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Many Hands Makes Light Work: Collaborating on Moodle Services and Development


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Presentation by Kathy Fernandes, Andrew Roderick, and John Whitmer at the US West Coast MoodleMoot 2012 on August 2, 2012.

Learning Management Systems have evolved from faculty sandboxes to complex enterprise learning environments. Meanwhile, budgets have plummeted and the LMS market has been undergoing rapid change. Many campuses have moved to Moodle to help stabilize their business and application environments. An important criteria behind this transition for many campuses has been the ability to ‘control their own destiny’ and collaborate with colleagues.

In this presentation, we will discuss the experience of campuses in the California State University system collaborating on Moodle technical development, user services, and support. Among the 10 campuse currently using or in transition to Moodle, we have developed a shared governance model with separate groups to administer policy-related issues and technical / UI issues. We will discuss the creation of a Moodle Shared Code base that is being used by several campuses, and the current migration of SCB features into Moodle v2.0. Moodle techincal expertise is shared between campuses, and training resources have been leveraged across the CSU system. We will discuss the process and features that have led to successful (and not so successful) colllaborative activities, as well as the services that have been created.

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Many Hands Makes Light Work: Collaborating on Moodle Services and Development

  1. 1. Many Hands Makes Light Work Kathy Fernandes, Director, System-wide LMSS Project, CSU Office of the Chancellor Andrew Roderick, CIG Chair and Manager of Technology Development, San Francisco State University John Whitmer, Associate Director, System-wide LMSS Project, CSU Office of the Chancellor
  2. 2. Outline1. Moodle in the CSU System2. Strategic Campus Coordination3. Services Created / Delivered4. CSU Shared Code Base5. What’s next …
  4. 4. The California State University 23 campuses 427,000 students systemwide 44,000 faculty and staff systemwide LMSS efforts coordinated since 1997, within decentralized academic technology leadership Moodle coordination started with “Moodle Consortium”, transitioned to formal Moodle Governance in 2010
  5. 5. LMS Applications @ Cal State Campuses
  6. 6. Moodle Campuses & Adoption Date1. San Francisco State – 20072. Humboldt State – 20073. CSU Monterey Bay – 20094. CSU Maritime – 20095. CSU Northridge – 20106. CSU San Marcos – 20107. Sonoma State – 20118. Cal Poly SLO – 20129. CSU Fullerton – 201210.CSU LA - 2012
  7. 7. Diversity of CSU Campuses  (1,000 FTES) – Focused on Maritime trades/careers – take Moodle “on the boat” with them each summer – one staff member for Moodle tech support  (25,000 FTES) – diverse metropolitan university – 1,000+ simultaneous quiz attempts in a single course – 3 development staff for open source app development
  8. 8. CSU Budget Crisis 2011-2012 will reduce budget by at least $650M (reduction to $2.1B), 23% single year cut 2009-2010 cut $625M (partially restored in 2010- 2011) Increased tuition, reduced enrollments, doing less with more is status-quo Synergies, cost-savings, cost-avoidance all major motivators Author: CSU Chancellor’s Office Source:
  10. 10. Strategic Goals for Collaboration1. Leverage CSU scale to reduce costs for AT services and educational content2. Facilitate cooperation between campuses to deliver shared services that reduce costs and increase levels of service3. Incubate transformative services that will enable easier adoption of innovations that reduce costs and improve services
  11. 11. LMSS EnvironmentLMSS = Learning Management Systems and Services
  12. 12. System-wide LMSS Strategy1. LMS Futures Group (Provosts, CIOs, Faculty) prepared 4 documents: – LMS Critical Elements – External Scan of Market & Higher Ed Systems – CSU System-wide Recommendations – LMS Governance Recommendations2. Organize stakeholders to implement recommendations, starting with Moodle
  13. 13. LMS Futures Recommendations Recommendation #1: Provide an “opt-in” services approach to supporting the LMS with the baseline services being a collection of bext practices vs. minimal services Recommendation #2: Provide a centrally hosted “safety-net” LMS for campuses that are at risk. A system or consortium LMS service can result in significant cost savings, especially for small campuses currently using proprietary systems such as Blackboard – We recommend having a limited production available by July 2010. During spring 2010 we will need to determine the specific services available for this first production. – Moodle is the first LMS application that would be provided, followed by Blackboard
  14. 14. LMSS Governance Key Elements1. Standards & Practices Group2. Common Interest Group3. Chancellor’s Office Staff
  15. 15. Stages of CSU Moodle collaboration• Competitive• Cooperative• Collaborative
  17. 17. Community Building is like Watercolor
  18. 18. Moodle Common Interest Group (CIG) Open membership - any interested CSU staff 25-30 attendees per meeting Includes Programmers, Sys Admins, Instructional Designers, Faculty Support Campus updates, technically focused topics, Q&A
  19. 19. CIG Website
  20. 20. QuickGuides – Shared Documentation
  21. 21. system-wide access Array of 1.9.x and 2.x learning materials For faculty Often accentuates local training resources Very important for newly adopting/migrating campuses Single sign-on access
  22. 22. CSU Moodle CIG Webinars Three sessions per season (semester) Nationally and internationally attended Topics focused on CSU CIG needs but usually are broadly relevant Mix presenters btw CSU and National Moodlers Usually about 100 attendees and archives available
  23. 23. Webinar Sessions2011 CSU Moodle Webinar Series Moodle Administration (held on 02/15/11; SFSU, Cal Poly SLO, CSU San Marcos) Moodle Architecture and Performance Tuning (3/17/2011; SFSU) The Road to Moodle 2.0 (05/17/2011; CLAMP, UCLA, Cal Poly SLO)2012 CSU Moodle Webinar Series Migrating to Moodle 2.x - Passing Through the Fire (2/28/12; UCSF, NCSU) Bringing the Library Into Moodle (3/29/12) (CSU, CSU Northridge) Moodle 2.0 File System Issues and Considerations (4/25/12) (Netspot, UCSB, Cal Poly SLO)
  24. 24. Support for Newly Adopting CampusesA powerful outcome of the CIG has beensupporting campuses coming in to Moodle. Shared WebCT migration tool (CSUSM to Sonoma and others) Migration pilot and communication planning Strategies for course migration Shared support docs (QG’s and Lynda) as startup enhancement
  25. 25. Working Groups/Projects CSU Collaborative Documentation (revise QuickGuides) Quality Online Learning and Teaching (QOLT) Moodle Usage Reporting CSU Moodle Website Accessibility Product Template for 2.x Outcomes mixed!
  26. 26. Collaboration Challenges Management – participants have separate management who lack visibility, buy-in Workload – participants have significant local workload Timing – different campuses have different timing for workloads Project Management – lack of PM discipline Culture – campus independence
  27. 27. What’s Next? 2.x Migration knowledge sharing Examine greater connections with UC counter-parts Promote webinars as Moodle-community wide contribution (still bound in CSU needs) Promote campus-to-campus collaboration (and use CIG to create visibility)
  29. 29. Collaboration Can Be Hard
  30. 30. Shared Code Base GoalsEarly on, CSU campuses wanted to be on asimilar version to more consistently shareknowledge; desired SFSU customizations Share innovation, customizations Reduce redundancy of effort Extend other collaborations (support, training) Share in a software infrastructure
  31. 31. CSU Moodle FeaturesBuilt on 1.9.x Remote Import – import courses across instances Course Life Cycle – access to archive instances Gradebook Customization Analytics Block – First iteration – Still more features to add User-level Files Area (de-dupe, access across courses) CK Editor – switched out native editor For more documentation on each feature, visit
  32. 32. Project Details SCB released in Fall 2011 Three campuses in production, a few tested Used GitHub for development Continued security patches, general maintenance until Spring 2013
  33. 33. What Happened?
  34. 34. Moodle 2.0 Newly joining campuses opted to start on 2.x Dead-ending of 1.9 opened investment questions Questions of when existing campuses would move to 2.x
  35. 35. Campus Differences Mature vs. New Moodle deployments Small vs. Large campuses Formal vs. Informal IT and other approaches Customization vs. Plain Vanilla
  36. 36. Project Management Communication issues Local campus communication Who’s in charge?/Decision-making Strategy: Goal was for facilitating 100% usable development solution for all campuses
  37. 37. Value in Collaboration Was there value? Which campuses were in or out Capabilities vs. willingness to contribute Enlightened Self-Interest
  38. 38. Bottom Line Value was not there Required more formalization and commitment than was possible Common interest happens at a more granular level (at least in the CSU) Local work is usually required (100% solution)
  39. 39. What’s Next Focus on migration to 2.x across campuses (focus not on new development) Campus-to-campus sharing (enlightened self- interest) Campuses responsible for the last mile
  40. 40. Questions & Contact InformationKathy Fernandes ( Director of System-Wide LMS InitiativesAndrew Roderick ( CIG Chair, Technology Development Manager at San Francisco State UniversityJohn Whitmer ( Associate Director of System-Wide LMS Initiatives