For fifteen years, learning management systems have been important components of online learning at UCSF. Some of you may remember CHOMP (Course HOMe Page), the nascent learning system developed by the UCSF Library in 1997. CHOMP, a name the School of Dentistry appreciated, allowed instructors to post files and create rudimentary discussion forums. CHOMP represented a great start, but by 2000, the Library and the schools realized that a more powerful system was needed. After reviewing the available systems of the time, we licensed and implemented WebCT. WebCT was the hub of what was called the Online Learning Environment, and it served the campus well for over eight years. During this time, most of the schools used WebCT extensively to deliver online course content. WebCT usage grew every year. By 2008, the need for a more capable system, along with developments and upheavals in the learning system landscape, required that we implement a new learning management system.
In 2008, we selected and implemented Moodle as WebCT’s replacement. Moodle offered a more modular architecture, mature tools including a powerful quiz module, and a roadmap for the future that included the next generation Moodle 2. With the implementation of Moodle in 2008, the Collaborative Learning Environment was born. The CLE is more than just a learning management system. The goal is to provide a framework and toolset designed to support learner-centered environments, collaborative learning, and other collaborative activities at UCSF. Moodle is the linchpin system and provides many core functions. The CLE also supports and integrates with other tools, including electronic portfolios, learning object repositories, lecture capture, web conferencing, and curriculum management (Ilios). Since Moodle is built on the open source software model, we have been able to take advantage of new modules built by the large corps of developers from all over the world. Over the past five years, the CLE and Moodle have been enhanced by custom features we developed, such as the Favorite Courses and Recent Courses blocks, and the integration of important systems, including Ilios.
While it took longer than we hoped, the promise of Moodle 2 is finally here. We have been following Moodle 2 developments very closely. We delayed any hasty transition to early versions that we felt were not quite “baked” enough for UCSF. Moodle 2 needed a bit more time in the oven. But when Moodle 2.3 was released in June 2012, we felt that the promise of Moodle 2 had finally arrived. Here are just some of the major new features and enhancements that Moodle 2 brings:
- Conditional/selective release — it’s back and better than ever
- Repository integration — bring in and link to content from Dropbox, Google Drive, Box.net, YouTube, and many more
- Drag and drop file upload and resource building
- Much improved built-in editor
- New, more powerful Quiz and Assignment modules
- New modules — Workshop and Lesson
- More page layout options (e.g., place course sections on multiple pages)
- New and better themes, with the ability to dock and undock screen components
- More supported browsers (e.g., Chrome, Safari)
- Private files area for all users
- Mobile — Moodle 2 is built for mobile
Moodle 2 Transition Plan
The current plan is to transition to Moodle 2 during the summer of 2013, beginning with a pilot starting in December 2012. A more detailed timeline will be forthcoming over the coming weeks, and we will use the Convergence blog to announce these details. We will work closely with the schools to make this transition go as smoothly as possible. Because Moodle 2’s architecture is very different than the current version, it will not be possible to simply install Moodle 2 on top of the current Moodle server. For many reasons, it makes the best sense to start with a new, clean Moodle 2 implementation. Here are some details:
- All new courses/spaces created beginning in Summer 2013 will use Moodle 2;
- No new course development will take place on the existing Moodle server (version 1.9) as of Summer 2013;
- Except for collaboration spaces, CLE courses on the existing Moodle server will not be migrated to the Moodle 2 server;
- The existing Moodle server will remain available for up to four years so students will be able to access their legacy course content;
- A portal site (or some other method) will be developed to allow for seamless access to CLE courses regardless of where they reside.
The Moodle 2 server will also be managed locally by UCSF Library/CKM staff. Unlike our current Moodle server, which is hosted by a third party vendor, local hosting will allow us to better monitor server performance and to more quickly implement steps to increase capacity when needed.
Moodle 2 Pilot
The Moodle 2 pilot will begin in December 2012. We will soon be asking the schools and faculty if they would like to help us get Moodle 2 off the ground by participating in the pilot. This will be a production-level pilot. The goal is to provide as robust an experience as possible for those using Moodle 2 during the pilot. Any courses created using Moodle 2 will continue to be available once the pilot phase is over. This will be a great way to get a head-start on using Moodle 2. Your participation will also help us fine-tune the system for the coming transition in 2013. Stay tuned for more information about the Moodle 2 pilot. We will have more details very soon.