Thursday, 8 November 2012

November 2012 Learning Systems Update

We’ve now passed our code freeze date for our next VLE update, and we are in our "testing and bug fixing" phase ahead of the code deployment on Tuesday 4th December.  

Since my last post we've made the decision to use Moodle 2.3 for the December release.  We completed a load testing programme in mid-October, and we’re now confident that the system will be able to carry the load we’re currently seeing – and have quite a lot of headroom too to cope with further growth.

The December update is going to be a fairly major one for the platform taking us from Moodle 2.2 to 2.3 in addition to adding new features, and we’ll be warning users that they should expect the system to be out of service for up to 2 hours early on 4th December.  There will be notices on both StudentHome and TutorHome, warning users that the system is going to be unavailable once we've confirmed the timing.

As we’ve gone into testing, we’ve also been able to start to firm up the catalog of features we expect to include the December release.  As always this list comes with the caveat that if a major problem appears during testing we might need to hold back a feature to the March update.

As I mentioned last month the December release will include STACK, our new tool for assessing and teaching mathematics, changes to OU Annotate and the introduction of a new content handling mechanism to support the new suite of apps that are being developed for the OU Anywhere project.  

In addition we’re also adding tools that allow interactive ebooks (in epub3 format) to be produced automatically.  We’ve also finally had a chance to migrate the Repository activity from Moodle 1.9 to run in Moodle 2.3.

As we finalise the release features we’ll be putting together a set of release notes which will appear on the Online Learning Systems website.

As expected at this time of year, we are seeing plenty of students making use of the VLE.  Over the last few weeks we’ve seen an average of just over 41,000 unique students visit the main VLE each day, and the total traffic on the system averaging just over 800,000 transactions daily.  

As usual we are again seeing our ‘normal’ fluctuation in traffic over the course of the week – with our peak traffic (typically 50,000 unique users, generating over 1,000,000 transactions) on Mondays, which gradually drops off to our ‘quiet’ day on Saturday, before picking up again on Sunday to another peak on the following Monday.

The final topic I want to mention, is to give you an update on how the Learning Systems team are continuing to work with the wider Moodle community.

At the end of October two members of the Learning Systems team attended the Moodle DeveloperConference in Perth in Western Australia

This event addressed a lot of the challenges facing both us and other large-scale Moodle users.

I’m hopefully that in the short term, changes to the way that Moodle uses caches will improve our performance once we get to Moodle 2.4 (hopefully in mid 2013).  And that some of the other suggestions and ideas will make a significant difference to both features we use and to overall performance with later versions of Moodle.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

New and Old

Welcome.  I've decided to move my work blog from it's location on the Open University VLE to a new home here.

The old site will remain live but I'm not planning to make any further updates there.  I've moved the old posts going back to late 2009 over onto this site, and further updates will appear here.

And if the URL here is just too long to remember - try