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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Leeds City College - Moodle 2 Beachhead secured

If you have been following Lewis Carr's blog you would have known that the intrepid VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) manager and his technical team have been on a quest. To be exact, a Moodle 2 upgrade quest of epic proportions. But they've done it. By George they've done it! I'm talking about Lewis Carr, Sukhwant Lota and the VLE development team at Leeds City College.



 Great theme. Love the exciting colours. Leeds City College's Moodle 2 site as of 22nd July 2011.

How did it start?



Come with me for a little flashback if you will. In an earlier post on January 1st 1970...erm...2011 (little joke here, see if you can catch it by reading this post that is the first in a suspenseful four-part series), Lewis deliberates on his decision, then justifies his action with precision and clarity.

To upgrade or not to upgrade? That is the question. Well my answer is…upgrade! ... Unfortunately, due to the size of the organisation, our custom tweaks, third party plug-ins and staff training needs, an upgrade isn’t going to be easy.

Let's see, what are we up against here? Hmm...how about upgrading a Moodle 1.9 site with a MoodleData folder weighing in at over 160GB of data? And with "over 25,000 live student accounts, ... 6,000 courses and approximately 3,000 meta courses"? Whoa Nelly! This is no mean feat. Most mortal admins would balk at the very idea of even embarking on such a project.

Well unless we get behind Moodle 2.0 and try it we will only slow down the development proces, bug fixing and support documentation.

Spoken like a true visionary and in the Can-Do spirit.

I must admit, I’m scared to upgrade, if it isn’t broke right?

Like any normal mortal, Lewis indicates a hint of trepidation. Phlegmatic logic dictates caution. After all, Moodle 1.9's working just fine and dandy. But Lewis is no mere mortal. With his credentials and Tigger-like indomitable will, he presses on.


But surely the new features in 2.0 outweigh any snags and hiccups I’ll encounter along the way. And I’m sure I’ll find bugs and some things won’t work the same as they did but that’s what it’s all about, that’s what Open Source is all about.

But "surely"! That's the Right Stuff and Lewis has plenty of it.

What I find particularly interesting is Lewis' decision to plan for the future of Moodle. With users and requests breathing down his neck, not only does he deliberately hold back installing modules unsupported by Moodle 2.0, but he also removes unsupported mods. That takes a lot of guts.

Gutsiest move I ever saw, man! (TopGun, 1986)

Then when it comes to training I’ll sell the benefits of what’s new and improved rather than what has moved or changed or what’s disappeared.

Hear, hear. Now that's a positive attitude if ever there was one.


 Leeds City College's Moodle 1.9 site as of August 2010.


Based on Lewis' post on his website and the announcement on LCC's new Moodle 2 site, it looks like Lewis and the team have pulled IT off. I would also like to highlight this honest, no-frills, minimal techno-speak PDF explanation of the upgrade to Moodle 2 for LCC's users. This PDF document is very instructive and should be a must read for all admins who are upgrading to Moodle 2. It stresses the benefits of Moodle 2 in a clear and succinct manner.



Just curious. How are the tutors and students dealing with the changes? How do they find the new features of Moodle 2? Are there users and tutors "knocking at the door wondering why everything has changed"? How is the technical team dealing with changes? I wouldn't know, but I believe that they are more than capable of dealing with any problems that arise from the upgrade.

Leeds city College now runs on version 2 of Moodle.  We've worked hard to try and ease the transition to the new version.  For the most part, students won't notice anything radically different, tutors will see a few new changes but we know you'll love the features.

What does LCC's achievement under the leadership of Lewis Carr mean to me? It means that upgrading to Moodle 2 can be done. It means that one grows stronger by embarking on journeys with a cause, no matter how arduous, with a vision to improve. To go boldly where no man has gone. I am sure that the team is now stronger, having achieved this challenging upgrade task.

For me, I'm still stuck with Moodle 1.9.7. Not that it is that bad a thing. To be honest, it's because I'm scared stiff of accidentally nuking my Moodle site in the upgrade process. I've spent literally hours mantaining it. I can't afford to have it go down. I have enjoyed every single hack and mod that I installed on my site. It has served me and is serving me well.

But for how long? Moodle is moving on to version 2.2 this December. It's getting better. Do I really need all these third-party mods, activities and filters of Moodle 1.9? Do my students need them? Can I improve my pedagogical skills and just use Moodle out of a box? Are my technical skills enough to survive an upgrade? Or maybe I should upgrade my Php and MySQL skills vis-a-vis Moodle in this interim period.

Food for thought.

In closing, D-Day (or M2-Day) for Leeds City College's Moodle 2 upgrade has come and gone. The smoke has cleared. What started as an upgrade proposal in January has in July become a reality.  I bid Lewis Carr, Sukhwant Lota, the technical team, tutors, staff and students of LCC a hearty congratulations! There's lots more work to be done. The Beachhead is secured. Now to push on inland.


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