The site then gets it's web address and is shibbolith'd for logins.
  • Then the non-technies get their hand on the LIVE Moodle 2 to start to manually restore all the courses prepped for upgrade.  This will be time-consuming and we have over 8 people working on it (not me - I have a week off!).  My Moodle Administrator is leading this armed with the upgrade list!
  • Moodle 2 will be made live to all staff on Monday 1st August (all being well) but we will still probably have more courses to upgrade by then.
  • Following the upgrade, there will be NO users except the admins.  As each teacher logs in for the first time, they will then need request editing access to their courses (we are going to get the staff to ask rather than use the tracker as we want to make sure staff only have the courses they need - it is another way to have a good clear out!)  All the LTRS staff will be trained on how to do this.
  • I will also be using some admin support for help with re-creating course menus for courses upgraded from Moodle 1.9 - 2 as these loose their topic titles in the course menu.
@chri5grant has set up a posterous site to share experiences of Moodle 2 upgrades and we have a post from the technical side there and also some other documents (such as the current* action plan for upgrade, modules and blocks that are needed). There are lots of other useful posts about the experiences of upgrading to M2. 
However, @SDCmoodle will be tweeting throughout the technical upgrade (or as they say - turning off one and starting another).

* We also had an initial action plan starting from the testing phase moving up to launching the live version.  This one has detail about specific things to test, training to offer and instructions to create:

So - that's it for now!!  

2 - The preparation stage

During the Easter holidays we took a copy of the live Moodle 1.9 and upgraded this to Moodle 2.1

In the first week of May, we launched the upgrade to Moodle 2 to all staff.  We did this through department meetings.  I outlined the benefits of Moodle 2 and the new things to expect (as soon as I told them that the 'choose' button was gone for the file uploads - that they simply had to find the file and save it - it was sold!!)  I explained the timescales and how the upgrade would take place, the options available and the support throughout the whole process.

Launch: 5th May 2011
May - 22nd July: Preparation months
25th - 31st July:  No access to Moodle - upgrade week
1st August - we go live with Moodle 2

This meant that staff had almost 3 months to choose one of the options available: work towards a Moodle Medal; use the upgraded Moodle 2 version; or start to develop their new course in Moodle. 

We also gave the option for staff to gain a level 4 qualification whilst learning how to use Moodle 2, developing their online course and meeting their CPD needs.

Support was provided to staff from the Learning Technologies and Resources Service (LTRS).  Each department has a part-time member of my resources staff assigned to support them throughout the year to create electronic and paper-based learning resources. Throughout this Moodle 2 prep time they were mainly supporting the staff with moving to Moodle 2.  The support they have given has been fantastic and don't believe we could have gone through this process without them.

The support was mainly requested by those staff who wanted to take their Moodle 1.9 course and needed to gain a medal.  The resources staff checked the course against the medal criteria and let them know what work needed to be done to achieve a bronze medal.  We have been giving either full bronze or a conditional bronze if the course handbooks and assessment plans are not yet on the course (due to the time of the year and this information may not be known).   Conditional courses will be checked again in September to ensure the extra information has been added and then we will award the full medal.

The other support that my staff gave was to move resources from Moodle 1 to Moodle 2 where the whole course wasn't needed but some resources were.  We made a new course in Moodle 2 and recreated the parts of the courses required OR amended the upgraded April Moodle 2 version (confused about all the options yet?  It is not easy to explain in writing so we encouraged staff to come and talk to us for 5 minutes to get it sorted!)

The LTRS staff were also the point of contact for staff to tell us what option they would like to choose for the transfer.  We had a tracking sheet that listed all the courses currently in Moodle 1. This was updated all day everyday with the details of how it was going to be upgraded (eg:  Moodle 1.9 version, April Moodle 2 version or new in Moodle 2) and the current status (eg: working towards a medal, completed and ready for upgrade).  We would also use this to record which courses were no longer needed in Moodle 2.
We decided not to put the file on googledocs as it was THE upgrade details and wanted to keep it in a secure and backed up area.  However, this meant we were all fighting to get on it as there was always something to update!
The tracking sheet took some time to initially set up and, without enough time to work on it, this was not used until the last 6 weeks of the preparation phase.  We could have used it from the start.  The initial plan was for the tracker to have all the courses that would be running the following year but we found we couldn't easily cross-reference current courses with it so we abandoned that idea and used the current courses as the basis for tracking.

The tracking sheet was shared to subject managers throughout the last month of the preparation stage and the courses were colour-coded - green for ready to go, amber for those courses where we knew the plans but work was still needed to get it ready (eg: working towards a medal) or red where we hadn't been given any information and indicated it wouldn't be upgraded or available in September.  We also put this onto the staff website for all to see and check so that we kept staff informed.  Moodle 2 was also a regular agenda item at college managers meetings.

Alongside the tracking sheet, we also used categories in Moodle to help to manage the courses that were 'ready to go'.  We have a category on our live Moodle 1.9 version called 'Live for Moodle 2' where all the courses that had been awarded bronze would be moved to.
In the upgraded beta Moodle 2 (the one we made in April) we have another category to move the courses into that are ready to go.  These could be new courses created or the versions upgraded in April that are being used.  Only the courses approved for transfer are put into this category.

Using both the tracking sheet and the categories gives a cross-reference.

We are on the final days of the preparation phase and we are still updating the tracking sheet but thankfully it is slowing down.  In the final preparation week we are only giving staff the option of using the April version that was upgraded into Moodle 2 as we didn't feel that staff would be able to achieve the bronze required and my staff had no more time to support them (half of them are term time only so they have left for the summer now!).  I think the rest of them will be very glad of the holiday!

We really haven't had any complaints or moans about 'why' are we doing this.  I believe this is down to how we launched it, the long time scales so that it didn't all happen in the last week before the holidays, and the massive amount of support we gave.

Coming up next... How we actually going to do the upgrade and why the categories are important!

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