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Goodbye to Moodle Snapshots!!

Jason R Norton11 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.

Moodle STACK Quiz question type: deploying variants to avoid quiz crashing

Aurelie4 May 2022

Questions in STACK can contain randomly generated elements. A student will be given a random variant of a question generated by a pseudo-random seed.

Why deploy variants?

The tutor is strongly advised to pre-generate and “deploy” variants of a question. Not pre-generating question variants Forces Moodle to generate them on the fly – for quizzes with larger numbers of participants this can cause quizzes to crash/freeze.
When a student attempts the question, they will be given a random selection from the deployed variants.

Other reasons for deploying variants of a question:

  • STACK runs all the question tests on each deployed variant to establish each variant of the question is working. This aids quality control. By using question tests, it is unlikely a student will be given a random variant which does not work correctly.
  • The tutor can decide if each deployed variant appears to be of equal difficulty. The tutor can easily delete variants they do not like.

Caution

  • If an author does not deploy any variants (not advised!) then the student gets any random variant.
  • Questions that don’t use randomisation cannot be deployed explicitly. STACK automatically detects randomisation.

How to deploy question variants

The deployment interface can be found by editing a question and clicking on question tests and deployed variants.

  1. The easiest way to do so is to preview the question
  2. Then click the Question tests & deployed variant link on the top right corner.
  3. Click ‘deploy’ if not already deployed.
  4. Next to Attempt to automatically deploy the following number of variants, enter the number of variants  you would like and click Go.
    (depending on the question and the question note content you may be able to deploy various amount; if possible deploy over 30)
    You can preview results and either exclude variants, or return to the quiz question settings to revise the randomisation you have used in the question.
  5. Check variants as required.
  6. This will show the list of currently deployed variants, and links to undeploy all or a specific variant.
  7. Optionally, click ‘Run all tests on all deployed variants (slow):’ and check/undeploy any variants you don’t want to use.

Limitations

There is currently no way to loop systematically over all variants and deploy them all.

Find more details and advice on using STACK question types on the M57 – STACK online assessment for mathematics and science.

UCL Moodle Upgrade to Moodle 3.11

Jason R Norton1 March 2022

During the week commencing  04/04/22, UCL Moodle will be upgraded to version 3.11.  With this upgrade, there are number of key changes designed to enhance the user experience for both staff and students. This upgrade will include features from Moodle 3.10 and 3.11

The key new feature is the introduction of Turnitin functionality for the following activities:

  • Moodle quizzes- for Essay Type Questions
  • Moodle forums
  • Moodle Workshop

Each of the activities will allow students to make submissions which will be checked against the Turnitin database and will generate a similarity score.  These activities will behave in a similar way to a Moodle assignment with Turnitin integration.

For guidance on how to set one of these activities up on your Moodle course, please see our online guides:

Enabling Turnitin for essay type questions

There are also several smaller changes coming, with changes most noticeable to students.  Course completion will be enhanced, and will include:

  • Activity dates and completion conditions being shown at the top of the activity page
  • Manual marking option for students
  • Additional display settings (or staff)
  • Improved activity completion reports

 

For full details about the new features in Moodle 3.10 please see Moodle 3.10 features

For full details about the new features in Moodle 3.11 please see Moodle 3.11 features

Please note at the current time we are still evaluating/reviewing the Accessibility Toolkit feature and will not be releasing this feature with the Moodle 3.11 release.

 

Or watch this  YouTube playlist of 3.10 New features created by Moodle HQ

Or watch this  YouTube playlist of 3.11 New features created by Moodle HQ

 

For a comprehensive list of all changes in Moodle 3.10, please see the Moodle release notes.

For a comprehensive list of all changes in Moodle 3.11, please see the Moodle release notes.

If you have any questions about this changes, please email digi-ed@ucl.ac.uk.

 

 

New Freehand Drawing question type for Moodle

Rod Digges20 January 2022

The quiz question type ‘Freehand Drawing’ has been added to the set of existing visual question types in Moodle.

Freehand Drawing questions enable the simple and intuitive creation of digital freehand sketches/text mark-up on either a blank canvas or an uploaded background image. Once a sketch has been submitted tutors can, optionally, add their own markup as feedback .

One good reason for choosing Freehand Drawing over other question types, such as Drag & Drop or Multiple Choice questions, is that students have to actively create their responses, rather than just recognise predefined answers as correct or incorrect. This facilitates assessing deeper levels of knowledge and understanding. Furthermore, students don’t have the opportunity to simply guess the correct answer.

Good practice when using Freehand questions:

  • In the question statement, clearly define what you expect from the students in order to achieve full marks.
  • Calculate enough time for answering the question. Freehand Drawing questions generally need more time to answer than single/multi – choice questions. It’s good practice to complete the question yourself and see how long it takes you; double this time at least to get a fair estimate of how long it would take a student.
  • Familiarise students with the question type in good time before using it in any form of assessment
  • Freehand Drawing questions must be marked manually. It’s good practice to prepare a sample solution or an assessment scheme to ensure uniform assessment especially if there are multiple assessors.

A guide for the creation/use of Freehand Drawing questions may be found here: https://wiki.ucl.ac.uk/x/7hN2Cw

Global Search in Moodle

Rod Digges22 November 2021

Moodle’s newly introduced global search function allows anyone in Moodle to locate a range of content including documents, forum posts, descriptions of activities and more. Search is accessed by clicking on the magnifying glass symbol found at the top right of pages within Moodle.

Staff and student searches are restricted to courses and areas within those courses where their Moodle permissions give access, i.e. courses on which they are enrolled either as students, teaching or administrative staff and where searched materials are visible to them. Students, for example, would not have search results returned from hidden courses or hidden sections/content within visible courses.

After entering a search term and pressing the return key, results are shown with additional fields allowing searches to be more narrowly focused. In addition, a range of search modifiers including wild card, boolean and proximity search characters give even more ways to refine searches.

For details of the tool and how to refine searches see this guide.

 

Global deactivation of Portico Mappings

Zaman Wong9 November 2021

Portico mappings on Moodle pages were globally deactivated this morning, 9 November 2021.  Enroled students will retain access to their Moodle courses.

How will this impact students on my course?

  • Students who are already enroled on a Moodle course WILL continue to have access to that Moodle course.
  • Students who join a Module on Portico WILL NOT be automatically enroled onto the corresponding Moodle course.  Students can still be manually enroled.
  • Students who leave the module on Portico WILL NOT be automatically unenrolled.

Moodle and Portico mappings

If Portico mappings are active on a Moodle course, student enrolments on that course are automatically updated overnight to mirror the student registrations in Portico.  Consequently, students who change courses or withdraw from their studies are automatically enrolled or unenroled from the Moodle course when their Portico record is changed.  Usually, this is desirable when students change/drop modules within the first few weeks of term.  However, if students are automatically unenroled after they have been awarded any grades, these grades become inaccessible, which can be very problematic.

Note: the ‘inaccessible’ grades, submissions and logged activity are not deleted, and can be accessed again if the student is re-enroled manually.  But, when a student is no longer enroled on a course, there is just no way to view their content.

Why deactivate Portico mappings?

To reduce the likelihood of this particular ‘inaccessible/missing grades’ problem occurring, Portico mappings are deactivated on all Moodle courses, six weeks into each term.

Can I re-activate Portico mappings on my courses?

Yes.  However, please assess whether you risk losing access to some students’ grades before you do this.  Once a mapping is active, students will be automatically enrolled or unenrolled that evening.  See instructions on re-activating Portico enrolments

Note: Portico enrolments can be deactivated within the course at any time by anyone with Course Administrator or Tutor access, thereby stopping any automatic changes of students enroled on the Moodle course.