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Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Archive for the 'Technology blogs' Category

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.

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

By Aurelie, on 4 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.


  • 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.


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.

MyPortfolio upgrade: what’s new?

By Aurelie, on 11 April 2022

Our eportfolio system MyPortfolio is powered by the open-source platform Mahara.

On 26 May 2022, MyPortfolio was upgraded to Mahara version 21.10. This means we’re bringing you new functionalities and improving features such as competency frameworks, general usability improvements as well as making MyPortfolio more user-friendly.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of improvements:

SmartEvidence (competency framework) for group templates

A SmartEvidence framework can be added to a group portfolio used as template for the creation of personal portfolios.

Exports improvement

Decide whether you want to include or exclude private comments from your portfolio export to retain the original setting on private comments and not make them viewable by others.

Collapsible page comments

When you open a page, the comments area at the bottom of a page, when the portfolio author allowed comments, is collapsed per default to save space.

MyPortfolio collapsible comments feature

MyPortfolio collapsible comments

Skin stays with copied page

When you copy a page or a collection that has one or more skins applied to its pages, the skins come along with the pages if they are public or site skins that you are allowed to use.

Accessibility bug fixes

Accessibility bugs were fixed towards compliance with WCAG 2.1.


For more details, you can review the MyPortfolio Mahara Manual.

21.10 Mahara video from https://manual.mahara.org/en/21.10/new.html 

If you have any question regarding setting up eportfolio activities or assessment, don’t hesitate to contact me : a.soulier@ucl.ac.uk .


UCL Moodle Upgrade to Moodle 3.11

By Jason R Norton, on 1 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.