Virtual Learning Environment/Three-month plan

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This is the project page for the January to March 2014 Wikimedia UK Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) plan. A large-scale upgrade of the VLE was carried out, uploading some 400 quiz questions, and moving over to lesson format. The Moodle version and skin have both been updated.

Details[edit | edit source]

Those involved are Stevie Benton (SB), Charles Matthews (CM), Doug Taylor (DT).

Typical VLE lesson plan, flowchart outline. As implemented, "read this afterwards" comes ahead of the feedback page, though.

Tech matters[edit | edit source]

  • Bug 155 (Moodle upgrade to 2.6), assigned to DT, scheduled to happen 15 January.
  • Yes check.svg Done Took place late 14 January, with some recovery the next day.

Internal links[edit | edit source]

  • Bug 13 (internal links). There is a syntax change and systematic increment of assignment reference number to cope with.
  • Yes check.svg Done CM has logged as bug 173 (DT).

Consultancy advice is that this perhaps should be treated as a freak event.

Moodle theme[edit | edit source]

The Moodle theme (CSS skin) on the VLE was broken by the update to Moodle 2.6. DT started again, and asked for advice on design.

  • Yes check.svg Done SB collaborated with DT to make some changes (24 January).

SSO module[edit | edit source]

The update has also broken the single sign-on plugin/extension. The SSO is not part of this development plan, however.

  • Yes check.svg Done Logged as bug 172 (Tom Morton).

Server upgrade[edit | edit source]

A tech decision (13 January) to upgrade the hosting to include a database server should benefit the performance of the VLE.

  • Yes check.svg Done Implemented 1 February by Tom Morton.

External consultancy advice resulted in a figure of 8 GB to run Moodle in production mode for 1000 users, giving a picture of what may be needed after a successful launch. Moodle needs plenty of space for caching to run well. CM has advised SB in mail discussion with DT that an upgrade to 4 GB in the WMUK hosting seems appropriate, given that the advice is to set the hardware at an acceptable level, before tuning the system in other ways. Adequate hosting would also mean that other technical ambitions could be restored, that were deferred in discussion in autumn 2013. Synchronous use of quizzes in workshops could easily produce trouble, if the space is too tight. (There is documentation on, in the form of wiki pages, which may not be so authoritative.)

  • Yes check.svg Done Moved database to external service

Further performance measures[edit | edit source]

Besides the hardware upgrade, there are the following:

  • OPcache, enabled by Tom Morton;
  • Disabling some of the 300-odd plugins. DT has found an admin page on the VLE, detailing them and dependencies.
  • Moving to fewer, longer pages. CM and SB agree that this improves the reader experience. DT comments that there is a tradeoff involved, so we need to look into the bottleneck in the new setup to know the effect.

Content matters[edit | edit source]

CM will work 9 days on this, divided as 4 days on U (Update) work, plus 5 days on Q (Quiz) work. SB will be able to assist on the part of Q that is concerned with uploading quizzes into Moodle.

  • CM consulted with SB on 4 February in the office. A prototype of a full lesson was agreed.
  • CM finished the quiz writing work on 3 March. Of 81 current modules, about 66 will have quizzes.
  • CM uploaded quizzes and integrated into lessons for level B modules (finished 14 March); uploaded quizzes for level A modules, finished 17 March, without fully configuring the lessons.
  • CM then to work 29 hours on U.

Yes check.svg Done CM completed the basic assembly of the VLE 31 March. All the existing components now form part of the lessons. Also the main unit text was copied across to ModuleWiki.

Lessons learned[edit | edit source]

  • Going forward, having all images uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and hotlinked will be the best way.
  • An equivalent of MediaWiki's "external link finder" would be very useful for maintenance purposes.
  • Having most hyperlinks open in a new tab should be the guideline: Moodle's dropdown menu uses an old and deprecated explanation of the option, rather obscuring matters.
  • The GIFT import mechanism is somewhat quirky, and doesn't mix well with anything that might be HTML.
  • Overall design in Moodle is best done ahead of any content, for efficiency using duplication. Even so, that apparently only operates within a course, making template-like activity difficult.

Remaining known issues[edit | edit source]

  • Yes check.svg Done Three uploaded images are not showing, after the first pass of fixes. This is an artefact of copying from a module to the matching lesson. Simple fix by downloading and uploading again.
  • Yes check.svg Done (logged sections checked). There are 20 main unit sections (logged) that need checking for broken internal links, an artefact of the update and copying.
  • Yes check.svg Done All parts but the lessons should be hidden, and considered for eventual deletion.
  • Backup to do before deletions.
  • Quiz fixes: there are issues to do with the check-box type, and the existence of more than four options in Q3, that affect a small number of the quizzes. (Fix for number of replies displayed: in the lesson go to Lesson administration > Edit settings > Appearance and increas "Maximum number of answers".)
  • A small number of remaining content worries, to do piecemeal.
  • On ModuleWiki, the lesson numbers for the link back are not fixed, and the format of the pasted text needs "nowiki" and suchlike devices.