Moodlemoot Ireland & UK 2012 – Day #2

Day two began with a panel session on moving from Moodle 1.9 to 2.2 (and beyond!), where seasoned Moodle veterans shared their experiences on this major version transition. As Alison Pope noted (@alisonpope) on Twitter, there are “four upgrade approaches

  1. in place and (a) staged (b) in one go
  2. clean install and (a) migrate content (b) rebuild content”.

I was interested (but unsurprised) to hear during this session that plugins are the biggest issue, particularly with non-standard hacks and tweaks.

Whilst there are all manner of Moodle plugins and blocks I’d be keen on us installing at the University of Bath, I’m thankful that we’ve limited our foray into this world to three strategically important ones. These are our in-house developed Moodle/SITS integration as well as Panopto and the Turnitin integration from Dan Marsden [Further details on our Turnitin approach can be found elsewhere on this blog.] Oh, and for the record, we’re going for the 1(b) approach listed above!

Conference Organiser Gavin Henrick also mentioned towards the end of the panel session that he was going to be uploading a Moodle 2 blueprint for upgrade onto this blog before too long. One too keep an eye out for, I think!

Next up was the today’s keynote from Helen Foster, the Community Manager over at Moodle.org, where over a million users are registered.

In this hour long talk, Helen took the audience through several areas of the wider website (.com, .org and .net), in part, giving  walk-through of the three demo Moodle installations that it might be tapping into. These are:

  1. Moodle Demo – A demonstration version of Moodle, where users can log in as any role.
  2. School Demo site – Great for exploring Moodle within a particular role within an environment which has been populated with some data.
  3. QA Testing site – Testing new features in the dev(elopment) version of Moodle. This is due to be used (and bashed!) extensively from May onwards for about a  month in the run up to the  release of Moodle 2.3.
Certainly, following Helen’s presentation, I feel that I really should get (even) more involved with the Moodle Community online spaces. If possible, it’d be great  to contribute some (if not all) of the Moodle Features Demo course that my colleagues and I are currently working on as a way of giving something back.
In a similar vain to yesterday’s blog post, the following are some messages I took away from the range of presentations and breakout sessions that I attended over the course of today. In no particular order…
  • York St. John University (YSJ) have a rather interesting looking web application called Moodle Modules which sits between the student record system SITS and Active Directory (AD). Moodle modules dictates what modules are created within Moodle and assigns tutors roles. Given that we have a similar application over at Bath (but that doesn’t work with AD, I’d be keen to compare notes and identify differences at some point.
  • The YSJ Moodle theme allows for customisation, including some accessibility enhancements, which again would be worth having a conversation about. Their Course filter functionality was also noted as this functionality allowed for course listings to be personalised by users somewhat and prevented the dreaded “scroll of death”. It’s just a shame that York is so far away from Bath as it would have been great to have spent a bit more time with these guys.
  • For pedagogical, procedural and technical reasons, the upgrade to Moodle 2.2 was described as a “game changer” with its enormous benefit to all involved.
  • Gavin Henrick gave a good introduction to using repositories in Moodle 2.x – his slides can be found on his Slideshare space. We’ve enabled the Dropbox, Google Docs, Flickr and Wikimedia ones on our test Moodle 2.2 installation, but perhaps there are some others that we should consider?
  • As Meredith Henson from Catalyst IT Europe Limited discussed that Moodle users might be more attracted to a different activity in Moodle 2.x, than they previously used in 1.9. So, instead of using  a File resource in 1.9, users might be attracted to the Book course format in 2.x instead. Similarly, the Feedback module might be used instead of the Quiz for some activities. Something to consider when planning staff development initiatives at Bath, for sure.
  • A number of institutions are running Google Analytics on their Moodle installations. We’ve been doing this at Bath since 2008, but rarely interrogate the data to inform future decisions. Perhaps this is an area for us to develop in?

So, that’s it – another Moodlemoot is nearly over! Many thanks to all attendees for your contributions, conversations, tweets and so much more besides. It’s was a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding conference, and I look forward to hearing from some of those I met to continue developing ideas with the potential to exchange resources and explore some areas to collaborate within.

In the meantime (and as some know), I have some more writing of my own to be getting on with…

Moodlemoot Ireland & UK 2012 – Day #1

The first day proper of Moodlemoot Ireland & UK 2012 began with a keynote from Moodle Founder, Martin Dougiamas.

Well, actually it began with the loudest rock music I’ve ever heard at a concert conference, but it set the tone to what was going to be a cracking day. With this being my sixth Moodlemoot, I’m in Dublin with high expectations, and the sessions and conversations to date certainly haven’t disappointed.

Martin gave an overview of current priorities at Moodle HQ in Perth, Australia and gave insights into plans for Moodle 2.3 and 2.4.

Whilst the Moodle Roadmap is always there to be referred to, it is always useful to engage in more of a dialogue on development issues related to Moodle’s release cycle and related community, and Martin focused his talk around four key areas, which I discuss briefly below.

1. Plugins
It’s difficult to not notice, but there’s been a seismic shift across a number of devices to the concept of ‘apps’ – often with seamless download and installation. Moodle isn’t going to be missing out here, through the introductions of ‘plugins’ for which a new system has been written. It’ll be easier for both developers and users to integrate these, and installation will be rather WordPress like. Should be ready for Moodle 2.4. (James Clay has written his thoughts on this area on his blog e-learning Stuff.)

2. Processes
Continuing to develop professionalism in this area, whereby management of Moodle developments are striving to be efficient, transparent, predictable, stable and open. There’s lots of related work going on in this area too with the Moodle Tracker, Git repository and Moodle Docs all being constantly and consistently reviewed. Testing procedures are more automated ever, leading to less buggy and more a resilient codebase.

3. Usability
There’s a massive focus on this area, with an emphasis on solving user frustrations through gathering experiences, prioritising issues and developments, concentrating and then communicating change. Some usability studies on Moodle will be undertaken when time and money allows. These iPhone app continues to be a success, and a further (open source) app for Android will be released before too long. Moodle.org and Moodle.com are due for a re-brand.

4. Integrations
This section was beyond my technical knowledge and interests, but hopefully the slide on the right gives an idea! That said, I was interested to hear that Moodle HQ will be doing some work to integrate Open Badges from the Mozilla Foundation. (No I didn’t know what they were either…)

A number of questions were put to Martin during the Q&A session, including the following items.

  • The “scroll of death” specification will be online before too long. Within this format, topics within courses can be switched to one per page, which then in turn have a table of contents type navigation. Mockups are floating around on Moodle.org.
  • The Assignment activity is being re-factored for Moodle 2.3, as noted yesterday. In particular, the ability to grade assignments offline and then send grades back to Moodle sounds awesome!
  • The code freeze for Moodle 2.3 will happen in four weeks time, which in turn will be followed by one month of testing. The Book module – not one I’ve used yet, admittedly – is currently in the hands of a Moodle Developer and will be part of Moodel core for 2.3.
  • Drag and drop is going to become more and more important. The prediction is that more content will be stored in the cloud, in services like Dropbox. Related to this, the usability of the Moodle file picker is being re-visited and details can be found on the Moodle Tracker.

For further notes on Martin’s keynote, do head along to Becky Barrington’s blog to catch up on any points that I might have missed. I haven’t talked about Martin’s thoughts on Blackboard’s entry into the Moodle world, for example.

I took reams of notes (well, lots of Evernote Notes were created and written!) in the numerous sessions that followed the keynote, which I’m afraid, would take days to dissect and reflect upon before reporting back on this blog.

However, I can give a numberred list (in note form in part) giving an overview of those things that caught my eye, or made me sit up and take notice. I always haven’t matched the sessions below to presenters, but would be happy to on request.

  1. The log-in integration of Moodle with Google Apps has not been as seamless as one institution had hoped. The lack of the tech-speak to describe an institutions issues to a Moodle Partner was seen to be problematic.  One of the key things was finding that Moodle 2 behaves differently [to 1.9] and that this was seen to challenge to the intuition that staff had developed around 1.9
  2. Presentation of a new acronym: NoSSTFOM – “Not Strictly Speaking The Fault Of Moodle”!
  3. Discussion of work “underpinned by a 3E framework at Edinburgh Napier University as a way of thinking about technology and sharing examples”.
  4. A fantastic presentation by Michelle Moore (@michelledmoore), Chief Evangelist at Remote-Learner.net on the Book Module, the Glossary, Lesson and Workshop activities and Conditional Activities. Her presentation can be found on Slideshare.
  5. ULCC‘s discussion of three Moodle case studies where the environment has been tailored for institutional use. One of the key findings of this work for them was that a “shared service approach is transformational”.
and finally…
  • Becky Barrington (@bbarrington) has developed a rather useful Prezi presentation entitled  What is new with Moodle 2 (and 2.2)? It includes and highlights differences between 1.9, 2.0, 2.1 and 2.2.
  • The fabulous Twitter conversations going through the #mootieuk12 hashtag. This is the first time I’ve ever engaged with Twitter so much for a conference, and its been immensely useful. It wouldn’t neccesarily work in every context, but has without a doubt, been a fabulous value added for conference attendees.

Day #1 (well, 2) over. Time to go and explore Dublin a little more, before the final day of Moodlemoot 2012 tomorrow. Can’t wait!

Moodlemoot Ireland & UK 2012 – Pre-Conference Workshops

Having not blogged for some time, I figured that getting writing again whilst in the lovely city of Dublin would be a perfect opportunity to re-initiate my writing.

Having achieved both Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT) and Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) over the last nine months or so, I’ve indulged in a fair amount of reflective writing recently. With both now completed and awarded, I feel strongly that I should return to this blog to continue reflecting as well as sharing practice with others.

As you might have guessed from the title of this post, I’m in the city for MoodleMoot Ireland & UK 2012, a conference based around the open source software, Moodle which we use at the University of Bath.

Whilst tomorrow sees the first of two days of the conference, I flew into Dublin yesterday evening in time for the pre-conference workshops that were taking place today. After some consideration of the workshops on offer, I decided to attend the following two.

#1 – Introduction to teaching with Moodle

Led by Mary Cooch (@moodlefairy), I was attracted to this workshop because of its introductory nature, despite having been a Moodle user since 2005.

With the University of Bath upgrading to Moodle 2.2 this summer, I was keen to get some ideas for both our own Moodle 2 Familiarisation seminars, and the longer term (new) Moodle Staff Development programme which will be rolled over over the next year or so.

Additionally, attending a(nother) Moodle 2.2. introductory workshops works too in getting me to polish those new skills – and paths through the environment – that are new to me.

Over the course of the three hour session, I picked up a range of ideas which I know that I’ll be considering when I’ll be leading development of the new Moodle Essentials workshop at Bath.

There were also some other items that I’ll be keen to explore after the Easter break:

  • With the Assignment activity changing for Moodle 2.3, the Online Text functionality, might be changing. This would be worth investigating given that we’re currently pushing this as an alternative to the Journal activity which we’re not installing.
  • The Lesson activity, and how to build an effective example within the Moodle Features Demo course I’m building as part of our staff development work. This holds tremendous potential for building branched learning activities.
  • The Workshop activity is another to explore, given that both activities have been re-developed completely since Moodle 1.9. This activity allows for both peer- and self-assessment based activities.
  • Develop thinking around default blocks that we should recommend users add to their Moodle courses. Talking of which, there are an increasing number available in the Blocks drop down menu when Turn Editing On has been enabled. Are all of these required, or can some be switched off?
  • When it comes to repositories available through the file picker – Is integrating with Picasa Web Albums essential? Or will Flickr be enough?

#2 – Adding Social to learning (SoMe Bootcamp)

Following lunch (no one at the conference was quite sure what the soup served was!), I headed to conference organiser, Gavin Henrick’s (@ghenrick) session on the making Moodle courses more social.

In turn, he took the group through a range of Moodle resources and activities to see how integrating with, or pulling feeds from, social media services could make Moodle courses less static.

One of the most useful parts of the session was Gavin’s insistence on actively encouraging audience participation and asking people to share their experiences. This in turn led to a much richer session.

Tomorrow, I’ll be keeping a look out for sessions in which Moodle/Mahara integration will be discussed, as I feel that there might be some discussion in this area at the University of Bath within the next six months or so.

During Gavin’s session, I was interested in a conversation about blogging functionality in Moodle, where one institution decided to switch off this functionality completely, and directed students to Mahara instead. Food for thought!

That’s it for today. I’m looking forward to more interesting sessions and conversations tomorrow, especially the remote keynote from Moodle  Founder, Martin Dougiamas, where I’m sure he’ll talk about the Blackboard-related news that shook the Moodle-world last week.

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