The Progression of Cloud Computing
in Further Education Colleges
Section 4.6
VLE in the Cloud

A study based on Cloud Tech...
Detailed outcomes from Individual Projects
4.6 VLE in the Cloud
Needs and Opportunities
Virtual Learning Environments (VLE...
Swindon College: Moodle & Mahara hosted in the cloud.
Wigan and Leigh College: Moodle and e-portfolio hosted in the cloud....
reported the need for agreements on personal data protection, when integrating the system
with UNIT-e, and that Blackboard...
Wigan & Leigh College: ULCC issues with staff leaving.
Project and Change Management
Exeter College: The College has selec...
has been delivered and revised authentication strategy agreed and implementation planned. An
improved understanding of adm...
Savings
Hereford College of Technology and RNC:
“The cost of running the cloud VLE will be similar to that in-house taking...
With thanks to all project partners who contributed to the
development of this report and consultant Chris West

The Assoc...
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Section 4.6 vle in the cloud

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Section 4.6 vle in the cloud

  1. 1. The Progression of Cloud Computing in Further Education Colleges Section 4.6 VLE in the Cloud A study based on Cloud Technology projects managed by the Association of Colleges and funded by the Skills Funding Agency - 2012 - 2013 November 2013
  2. 2. Detailed outcomes from Individual Projects 4.6 VLE in the Cloud Needs and Opportunities Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) are used extensively by further education Colleges. Many VLEs have been hosted by Colleges themselves. Whilst providing control and flexibility, hosting VLEs within Colleges requires servers and staffing. There is also a need to integrate VLEs with other College systems such as MIS. Colleges have increasingly been hosting VLEs in the cloud, which has the potential to increase systems’ resilience and enable integration whilst saving costs. The Projects Exeter College: This project involves large-scale hosting of a new Moodle in the cloud to sit alongside the College’s SharePoint portal. A first stage was to migrate the existing VLE to the cloud. Hereford College of Technology with the Royal National College for the Blind: “This project involves cloud hosting of Moodle for partially sighted learners. We are helping visually impaired people to access Moodle and other websites or applications regardless of the device they are using and whether they have existing enabling software available. College IT departments are also benefitting from not having to install enabling software on every PC that might be used by a visually impaired person and instead provisioning the software as a service from the cloud”. New College Durham: The move was to a hosted Blackboard site where the College would get the benefits of software updates made by the supplier on request. This would mean some removal of risk to the College when maintenance is being carried out. Offsite hosting also greatly mitigates against disaster recovery/business continuity risks. The existing VLE (Blackboard) was used to share course information and learning materials and for communication between teaching staff and students. The College did not want to change the way the VLE worked so we had to ensure the transition from internal system to external hosting was seamless. Nescot and Greenwich College: This project is a shared service cloud computing project between Greenwich Community College and Nescot. The Colleges have existing shared service working arrangements in the areas of finance, IT, staff development and senior management. The project sought to establish a high quality shared VLE cloud based around common Moodle course development. Technical issues such as synchronised login across different hosting providers have been managed effectively. Common areas for the development of shared eLearning resources have been agreed (Employability, Study Skills and GCSE Maths and English) have been developed with specialist support from a high-quality online provider. Project led by Portsmouth College involving six Colleges in total: This project involves six sixth form Colleges sharing access and development of Moodle in a private cloud. Initially it is focused on the teaching of A Level Physics in a context of scarcity of staffing and teaching resources. 1
  3. 3. Swindon College: Moodle & Mahara hosted in the cloud. Wigan and Leigh College: Moodle and e-portfolio hosted in the cloud. Outcomes Similarities All projects involved are moving a College VLE, often with an e-portfolio, into a public or private cloud. One project, New College Durham, was based on Blackboard, with the rest being Moodle. Whilst it is early to confirm benefits, a number of projects have experienced these. Hereford College and New College Durham have confirmed ease of use of their new systems. Hereford have reported a good experience in developing the system in the cloud. A number of projects reported staff having to adjust to working practices where they had less access to the VLE on the server. New College Durham users needed some time to get used to the new system. Differences Four projects - Exeter College, New College Durham, Swindon College and Wigan and Leigh College - involved moving or redeveloping a single College VLE to the cloud. Three projects - Hereford/Royal National College for the Blind, Nescot/Greenwich and Portsmouth College (Solent Sixth Form Colleges) - involved collaborative working between Colleges to deliver specific learning gains. The Hereford Project involved making learning materials available on Moodle for visually impaired learners. The Nescot project involved the sharing of the development and use of specific learning materials e.g. in Maths. The Portsmouth College Project involves the sharing of A level Physics teaching and materials between the Colleges against a background of scarcity of staff and learning resources. Hereford and Nescot have experienced particularly productive collaborative working given that these projects are based on already established partnerships. The Solent Colleges have had positive experience against a background of needing to do detailed work on agreeing common syllabuses etc. The Nescot and Portsmouth projects utilise private clouds, whilst the others are public clouds. The Swindon and Wigan and Leigh VLEs are hosted by ULCC. New College work with Blackboard as a partner. Hereford work with Webanywhere and Nescot with Synergy Learning, who are established Moodle Partners. Portsmouth College have identified security as a key issue when working in a collaborative context The technical implementation of these projects has been uniformly smooth. Exeter College have encountered a challenge with LDAP authentication, which relates to integration with their SharePoint system. The New College Durham implementation was straightforward given that Blackboard is both VLE provider and development partner. Exeter College have identified a need to pay high attention to the interdependency of SLAs especially when these are the responsibility of a development partner. New College Durham 2
  4. 4. reported the need for agreements on personal data protection, when integrating the system with UNIT-e, and that Blackboard had standard agreement for these situations. Hereford reported savings on servers in both Colleges. Some Colleges reported a reduction in staff time in removing the need to support VLEs on local servers. Delivery Models Exeter College: Moodle hosted in the cloud to sit alongside the College’s existing SharePoint Portal. Hereford College of Technology/RNC: Cloud hosting of Moodle for partially sighted students. New College Durham: Blackboard in the cloud. Nescot and Greenwich College: Private cloud sharing of Moodle system and teaching materials. Portsmouth College: Private cloud sharing A Level Physics teaching materials and teachers. Swindon College: Moodle hosted by ULCC in the cloud. Wigan and Leigh College: Moodle hosted by ULCC in the cloud. Supplier Relationships Exeter College: The College experienced some challenges with the chain of suppliers in achieving the required functionality. Hereford College of Technology and RNC: Third party support company Webanywhere has set up Moodle 2.4 in the cloud and migrated Moodle 1.9 data into it ready for user testing and training. Three days were spent discussing the look and feel of the new Moodle. Nescot and Greenwich Community College working with Moodle Partner Synergy Learning: Procurement process complete as per the College’s financial regulations. Following interviews and presentations, Synergy Learning were selected to host and to develop the shared cloud VLE Portal between GCC and Nescot and to develop the course(s). New College Durham: Working with Blackboard. Swindon College: Moodle hosted in the cloud, with Mahara, by ULCC. 3
  5. 5. Wigan & Leigh College: ULCC issues with staff leaving. Project and Change Management Exeter College: The College has selected its cloud hosting partner and migrated the existing Moodle to the V. It is currently implementing the main project which is to create a new cloud -hosted Moodle to sit alongside the SharePoint Portal. The functional and technical aspects of this new cloud -hosted Moodle have been specified. The specification includes essential systems integration and security requirements. Partners were selected through use of the HRC3 Framework (the Procurement Framework devised by Hertford Regional College). The College encountered two challenges, which it has needed to resolve with its supply chain. These were: Unexpected security concerns surrounding LDAP authentication to the College’s Active Directory The need for the College to be able to access some administrative functions of the Moodle instance in order to match the level of control enjoyed when using a locally hosted instance. Solutions have now been agreed and the cloud -hosted ’production’ Moodle system is expected to be live by the end of the Autumn Term 2013. Hereford College of Technology and RNC: The existing VLE has been live, hosted in Iceland since October, and is working very well for staff and learners. No issues have been encountered due to it being cloud based. The VLE is accessible by partially sighted learners on PCs. Specialist software lists for each device type have been compiled. Specialist software website has been built and is active. Live speech from website is active. HCT online VLE is now running on Moodle 2.4. Nescot and Greenwich Community College: Technical implementation has been relatively trouble free. Shared resources development and content availability have been worked on. Shared service approach has been successful to date and builds on existing shared services links. Synergy with other collaborative partners is being achieved e.g. NCFE and REED for Employability course development. SLAs Exeter College: There is a need for clarity of who is responsible for what, and the interdependence of SLAs is paramount where the SaaS partner is dependent upon third parties. New College Durham: Standard Blackboard SLA covers all needs. Impact Exeter College: The existing, populated Moodle environment has been migrated to cloud and is in production yielding experience of relocation and managing a cloud-hosted service. So far this is serving over 48 courses. There has been significant engagement of teaching practitioners involved in evolving new design. The specification for production environment and integration strategy has been generated. Partners have been selected and implementation planning completed. The cloud -hosted production environment has been implemented. The practitioner training programme 4
  6. 6. has been delivered and revised authentication strategy agreed and implementation planned. An improved understanding of administrative functionality has been gained. Hereford College of Technology and RNC: Innovative use of cloud-based SaaS has been achieved to provide enabling software to end users without having to install on all machines those users might possibly use. Basic Moodle accessibility is available even from clients with no enabling software available. There is a layer to suggest available options (both free and chargeable) based on detected device, including instructions. Cloud-based Moodle has had no negative impact on performance from within or outside the College. There are fewer calls to the IT support team. Nescot and Greenwich Community College: The shared cloud -based VLE is now live and account synchronisation and seamless login has been implemented. The College is now focussing on the development and implementation of a set of common courses in: Study Skills, Employability and GCSE in Maths and English. These courses are critically important to both Colleges. Independent learning for Maths and English has been highlighted in the new OfSTED Common Inspection Framework. The development of employability skills is a priority for both Colleges. Moreover, Nescot has recently established the REED centre in partnership with REED-NCEF. Swindon College: Significant project activities including auditing courses for Moodle content and use. This is being used inform training. The use of a shared server at ULCC can impact on speed at certain times and plans to move to a dedicated server are being investigated. New College Durham: College staff had to get used to differences in the new version software, particularly new data structures. The export and upload of regular outputs from the College’s student database was addressed at this stage culminating in the integration of the managed hosting environment with our student information system UNIT-e. Consideration was also given to the sharing of personal (student) data with the external host. However, the College did not need to draft a data sharing agreement as Blackboard had already provided a standard declaration for the two parties to sign. Portsmouth College: A key issue for the development of multi-user systems has been that of security, ensuring that users can upload materials without the risk of others overwriting or amending. To overcome this, a different configuration has been developed with each partner having full read-write access to their own designated iteration and read access only to those for other partners. When common content is approved, it will then be copied from partner locations to a common area which will then be available to download to local student access versions. Systems are now up and running with usernames/passwords distributed to all subject teaching staff. Exeter College: “We will be able to evaluate savings when we have fully and successfully implemented the production environment which we now anticipate to be during November.” Swindon College & Wigan and Leigh College: Impact will be evaluated during Autumn 2013 into the beginning of 2014. 5
  7. 7. Savings Hereford College of Technology and RNC: “The cost of running the cloud VLE will be similar to that in-house taking into account the extra JANET capacity required and service contracts. Centralising enabling software will reduce licensing and support costs by around £5000pa across both Colleges whilst reducing student software costs. We expect to realise these cost savings in the 2013/14 academic year.” Sustainability and Expected Longer Term Impact All of these projects are sustainable in terms of the scope to add further content, increase reach and facilitate further collaborative learning. The projects that are in the public cloud will support energy savings and reduced hosting overheads. Replicablity for the Wider FE Sector All of these projects are replicable in the wider sector as they involve a range of approaches to migrating VLE to cloud in a number of different contexts. 6
  8. 8. With thanks to all project partners who contributed to the development of this report and consultant Chris West The Association of Colleges 2013 2-5 Stedham Place, London, WC1A 1HU Tel: 020 7034 9900 Fax: 020 7034 9955 Email: projects@aoc.co.uk website: www.aoc.co.uk

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