X Close

Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Archive for the 'Technology blogs' Category

Moodle Lifecycle Block – Course Read-Only

By Jason R Norton, on 5 January 2023

Moodle Logo




The next release in our Course Lifecyle toolset is now ready for deployment and will appear in our Production Moodle site shortly.

This is our first release of our course context freezing or “Read Only” Moodle block.


Image of the course life cycle read only tool

The Lifecycle block will be available in Moodle from 9th January 2023 to allow individual courses to be made Read-Only, and thus prevent the accidental update or deletion of content.

Previously each year we would take a Snapshot Moodle, which we would automatically make it Read-Only at the end of November.

This period would have given teams on average three months to complete the Late Summer Assessment period, and to make any adjustments or hide courses before they become part of our Moodle course archive in line with UCL’s data retention policy.

As we now have one Moodle, we need to provide the Read-Only function at the individual course level and not the entire site, (you can think of it as a course level snapshot).


NOTE: The block will display only the year category and the course’s start and end date, prior to the course end date being reached. Once the course end date is reached the additional functionality and automatic Read-Only date will be displayed.

Image showing lifecycle block display prior to course end date being reached


The new Lifecycle block has several functions:

  • Provides an automatic default read only mechanism.
  • Provide a mechanism for course administrators to override the suggested default date and to choose a custom date.
  • Display the year category (Moodle 2021/22, Moodle 2022/23)
  • Display the course start and end date.


Once the Read-Only date is reached, the Moodle page will be automatically queued for processing overnight, and will become Read-Only to staff and students the following day.


Automated Read-Only Process

The automated Read-only date will be based either on the course end date, or the end of the Late Summer Assessment period (whichever is later), plus eleven weeks. This should provide enough time any final marking or updates to the course. Once the automatic suggested date is reached the course will become Read-Only.

LifeCycle Block Image showing highlighted Read-Only date

If you take no further action, the Moodle page will become Read-Only to staff and students at the end of this date.


NOTE: For modules which follow the standard academic calendar, Automatic Read-Only will occur normally at the end of November each year (eleven weeks after LSA’s have bene completed).  However, as this is the first time the Lifecycle block will be used, the default Read-Only date will be artificially moved forward to the end of February 2023 to allow course teams time to review the use of the new block and seek guidance as needed.


Local Course Override Process

The automation aspect of the Read Only Tool we hope will satisfy most of our course administration teams requirements. However, we are aware that some course teams may require to make their courses read-only later than the automatic function. At the initial release of the tool, you will not be able to make a course read-only prior to the automated date suggested.

The Digital Education Services Team, do have an override function that they can employ to make a course Read-Only upon request at any time. We will review the number of these requests and feedback to see if we need to build that functionality into the tool for end users.

We have created several override settings which will allow course teams to either disable the course read-only setting or to set a specific date for the course to be made read-only.


Image of the course life cycle read only tool focused on automatic read only settings


Making a Read-Only course editable again

In the same manner as the existing Moodle Snapshots, teaching teams cannot reactivate a Moodle course once it has been made Read-Only.

If you do require edit access to a Read-Only course this will need to be requested by contacting the Digital Education Support team at:   digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk

Further details for using the Lifecycle Block are available in our Moodle Mini guide M30i


NOTE:- we will develop and alter the user interface and experience based off of feedback we receive from our users regarding this tool. All updates will be documented within the Moodle Mini Guide M30i.


Jason Norton

Head of Virtual Leaning Environments

Transcripts and closed captions in Lecturecast (ASR)

By Silvia Giannitrapani, on 20 September 2022

From 20th September 2022, media transcripts will be automatically applied to the closed captions track if they meet the 90% confidence score threshold.

We have activated automatic transcription and closed captions by default in Lecturecast as an additional supporting tool to provide fully accessible videos for our students as part of UCL’s digital strategy.

Aside from being an aid to viewers with auditory impairment, transcripts and captions can be extremely useful as a study tool.  Students often search large amounts of text using keywords to pinpoint passages of interest; Lecturecast transcripts, which are searchable and synchronised with the recording, allow similar searches of video presentations.

Lecturecast has built-in ASR (automatic speech recognition) to produce recording transcripts. Transcripts are automatically created for any media uploaded to Lecturecast and are available to viewers once a recording’s audio file has been processed.

Closed Captions use the same ASR file as the transcript but are not available if they do not meet the 90% confidence score threshold or until the ASR file has been ‘applied’ to a recording (until then the CC button in the player will be inactive).

Closed captions will NOT be automatically applied to:

  • New recordings with a confidence score lower than 90%
  • New Zoom videos automatically transferred to Lecturecast
  • Older recordings made prior to the 20th September 2022.

Closed captions can still be manually applied using the ‘apply to CC’ button in the transcript editor after review/corrections are made.

See below an example of what a transcribed lecture with closed captions would look like:

Lecturecast player with both transcripts and closed captions showing

Lecturecast player with both transcripts and closed captions showing


Further information and detailed instructions are available on the ‘Transcripts and closed captions in Lecturecast (ASR)’ mini guide.

Please contact lecturecast@ucl.ac.uk with any questions.


Login to Moodle is Changing

By Jason R Norton, on 5 September 2022

On Monday the 12th of September, how you login to Moodle is changing. This change is part of wider ISD ongoing improvements to login, authentication and security across all UCL’s platforms.

Currently you login to Moodle via the top right of the screen, where you input you UCL userid and password





This is being changed to offer you two buttons one for UCL Login and one for Guest Login access

UCL Login Button

When you click on the new UCL Login button you will be taken to the login screen shown below that you will have encountered on other UCL systems. Once you enter your credentials and password it will log you into Moodle as normal.

The important difference to take note of here is that you are now required to input your user name as userid@ucl.ac.uk and not just userid.


Guest Login Button

When you click on guest login you will be presented with the following screen

The first option UCL Login – Will take you to the new login window as show above

The second option “Log in as guest” – Will automatically log you into Moodle as the site Guest user as detailed in this link to the Moodle mini guide.

The third option “Test account log in” – Is for the use of staff test accounts as detailed in this link to the Moodle mini guide.




July Jamboree!

By Steve Rowett, on 23 June 2022

Colourful bunting adorns the UCL Quad advertising the July Jamboree

The July Jamboree celebrated some of the smaller, more discipline-specific education technology tools available at UCL, and gave you a chance to see them in action and ask questions of the vendors or developers.

The videos of these sessions are now listed below. Access to the videos requires a UCL login. All videos have human-corrected captions and a transcript available.

Monday 11 July: Learning design and content

Tuesday 12 July: Feedback and interaction

Wednesday 13 July: Mathematics and coding

Thursday 14 July: Simulations in STEMM subjects

  • Labster: Labster provides award-winning STEM curriculum-aligned virtual laboratory simulations within biology, biochemistry, genetics, biotechnology, chemistry, physics and more. Labster video (UCL login required). Find out more about Labster
  • Lt: Lt is an online learning platform with ready-to-use content for life sciences, nursing, and medicine. Lt video (UCL login required). Find out more about Lt
  • LearnSci: Transformative digital tools for science educators. Outstanding learning experiences for students. LearnSci video (UCL login required). Find out more about LearnSci

Friday 15 July: Reading, writing and annotating


Moodle Course Lifecycle Tool (CLC-Tool) Released.

By Jason R Norton, on 1 June 2022

Today sees the first release of our Course Life Cycle Tool (CLC-Tool for short). Before I talk about the tool, I want to spend a moment talking about the VLE Product teams new approach to software development and releasing of software.

Agile Product Teams

As you may be aware the whole of ISD has been transitioning to “Agile” ways of working, development, and delivery.  Agile is a framework methodology normally associated with software development, but can be applied to other business teams as we have in ISD. Agile is about emphasizing the value of iterating quickly and often to deliver value to stakeholders and has its origins in the concepts of Agile Manifesto .

What Agile means for you our end users in this case, is that we will work on continuous incremental improvements of the CLC-Tool through small and frequent releases until development can no longer bring significant value to you. These future releases will be based on your feedback, requests, and our observations of the tools use.


The CLC-Tool Overview

The Course Life Cycle (CLC) rollover tool creates a duplicate Moodle course based on an existing one, without any student content such as posts, assignment submissions, etc. The new course will be created within a new category structure based on the next academic year.

When you have rolled over the course, you will have two separate courses (such as ABCD001_21-22 and ABCD0001_22-23) and the new rolled-over course will be automatically hidden from students.

The CLC-Tool is located in the course administration menu and can be used by any user with an editing role in Moodle such as Course Administrator or Tutor.

Screenshot of 'Course Rollover' item under Course Administration Settings

Course Rollover setting

The CLC-Tool will take you through a series of steps to confirm information about the course you are rolling over. The first page (see ‘Step One – Alignment’ image below) will ask you to identify your course category alignment.

In this initial release, you will able to either align your course with either:-

  • Module(s) – Those courses that align with one or more Module deliveries.
  • Programme(s) – Those courses that align with a Programme or Route code.

A third alignment category for the rollover of Miscellaneous courses will follow shortly in one of our next sprint releases.

The CLC-Tool will show the Module Delivery that “may” be currently associated with the course, and will do its best to auto suggest the next academic year equivalent Module delivery. These “Mappings” are the same as you would see in our Portico Enrolments Tool, however in this context the mappings are NOT being used for enrolment and will not have any effect on the membership of your course as they require activation from within the ‘Portico Enrolments’ block.

Screenshot of 'Step One - Alignment' settings

Step One – Alignment

Once you are happy with the Module/Programme alignment you will click “Next” and move onto the second task screen “Course Data” as show below. At this step, the system will auto populate from available information within Moodle/Portico based on the information provided in the previous screen. On the current course if a course end date is not available the CLC-Tool will try to suggest a default end date for the course.

Going forward with future developments course end and start dates will be highly important, as they will be triggers for automated activities within Moodle. It is important to remember that only courses that fall within a start/end date will be displayed on the Moodle Dashboard as this displays “In Progress” courses by default.

The rolled-over course information will offer Course full/short names as well as a Portico Identifier number and will display course start/end dates as currently listed within Portico. The tool using the alignment mappings you previously selected will also highlight the target Moodle category into which the course will be rolled over.

Once you are happy with the information, you will click “Schedule Rollover”. The system will then work to rollover the course and once completed, will email the person who scheduled the rollover to inform them that it is complete.

Screenshot of 'Step two - Course Data' settings

Step Two – Course Data

At any point after you have scheduled a Rollover, you can click on the ‘Course Rollover’ item in the course administration menu to see its status. This can be one of four statuses: Pending, Processing, Complete or Failed. Pending means that the rollover is in a queue and it will be processed as soon as possible, Processing means that the rollover is yet to complete, Complete means that the rollover has successfully completed and a direct link to the new course will be provided on this screen and Failed means that an issue has occurred with the rollover (please see Known Issues section further in this post).

Screenshot of Course Rollover status page

Course Rollover status page



Documentation and guidance for the CLC-Tool can be found via the following wiki page link CLC-Tool Documentation Page. This documentation will be enhanced and developed alongside each release and upon feedback received.


To help support your use of the CLC-Tool we have a series of online training sessions that last 30mins that are available for booking via ‘MyLearning‘ as well as some drop in sessions. Details of these can be found on the wiki at the following link CLC-Tool Rollover Training Page.

Known Issues and Failed Rollovers

As this is a first release, we are aware that there are some issues within the Moodle/SITS data that may cause your course rollover to fail, we will maintain a known issues log on the following wiki page CLC-Tool Known Issues Page

If a Rollover fails you will not currently receive an email informing you of a failure. However, if you click again on the Rollover button in the course administration menu, you will be able to see the status of the rollover and if it has failed (as shown below)

Screenshot of an example of 'failed' rollover status

Example of a ‘Failed’ Rollover status

The VLE product team will be proactively monitoring for failures within our logging tools, and we will contact you to resolve these issues without you needing to contact us. Please be assured a failed rollover will not affect your current course in anyway.

However, if you have any concerns about a failed rollover, please email digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk with “CLC Failed” in your subject text with details including a link to your course.

Next Steps After Rollover

Once you have completed the Rollover of your course, there are a number of actions you will/may need to do with you NEW course. We have created a checklist of these items that you may want to review on the wiki at the folloing link Post Rollover Checklist.

Future Developments

The VLE Product team are working to release new/updated code for CLC-Tool every two weeks, inline with our Agile sprint process. On our current development roadmap (but not in any priority order) are:-

  • Bulk Course Rollover
  • Within Academic Year course Rollover
  • Miscellaneous course Rollover
  • Course content freezing (lockdown)
  • Improved contextual help text
  • Improved automated emails (including failures)
  • Increased error logging


We want you to share your feedback on the CLC-Tool. Ideas to make it better, additional functionality, identify bugs or workflow problems. Please email these to digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk with CLC-Feedback in the title or in person at our Course Rollover training sessions and drop-ins.

Goodbye to Moodle Snapshots!!

By Jason R Norton, on 11 May 2022




From this summer (2022) there will be NO Moodle snapshot taking place. The current “live” Moodle will be the only Moodle going forward and all courses (past, current, and future) from this point will be located within that single instance of Moodle.


What does this mean?

  1. There will not be a Late Summer Assessment (LSA) Moodle instance. All Moodle related LSA work will take place in the main Moodle.
  2. A new category structure will be created based on SITS categories each Academic Year in Moodle.
  3. All courses starting within a particular Academic Year will be located within the new category structure for that year.
  4. The course “rollover” functionality will shortly be made available in Moodle. This tool will facilitate the “Rollover” of courses from one year to another.
  5. Moodle Courses will no longer be reset, they will be “rolled over” into the next academic year and the original kept as a historic record of assessment and for student access.


Why are you getting rid of the Moodle Snapshot?

Moodle Snapshots have been taken historically for two key reasons: –

  • Provide students with access to their previous years course content.
  • Meet our statutory obligations to hold electronic assessments and feedback in line with the UCL data retention policy.

However, creating a Snapshot Moodle generates a series of issues, especially since the introduction of Late Summer Assessment period in 2018.

  • Confusion by both staff and students over which Moodle they should be accessing
  • Two live platforms to support and maintain
  • Complex administration processes
  • Duplicate courses in “live” and Snapshot Moodle
  • Fixed deadlines for course teams to complete Snapshot activities so the Snapshot can made read only.

By moving to one instance of Moodle with a new annual category structure we can accommodated the two primary reasons and reduce or mitigate the associated issues.

It will also allow us to build on exisiting features in Moodle such as Global Search, and allow staff and students to eventually search across multiple years of content. Using the now mandatory course start and end date will enable us to enhance and develop the Moodle user dashboard, so users will be able to view past, current and future courses at the click of a button.


The New Category Structure

The new structure will be created annually by the Digital-Education team as soon as taught Modules are confirmed in SITS as being available in the next academic year. The structure created will be based on SITS data. This should ensure that courses are created within their correct location based upon the selection of the Module occurrence/mapping within the CLC-Tool. An example of this new structure is displayed below:

an image of the new moodle catagory structure

The Course Life Cycle (CLC) Tool (first release)

This plugin will allow you to “rollover” any single course into the new category structure, based upon its SITS module occurrence. Course Administrators and Tutors will access this tool from the administration block, and will be walked through a series of steps to confirm information such as course mappings, catagory and course start/end date, before activating the “rollover” process.

image showing the course rollover menu icon

Course Rollover will be located in the Course administration menu

The previous “original” course can then continue to be used until the course completes. In previous years using a snapshot this would be restricted to the end of November when we would make the entire Moodle read only.

Below are the three steps of the course rollover tool (please note these are development screenshots and layout and text is still subject to change)

course rollover tool page one - selecting your mappings

course rollover tool page two - choosing your course type

course rollover tool page three - confirm rollover options and start process

Guidance and support documentation for the Course Rollover plugin will be released shortly. We plan to make the plugin live in Moodle on the 1st June 2022


Development of the Course Life Cycle Tool?

The CLC tool that we are releasing is our “Minimal Viable Product”, this version contains all the features and functions that we believe are the essential for course teams to Rollover their courses.

This however is not the final version, and our development team will continue to enhance the current functionality and add new features.

On our development roadmap we have the following features to add post initial release.

  • UI/UX changes based on intial release feedback
  • Bulk “rollover” of courses group and/or selection
  • Automated new course creation
  • Course level read-only function and automation
  • Lecturecast link “rollover” function

Removal of the Course Reset Function

As part of the move to course “Rollover”, the Moodle course reset function will be removed on Friday the 13th of May.  Using the Course Life Cycle tool will include reset functionality to create the new version of the course, while maintaining the data integrity of the originating course.

General Questions

What about the existing Snapshot Moodles?

The existing Snapshot instances will be maintained inline with the UCL retention policy of six plus current academic year before being deleted.

How do I make my course read only?

Courses cannot at this point be made read only. Our development team is currently working to release an addition to the CLC-Tool to do this function. Courses can still be hidden.

Why can I not reset my course?

To ensure that we do not suffer any accidental data loss, we will be removing the course Reset function as courses will now be “rolled over” with the CLC-Tool and not reset. If you feel that you require a specific course reset please contact digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk

Who can use the new Course Life Cycle Tool?

Access to the Course Life Cycle Tool and rollover functionality will be restricted to the Course Administrator and Tutor role in Moodle.