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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education 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: 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

Countdown to Moodle 4

By Aurelie, Eliot Hoving and Jason R Norton, on 20 March 2023

Previewing our new UCL Moodle, ahead of the summer upgrade. 

Hello and welcome to the new fortnightly news release for our upcoming Moodle 4 Upgrade. 

As announced by Jason Norton, Head of Virtual Learning Environments, in the Moodle 4 Upgrade Summer 2023 blog post on 6th March 2023, the UCL main instance of Moodle will be upgraded this July from Moodle 3.11 to Moodle 4.2. 

In this series of blogs, we aim to keep you up to date with what our team is working on each Sprint (fortnight) and to highlight a new Moodle 4 feature, in more detail. 

What are we working on? 

This week we wanted to share with you our progress with the dashboard redesign for Moodle 4. 

The new dashboard aims to improve the students’ experience with course updates including a timeline of activities, featured current and future course activities, and a ‘Recently accessed by Peers’ section to keep up-to-date and provide quick access to popular activities and resources. The clear buttons and fresh page layout aim to make managing deadlines, learning and signposting of support easier for our learners. 

screenshot of Moodle 4 dashboard redesign

Moodle 4 dashboard redesign

As well as the dashboard, the new “My courses” area introduces a central point where students can access all their available modules and courses, and allows searching and filtering of these courses in the overview section. 

What’s new in Moodle 4? 

Gradebook user experience improvements 

A better user experience (UX) has been a key focus for numerous Moodle 4 developments.  

One such change is that UX improvements have made the Gradebook easier to navigate, which allows graders to analyse the success of formative and summative assessments, and inform improvements to course design.  

In this new version of Moodle, a ‘Grades summary’ page has been added to provide a summary report of the grade averages for each course activity. This Grades summary report can be filtered by activity. 

Grade Summary page in Moodle gradebook

Grade Summary page in Moodle gradebook

There is now also an improved ‘User report’ with a more modern design and collapsible categories. 

Searchable and flexible user report in Moodle gradebook

Searchable and flexible user report in Moodle gradebook

The grader report has an improved search function with dropdown menus. There is also an option to open external assessment tools from the gradebook and add grade letters if needed. 

A ‘Single view report’ with improved design and a new search make it easier to review class and specific user grades. Graders can now search by user, group, or grade item. 


It’s now also easier to import/export gradebook elements. 

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 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.