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Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Archive for the 'Technology blogs' Category

Countdown to Moodle 4: Ready, Set, Demo!

By Aurelie, Jason R Norton, Kerry and Eliot Hoving, on 30 May 2023

Welcome back to our fortnightly news update, spotlighting the eagerly awaited Moodle 4 upgrade. Each day brings us closer to this landmark development, and the anticipation continues to build. 

Sprint Update and Progress 

In the current sprint, we have made considerable progress on various elements of the new UCL Theme and its alignment with UCL’s design requirements. This means our theme will align with the UCL brand guidelines and design principles to make the UCL Moodle feel part of the UCL based web experience. 

Our technical team, including developers, analysts, and infrastructure experts, is diligently working on the Moodle software. They’re going through the code, running automated tests, resolving issues, and preparing our systems on Amazon Web Services (AWS), a cloud-based platform we use for our digital resources, for future stress tests next month. In addition, they’re assisting other team members as they add new features and improvements to Moodle 4.2. They’re also ensuring that our current Moodle 3.11 system is running smoothly. 

Our team is particularly excited about the launch of the ‘Train the Trainer’ workshops, that will be kicking off today. This three-hour online workshop is designed to equip departmental trainers with the knowledge to navigate the upgraded Moodle 4.2 and pass that knowledge on to their teams. In addition to the live online workshop, participants will have access to an array of support resources to aid them through the transition. 

Demo.Preview Moodle Instance available!! 

Today’s big news: our Demo Preview is live as of the 30th of May! Tutors and course administrators can now explore the upgraded Moodle 4.2 interface, allowing them to preview how their courses will appear post-upgrade. We urge everyone to seize this opportunity to familiarise themselves with the new layout and features in preparation for the late-July upgrade of our production environment. 

Moodle dashboard

What is 4-demo.preview-moodle.ucl.ac.uk? 

This restricted-access instance of Moodle is a copy of our production environment that has been upgraded to Moodle 4.2 and has the new UCL Moodle theme applied (in development). 

This demo.preview instance of Moodle is to give you early access to:  

  1. Experience Moodle 4.2 and its new navigation. 
  2. Experiment the new features that we have highlighted in our previous blogs e.g., improved question bank. 
  3. See how your Moodle courses will look after the late-July upgrade. 
  4. Plan any changes that you may wish to make to your courses. 
  5. Provide feedback on the new UCL Theme via a dedicated form that can be accessed from the bottom banner which is displayed on every page. 

Important notes about 4-demo.preview-moodle.ucl.ac.uk 

While we have made this instance available for you to experience Moodle 4.2 and the new UCL theme, there are several important caveats that users need to be aware of. 

  1. The demo.preview instance will be Moodle 4.2: this will be the version of Moodle that goes live in the late-July upgrade 
  2. The demo.preview instance will be WIPED and UPDATED every fortnight. This means anything you do within the preceding two weeks will be lost. The demo.preview instance should be used for testing and learning only. It should not be used as a “live” environment in any way. The team will signpost this via a banner visible on every page. 
  3. As part of the fortnightly demo.preview WIPE, the Moodle teams will deploy code fixes to both Moodle and to the new UCL theme. 
  4. The new UCL theme is still in active beta development with an intended change freeze to occur from the 30th of June. Prior to that date, all elements of the theme (colour, layout, etc) should be considered as beta and subject to possible change. Our development partners are actively working on feedback already received and changes will deploy as of the fortnightly WIPE. 
  5. The demo.preview is running on a reduced infrastructure. We do not yet have a measure of how many users may access the site, so we will need to adjust the resources for demo.preview as we receive updated metrics. Because of this, you may experience an initial slowness to the site, but we will aim to increase resources as we monitor the load. The speed of this Moodle instance should not be used to compare to our production instance of Moodle which has significantly more resources available to it as well as auto-scaling. 

Moodle 4.2 Pre-release resource Wiki page 

The team have also created a Pre-release resource page, where you can find various resources, report issues and other relevant guidance. This resource and FAQs will grow over the next few months before transitioning to the new Moodle 4.2 resource centre. 

Self-paced course 

Moreover, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of the Moving to Moodle 4.2 training site today. This self-paced course is ideal for staff who may not be able to attend the trainer-led sessions in their respective departments. 

This course is designed to help you familiarise yourself with the new interface and features ahead of the official upgrade scheduled for the end of July. It provides the flexibility to set your own pace for learning and the convenience to revisit the materials as often as necessary.
Plus, you’ll receive a digital badge upon completion of the course as a recognition of your efforts! We believe this training will significantly improve your experience of the transition to Moodle 4.2. 

Moving to Moodle 4.2 course page

Getting in Touch 

Our Digital Education team is on hand to answer any questions or concerns you may have. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the Digital Education team. 

Stay tuned for our next update in a fortnight, where we’ll share more exciting news and progress on the Moodle 4 upgrade. Until then, happy moodling! 

The Virtual Learning Environments Team  

Countdown to Moodle 4: Introducing New Design and Training Opportunities

By Aurelie, Kerry, Eliot Hoving and Jason R Norton, on 16 May 2023

Welcome back to our fortnightly news release for the eagerly awaited Moodle 4 upgrade. As we draw closer to the upgrade, we’re excited to share our progress and shine a spotlight on new features that will enhance your Moodle experience.

Sprint Update and Progress

Our team has been planning and scheduling Train-The-Trainer sessions. These comprehensive 3-hour workshops are designed to equip departmental and faculty trainers with the necessary knowledge and skills to become Moodle 4 experts. The Train-The-Trainer sessions will be held between 29 May and 30 June, ensuring ample opportunities for our trainers to participate and gain the insights they need to support their respective teams.

Moreover, we’re thrilled to announce that the next version of our theme has been released to the internal test team. The feedback we collect is invaluable to us, and it helps us create a platform that is intuitive, efficient, and user-friendly.

We have also made significant strides in our development efforts. We’ve developed and tested three new blocks, which are now awaiting approval. These features promise to provide a more diverse range of functionalities, further enhancing the dashboard experience in your Moodle site.

Introducing New Navigation and Design

One of the highlights of the Moodle 4 upgrade is the redesigned navigation and aesthetic. We’ve streamlined the user interface to make it more intuitive and user-friendly.


The first thing you’ll notice is the revamped dashboard and its new features. Tailored to your role, the dashboard provides easy access to your courses and their respective activities, such as assignments, forums, and quizzes.

A prominent feature is the ‘Alert’ section at the top of the dashboard. This section is designed to deliver Moodle platform-related alerts, ensuring that you’re kept up-to-date with any important updates, changes, or issues affecting the platform.

Two new additions include the Feedback block, which consolidates all your assessment feedback in Moodle, and a News block that circulates important updates to keep you informed about the latest at UCL.

A standout feature is the new Deadlines section. This presents a timeline of upcoming events and activity deadlines, helping you manage your tasks and commitments with ease.

A screen showing the new UCL dashboard including the alert section at the top, the Deadlines section, and the new Feedback and News blocks on the right-hand side.

The Dashboard features an alert section at the top, the Deadlines section, as well as the new Feedback and News blocks.

My courses

The ‘My courses’ page lists all the courses you are enrolled in, providing a summary card for each one and a progress bar indicating how much of the course you’ve completed (if the course uses completion tracking). This feature is particularly useful if you’re enrolled in multiple courses, as it offers a quick way to navigate between them.

Screen shoing the MyCourses page with several courses cards listed, two of them are starred and therefore appear first in the list.

The ‘My courses’ page allows you to review course progress and provides a quick search and navigation between courses.

Course index

The Course Index is a new feature that significantly improves course navigation. Providing a comprehensive overview of your course’s content and structure, it outlines all the sections and resources available at a glance.

Located on the left side of your screen within a course, the Course Index presents a collapsible format, allowing you to easily navigate between different sections of a course. This makes it simpler than ever to locate the material you need.

The Course Index also interacts with the course completion tracking feature. If completion tracking is enabled, each activity is marked with a small circle. An empty circle indicates an incomplete activity, while a filled green circle signals that the activity is completed. This provides a visual representation of your progress through the course.

a screen showing the course index, including activity completion tracking with small circles on next to the names of tracked activities.

A course index with completion tracking.

Other design changes

A key change to note is the renaming of the “Label” resource to “Text and media area”. This shift in terminology more accurately reflects the resource’s functionality, making it easier for users to understand and utilise it.

In addition, we’ve given Moodle’s icons a fresh, modern look, while maintaining their familiarity to help users easily identify functions and features.

List of activity and resources in Moodle showing he new icons and the updated "Text and Media" resource type.

List of activity and resources in Moodle showing the new icons and the updated “Text and Media” resource type.

Getting in Touch

We’re always here to support you. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Digital Education team.

Stay tuned for our next update in a fortnight, where we’ll share more exciting news and progress on the Moodle 4 upgrade. Until then, happy moodling!

The Virtual Learning Environments Team

Countdown to Moodle 4: Roadmap Update and Progress Highlights

By Aurelie, Eliot Hoving, Jason R Norton and Kerry, on 3 May 2023

Welcome back to our fortnightly news release for the highly anticipated Moodle 4 upgrade. As we count down to the upgrade, we strive to keep you informed and updated on our progress. 

In our previous blog post, we delved into the new assessment features of Moodle 4, including quiz and question bank enhancements, as well as timed assignments. Today, we’ll be focusing on the current state of our preparations for the upgrade, scheduled for the end of July. 

Progress Update 

During last week’s planning session (TI planning), our team identified and prioritised the tasks necessary to ensure a successful Moodle 4 release within the last two weeks of July.
Despite our initial projection of a test Moodle 4 instance release to all staff and students in April, we’ve had to adjust the timeline. We now anticipate launching this test platform at the end of May.

We want to share the reasons for this delay. Earlier this month, we released the Moodle 4 test site for our focus group and have been diligently working on the feedback received. Our focus group indicated that the platform isn’t quite ready for a general release, highlighting some areas that require further refinement, which we are now prioritising. Additionally, we’re working to resolve infrastructure issues to guarantee optimal performance of the Moodle 4 test site for all UCL staff and students upon its release at the end of May. 

Here is the updated timeline for our summer upgrade: 

Moodle 4 Timeline showing the availibility of the test platform and training launch in June

Moodle 4 Timeline – Summer Upgrade 2023

We’re committed to delivering an exceptional learning experience, and we expect to launch the Train-The-Trainer sessions to faculty and departments late May, as well as the self-paced Moodle 4 course for all staff who cannot attend trainer-led sessions, by the end of May. 

Getting in Touch 

Should you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Digital Education team.

We’ll be back in a fortnight with more news and updates on the Moodle 4 upgrade. Until then, happy moodling! 

The Virtual Learning Environments team

Countdown to Moodle 4: Exploring Assessment Improvements

By Aurelie, Jason R Norton and Eliot Hoving, on 17 April 2023

Welcome back to the fortnightly news release for our upcoming Moodle 4 Upgrade. 

In our previous blog post, we discussed the latest developments in Moodle 4, focusing on the enhancements that are set to improve the learner experience. In this post, with Moodle 4 just around the corner, we will be exploring the latest updates in assessment improvements, specifically the enhancements made to the quiz and question banks, as well as the introduction of timed assignments. 

Sprint Update 

This last fortnight has been quieter due to the break, but we wanted to update you on the work we did complete in this last Sprint: 

  • we are releasing a version of the Moodle Theme with UCL data to our focus groups,
  • we are in the final stages of QA for the 1.2 version of the Theme (1.4 is the expected go live version). 

What’s new in Moodle 4? 

Quiz and Question Bank Enhancements 

Moodle 4 sees a lot of changes to the quiz question activity. The new features will allow for more efficient and effective quiz creation, management, and grading, making it easier for educators to create engaging and challenging assessments for their learners. 

This screen shows the improved question bank’s question status, question versions, question comments and question usage.

screenshot of an example of a Moodle question bank with the new features highlighted.

Moodle question bank – new columns


The quiz question statistics are also more visible, now, through the handy ‘responses’ drop-down menu. Question statistics like facility index or discriminative efficiency are now easier to find. 

Responses drop down menu showing the Statistics option.

Quick access to Quiz questions statistics.

These updates include the ability to tag questions, allowing educators to search for and categorise questions. Furthermore, tutors can now preview and edit questions directly from the question bank with a pen icon, and see when the questions were last modified and by whom (see screen capture above), to easily co-write assessment, streamlining the process of creating and managing questions. 

Timed Assignments: a New Feature 

Perhaps the most significant update around assessment in Moodle 4 is the introduction of timed assignments. This new feature allows tutors to set a time limit for completion on assignments, providing a more structured and focused approach to assessment. Timed assignments are particularly useful for assessors who want to simulate real-world conditions, such as exams or other time-limited tasks. 


Screenshot of the timed assignment configuration in a Moodle Assignment

New timed assignment feature – configuration in the Availability section of a Moodle Assignment.

Overall, the assessment improvements in Moodle 4 represent a major step forward for our platform, with significant updates to the quiz and question bank modules, as well as the introduction of timed assignments. These updates will undoubtedly enhance the learner experience, making it easier for tutors to create engaging and challenging assessments that promote learning. 

Getting in Touch 

If you have questions, please do get in touch with If you have questions, please do get in touch with the Digital Education team.

We’ll be back in a fortnight with further news and updates for you. In the meantime, happy moodling! 

The Virtual Learning Environments team

Countdown to Moodle 4: enhancing the learner experience

By Aurelie, Eliot Hoving and Jason R Norton, on 3 April 2023

Welcome back to the fortnightly news release for our upcoming Moodle 4 Upgrade.

This week we’ll update you on what our team has been working on for the last fortnight and highlight a new Moodle 4 feature, more in detail.

What are we working on?

This week we want to share with you our progress with these two aspects:

  • UX (user experience) and UI (user interface)

The team has conducted seven face-to-face interviews with students on user journeys through Moodle, defining possible improvements for our UCL Moodle platform. The team also conducted a survey about UI/UX with over a hundred responses which are being reviewed.

  • Codebase and plugins

Our team is continuing codebase review for Moodle 4, and reviewing UCL plugins to ensure everything works well when the upgrade takes place in July.

What’s new in Moodle 4?

Database activity improvements

The Moodle Database activity had UX improvements. These improvements have been supported by the Moodle Users Association. It now features a useful start page, an improved Image gallery preset, as well as three new presets: Journal, Proposals and Resources.

A database activity in Moodle, showing the strat page with instructions.

Database activity – Start page

These four ready-made presets mean that you don’t have to build a database (adding fileds, creating layout templates) from scracth, but you can now use and adapt the most suitable preset to fit your student’s learning needs.

Database activity - presets listed on screen

Moodle database activity – presets choices

The presets can also be previewed before use so that you can be certain it is the layout you are looking for, and it can then be adjusted to what you need.

Moodle database activity showing a preview of the Journal preset with two dummy journal entries.

Databade activity – Journal preset preview

Have Questions?

If you have questions, please do get in touch with the Digital Education team.

We’ll be back in a fortnight with further news and updates for you. In the meantime, happy moodling!
The Virtual Learning Environments team

Moodle course rollover for 2023/24

By Eliot Hoving, on 24 March 2023

Course administrators and tutors will be able to rollover Moodle courses for the 2023/24 academic year from Monday 3rd of April 2023.

Any remaining rollovers for the 2022/23 academic year will need to take place by Friday 31st of March 2023. After this date, course rollovers will generate new courses listed under the 2023/24 academic year on Moodle.

Whilst staff can rollover and start updating their 2023/24 courses, we strongly encourage staff to delay rollover until Moodle has been upgraded in July 2023. This will ensure course teams can see the upgraded Moodle 4.2 with UCL’s new Moodle theme before starting to make any changes to course layout or content. In April 2023, all UCL staff will be given access to a preview of the upgraded Moodle with UCL’s new Moodle theme so they can see how their course is impacted. From the review work and feedback already taken place, it is important to note that impact has been minimal. Delaying rollover also ensures staff can attend Moodle 4.2 training and support sessions that will begin running from June.

Please note that Lecturecast sections for the upcoming academic year will continue to be available as of the 1st of August, after which the new academic year’s sections can be linked to the rolled over Moodle course.

Relevant guides: 

Need support? 

Please email the Digital Education team