Rollover, rollover..

In the summer holidays we will be ‘rolling over’ our moodle site (Gateway). This process involves some key activities. Firstly we will be upgrading moodle itself and all connected services. Then we will be creating new blank module pages and new blank programme pages. There will also be some minor changes to the look and feel of Gateway.

I thought it might be useful to explain what is involved in the process.

Some background

The RAU has used moodle as its main Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) software for 7 years now. The service is known by staff and students as Gateway and is used for all taught courses with on-site teaching. Gateway consists of a main live site and a demo site, both run on a university server. The service is supported with consultancy effort from VLE Middleware, part of The Development Manager (TDM).

In the past, updates to the version of moodle used have been inconsistent and only made when absolutely necessary. Teaching staff were given little guidance on the layout and content required for their module and course pages.

At the start of the 2017/18 academic year, in an attempt to apply a level of consistency, a new tabbed template was released for all module pages. At the same time it was also decided that students would in future be able to access previous years’ module pages to help them with their academic studies and revision. Both changes have been (on the whole) well-received by staff and students.


One of our proposed layouts for the front page of Gateway

A new Gateway maintenance plan

We are now planning a more systematic and strategic approach to the use and development of Gateway.

The proposed approach has a number of elements

1. Gateway maintenance week

This will be an annual week of maintenance to take place after the end of the summer term, post results. It will involve an upgrade of moodle to the most recent Long Term Stable Release (LTSR). Note that LTSR versions are designed to be supported for a longer than normal period. Upgrades will also be carried out (if required) on services that integrate with moodle, such as Turnitin, Panopto and Talis Aspire.

2. Introduce a standard format for programme pages

For 2018-19, a new, standard format for course pages is to be introduced.

3. Preparation for Gateway rollover.

Prior to rollover, all recommended changes to module and course page templates will be agreed with Registry and academic staff, as will any changes to the Gateway Baseline (see below) and support and guidance for the new templates will be developed.

4. Gateway Baseline

The Gateway Baseline establishes the minimum standards expected of taught courses with a VLE presence. The Baseline is intended to ensure consistent course structure and navigation; consistent content location and format; effective communication and clear guidance for electronic submission, assessment and feedback. It is supported with online resources and an exemplar Gateway page.

5. Gateway rollover

At the end of Gateway maintenance week, a rollover process will be carried out. This process involves rolling over all the previous year’s pages into an archive folder and creating the new pages for the new academic year. The process will take place once all final changes to modules have been agreed by AQSC.

6. Page update by academics

After Gateway rollover has taken place academics will be in a position to update their new module and course pages in preparation for the new academic year. They will also be required to update their RAU Resource Lists and create their online assessments. Training and support will be provided. A rationale for the use of blank templates is provided at the end of this post.

7. Monitoring of page updates

Prior to the start of the academic year reports will be run to indicate new Gateway pages for the academic year that have yet to be updated. Teaching staff who have not updated their page content will be given extra support.

Each year a calendar will be provided detailing the time frame for all the above elements.

Rationale for use of blank templates

  • Student experience
    • Students do not like out of date content
    • There are more likely to be errors if content is rolled over and edited rather than created from scratch
    • Turnitin assignments are more likely to incorrect if edited
    • Students want to have access to previous year’s modules
  • Academic effort
    • The process for ‘manually’ migrating information is easier
    • Academics will have a longer time period in which to migrate/create content
    • Updating module pages will be supported by training resources, Gateway Baseline and 121 help if required
    • Tweaking and changing content is easier if a page is started from scratch – time taken checking everything is up to date outweighs the time taken to manually move things
  • Quality assurance requirements
    • Changes need to be made to the template to ensure that it meets QA requirements
    • The module description has been removed to avoid confusion for students over course content
    • A new hidden external examiner area has been added in which content for EEs can be shared
  • Technical reasons
    • Rolling over content is not straightforward now that archived versions of module pages are available
    • Changes need to be made to the template and this cannot be carried out to individual pages


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