Annual Moodle Update

By babs on March 30, 2016 4:13 PM

SSU Information Technology will be deploying a new Moodle server for the new academic year, in time for Summer 2016 classes. Moodle courses for Summer classes will be available to teachers on April 5.  Fall 2016 courses will be become available on July 15, 2016.

On May 27, 2016, the current Moodle server will be put into Archive mode. The old Moodle archive (hosting courses from Summer 2014 - Spring 2015) will be taken offline.

Faculty should read the full announcement linked below. Links for further information and instructions are included.

Why do we need a new Moodle server?

In order to provide the fastest and most reliable learning management system for SSU faculty and students, SSU IT deploys a new Moodle server once per academic year. The new Moodle server will have the most recent full version of Moodle, with all available patches, and host the active Moodle courses for that academic year. 

The main reason we do this is performance. Moodle's architecture is such that SSU cannot maintain thousands of courses indefinitely without seriously impacting performance of active courses. The longer a Moodle server is used, the slower it eventually becomes, even when it is diligently maintained.

SSU also needs to keep current with Moodle's major and minor version releases to ensure security.

See this Moodle Lifespan chart (PDF) for the full deployment schedule.

What happens to the old server and courses?

Every year, as a new server is deployed, the older Moodle server will be put into archive mode for one year. During this time, faculty can still access the old courses to copy content to the new server, or check on saved student work for grade appeal. Students can also have access to the old courses at the instructor's discretion (as long as the student still has valid Seawolf ID). Instructors who wish to keep a copy of any old courses can make and download backup files.

The Faculty Center can provide advice and assistance to faculty who wish to preserve their own copies of courses and student work.

After a year in archive mode, old Moodle servers are sent to the Moodle Graveyard, where IT securely dismantles the server and destroys the old data.

What will happen to the courses from Summer 2014 - Spring 2015 that are currently on Moodle Archive?

The old Moodle Archive has reached the end of its lifespan. Effective May 27, 2016, it will no longer be available to faculty and students, and will be dismantled.

Instructions for downloading copies of Moodle courses are available in the Moodle Community course.

Faculty who wish to make copies of courses from the old Moodle Archive must do so BEFORE May 27, 2016.

When will this happen?

The new Moodle 3.0 server will be available to faculty on April 5, 2016. This will allow faculty who teach summer courses to prepare.

Initially, the new server will be called "Future Moodle" in the Online Services portal.

On May 27, 2016, after finals and before the summer session begins, the "Future Moodle" link will be renamed "Moodle", and the old Moodle link will be renamed "Moodle Archive."

How can teachers copy courses to the new Moodle server?

Courses can be copied from the old server to the new one using the same Backup and Restore method used over the last several years. Updated instructions for this process will be posted in the Moodle Community course.

Faculty should prioritize making backups of courses on the current Moodle Archive, as that server will no longer be available effective May 27, 2016.

What about Miscellaneous and Sandbox courses?

The Faculty Center staff can assist in moving Miscellaneous courses to the new server as needed. Only courses that are actively used should move to the new server. Teachers of Miscellaneous courses will receive email from the Faculty Center with information about how to move those courses.

New sandbox courses can be created on the new server by request, beginning in May. However, the Faculty Center will not move sandbox course content from the old server for faculty. Please keep in mind that sandbox courses are intended as temporary exploration spaces to help instructors learn how to use Moodle. If you used a Sandbox course to build or store a course for future use, remember that you will continue to have access to that Sandbox in Archive mode until May 2017.

What about courses with non-standard start and end dates?

Some departments and programs offer courses that have start and end dates that don't match the official first and last days of instruction.

Faculty who use Moodle with courses that start in Spring 2016 and end in Summer or Fall should contact the Faculty Center to determine the best course of action for their courses and students, ASAP.

Send email to faculty.center@sonoma.edu.

Is the Moodle server being upgraded? Are there new features or other changes I should know about?

Yes, Moodle is being upgraded to the most recent release of Moodle 3.0. There are several new features and changes that faculty and students should take note of. Some of these are:

  • Adaptable, New Default Theme - the Adaptable theme has a cleaner look, and new options like fullscreen/standard toggle, hide/show blocks, and more.
  • Pioneer - a new optional theme that allows Teachers to have a custom full-width banner image for their course, and easy access grades view for students.
  • Mail - the Quickmail block is being replaced by a newer, more robust Mail module.  Faculty and Students will be able to send and receive Moodle Mail with all course members.  My mail is linked in the navigation block throughout Moodle.
  • Zoom - the Blackboard Collaborate web conferencing tool is being replaced by Zoom meetings.  
  • REEF Polling - the iClicker block is being replaced by REEF polling.
  • Checklist - Teachers can create checklists or To Do items for students to complete.
  • Certificate - Teachers can create printable Certificates for students based on Moodle activity completion.

The Moodle Community course will link to more information and instructions for new features.

What do Faculty and other Moodle Teachers need to do?

Faculty should consider this list of possible To-Dos, ordered by urgency. The Faculty Center can assist Moodle Teachers.

  1. If you teach a course with non-standard start end dates beginning in Spring 2016 and ending in Summer or Fall 2016, contact the Faculty Center ASAP.
  2. If you have courses on the Moodle Archive, decide if you need to copy them.
  3. If you're teaching a Summer 2016 course, login to Future Moodle to start building it.
    • Build your course from scratch, or
    • Use the Backup/Restore method to copy content from an existing Moodle course.
  4. If you have a course in the Miscellaneous category, talk with the Faculty Center about whether or not it needs to move to the new server.If you have courses on Moodle A that you will teach again in Fall 2016 -Spring 2017, you can delay moving that content until you are ready to prepare for the new course. Remember, Moodle A Fall 2015 - Spring 2016 courses will be in archive mode until the end of May 2017.

What does this mean for students?

Students will continue to click the "Moodle" link in the portal to access active courses. A small number of students - those who are enrolled in classes with non-standard start or end dates, may need to access a course on "Future Moodle" or "Moodle Archive." Faculty of those classes should inform their students if this is the case.

Questions? Need Help?

  • Contact the Faculty Center if you need assistance with Moodle.
  • Contact Barbara Moore if you have questions about the Moodle Life Cycle or deployment schedule.
  • Faculty and other Moodle Teachers can login to the Moodle Community course for further information about new features and instructions for copying courses.