Moodle for 1000 Schools
Dan Poltawski
Systems Developer, LUNS Ltd.


UK Moodle Moot 2007
CLEO (Cumbria
and Lancashire
Education Online)
  ~10,000 Km   2


      ~1,000 Schools

        ~250,000 Pupils
Background
Government target that all pupils will be able to access
a personalised online workspace, by 2008
Trials indica...
Moodle for CLEO Schools
Each school gets their own instance of
Moodle (with full admin control)
Centrally managed backups,...
Training
 Free training courses offered to all schools
 11 different training courses running throughout school
 year
   I...
Where we started

December 2005, migrated 3 schools from external
hosting
Moodle 1.5.3
Secondary schools involved in Cumbr...
Today:
       Primary        Secondary       430 Moodles
       Support
200
                                      100,000 ...
Problematic Stats..

 339 custom themes to manage.
 34,000 e-mails sent daily
 41,000 moodle cron jobs run daily
 500,000,...
Upgrades
Upgrading is our biggest
hosting challenge
 Big Drawbacks:
  Downtime for upgrade
  400+ chances for things to go wrong
  ...
Why upgrade?
Features!
Parity with Moodle core
  Bug fixing and reporting
  Inclusion of new features to core
  Moodle.org ...
Designing for upgrades

Shared codebase
  1.1 Million Lines of code is enough to keep up with!
  We can’t support per-scho...
Tactics for success
Its important to ‘Live the Community’ and use
judgement
Allow time for bugs to emerge
Try and stay cur...
Keeping up with Moodle
A Full-time job:
  Subscribed to moodle-cvs
  mailing list
  Watch tracker items
  Forums!
Helps: u...
Upgrades are a strength of
Moodle

  Moodle is very good with upgrades, we’ve survived:
    Moodle 1.6 - Unicode without t...
Themes
Themes
Have to be treated like code
  This is problematic for uploads
Developed a self-service interface to give access to...
Theme Validation

We process each theme uploaded and try:
  Examine structure for sanity
  To correct obviously incorrect ...
A request to theme authors
Please use Cascading Style Sheets like they were
intended!
  Unnecessarily overridden theme sty...
Enrolment
Culture Change
The arrival of VLE’s into UK schools brings a change in
school IT culture
MIS Data has not been widely used...
Enrolment Plugins
School environment is currently very different to big
enterprises
Problems:
  MIS data can be of poor qu...
Typical School Enrolment


Manual enrolment
Teacher faced with the burden of assigning each
student individually to their ...
Our Solution
Simple, two-step import from MIS System to Moodle
  Capita SIMS
  Serco CMIS
Provides ‘enrolment groups’ as a...
MIS Import Demo
Limitations

 One-time Import
   Not reflected as a ‘group enrolment’
   Changes in groups not reflected in courses
 No mapp...
Authentication
An Identity Problem

 Dealing with 1000 separate organisations
 No central identity system
   1000 different setups
   Big...
Centralised Authentication

 Increasing requirement for centralised authentication
 system throughout CLEO
 Keep power in ...
Authentication & Enrolment

Hoped that central authentication systems can be
linked with MIS systems to help solve the enr...
Systems Architecture
Overview
                                                                                       Replication
              ...
Shared Codebase

Initally used UnionFS                          UnionFS
  Perfect for themes       My School files
        ...
Problem Areas: Messaging

Inefficient, continual refreshing
Lunchtimes/break-times cause huge load peaks as
schools let pup...
Problem Areas: File Storage

Continual growth in
usage
Many content providers
eager to get into moodle
No way for schools ...
Problem Areas: Mail

Huge amount of mail generated
Often not required in school scenario, particularly
primary level
Puts ...
Questions            ?
dan.poltawski@lancaster.ac.uk
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Moodle for 1000 Schools

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Moodle for 1000 Schools

  1. 1. Moodle for 1000 Schools Dan Poltawski Systems Developer, LUNS Ltd. UK Moodle Moot 2007
  2. 2. CLEO (Cumbria and Lancashire Education Online) ~10,000 Km 2 ~1,000 Schools ~250,000 Pupils
  3. 3. Background Government target that all pupils will be able to access a personalised online workspace, by 2008 Trials indicated strong school support for Moodle in the region - many early adopting schools CLEO chooses to provide Moodle for all schools, with a strong emphasis on ensuring support and development for schools Centralised provision aiming to provide a fully supported, resilient learning platform which schools can depend upon
  4. 4. Moodle for CLEO Schools Each school gets their own instance of Moodle (with full admin control) Centrally managed backups, upgrades and server resilience Phone/ email technical support Curriculum based support run by Learning Consultants CLEO Moodle for schools to share ideas and resources
  5. 5. Training Free training courses offered to all schools 11 different training courses running throughout school year In-depth admin training run by Synergy Learning Shorter course-creator focused courses run internally by Local Authorities Over 600 school staff trained to date
  6. 6. Where we started December 2005, migrated 3 schools from external hosting Moodle 1.5.3 Secondary schools involved in Cumbria 14-19 Pathfinder project
  7. 7. Today: Primary Secondary 430 Moodles Support 200 100,000 registered users 150 20,000 active in last 100 month 50 10,000 active in last week 0 Sept 06 Jan 07 Oct 07 4,000 active in last day No. of Moodles
  8. 8. Problematic Stats.. 339 custom themes to manage. 34,000 e-mails sent daily 41,000 moodle cron jobs run daily 500,000,000 lines of code (potentially)
  9. 9. Upgrades
  10. 10. Upgrading is our biggest hosting challenge Big Drawbacks: Downtime for upgrade 400+ chances for things to go wrong Increased support burden as schools get familiar/ discover new bugs Amending training, support materials and ensuring support staff are up to date
  11. 11. Why upgrade? Features! Parity with Moodle core Bug fixing and reporting Inclusion of new features to core Moodle.org as accurate support resource Security/Stability
  12. 12. Designing for upgrades Shared codebase 1.1 Million Lines of code is enough to keep up with! We can’t support per-school code changes Limited third-party modules Avoiding ‘local-hacks’ - push to core where possible
  13. 13. Tactics for success Its important to ‘Live the Community’ and use judgement Allow time for bugs to emerge Try and stay current, no longer than 1 major release More beneficial to put bug-fixing/testing into new releases Test, test, test, test! Backup and prepare for fast rollback!
  14. 14. Keeping up with Moodle A Full-time job: Subscribed to moodle-cvs mailing list Watch tracker items Forums! Helps: upgrades, security, support
  15. 15. Upgrades are a strength of Moodle Moodle is very good with upgrades, we’ve survived: Moodle 1.6 - Unicode without trashing our data Moodle 1.7 - Roles (though still requires education) Moodle 1.8 - XHTML + lots of broken themes
  16. 16. Themes
  17. 17. Themes Have to be treated like code This is problematic for uploads Developed a self-service interface to give access to: Upload themes Download live themes Future: Live tweaking of themes
  18. 18. Theme Validation We process each theme uploaded and try: Examine structure for sanity To correct obviously incorrect lack of $CFG theme variables (breaks on our setup) MDL-6784 Only allow images in pix/ dirs Look for glaringly obvious security issues If there is a problem, upload is delayed for inspection
  19. 19. A request to theme authors Please use Cascading Style Sheets like they were intended! Unnecessarily overridden theme styles caused us major issues in the 1.8 upgrade preparation If you don’t use theme variables your theme will break on our setup
  20. 20. Enrolment
  21. 21. Culture Change The arrival of VLE’s into UK schools brings a change in school IT culture MIS Data has not been widely used and integrated with School IT Systems While many schools often have centralised systems such as AD, they rarely contain ‘curriculum data’ MIS System Administrators not necessarily IT focused This isn’t a problem for moodle to solve!
  22. 22. Enrolment Plugins School environment is currently very different to big enterprises Problems: MIS data can be of poor quality The data from an MIS system doesn’t map well onto how a school wishes to structure a moodle course Schools often lack the skills and infrastructure to craft data into format required by enrolment plugins
  23. 23. Typical School Enrolment Manual enrolment Teacher faced with the burden of assigning each student individually to their courses This is a major barrier for many schools
  24. 24. Our Solution Simple, two-step import from MIS System to Moodle Capita SIMS Serco CMIS Provides ‘enrolment groups’ as a shortcut to assign a class at a time Keeping choice in teachers hands Generate all users for schools who wish to have it We use standard profile fields for class linking - works with other user creation methods
  25. 25. MIS Import Demo
  26. 26. Limitations One-time Import Not reflected as a ‘group enrolment’ Changes in groups not reflected in courses No mapping to course groups No facility to edit groups - trust MIS data Manual exports from MIS system
  27. 27. Authentication
  28. 28. An Identity Problem Dealing with 1000 separate organisations No central identity system 1000 different setups Bigger schools have MS AD Smaller schools often have nothing Most schools use manual authentication Generated by CSV/ MIS Upload
  29. 29. Centralised Authentication Increasing requirement for centralised authentication system throughout CLEO Keep power in the hands of schools Provide central system for those without one Provide Single Sign On across services
  30. 30. Authentication & Enrolment Hoped that central authentication systems can be linked with MIS systems to help solve the enrolment problem Dynamic group changes Account provisioning from MIS system Big Project, Lots of Questions, will take some time!
  31. 31. Systems Architecture
  32. 32. Overview Replication File Servers File Servers (40 TB) (40TB) Dual Master Replication Database Database Server Server Built on Open Source Scaled as necessary Web Frontend Web Frontend Web Frontend Web Frontend Scaled as necessary Software Mail Servers Mail Servers Emphasis on high availability & scalability Built on the following Open Source Software: Powered by
  33. 33. Shared Codebase Initally used UnionFS UnionFS Perfect for themes My School files /themes/ /myschooltheme/ Suffered reliability problems + /themes/ Switched to symbolic Moodle 1.8 /standard/ links ( $CFG->themedir for themes) = /themes/ My School Moodle /myschooltheme/ /standard/
  34. 34. Problem Areas: Messaging Inefficient, continual refreshing Lunchtimes/break-times cause huge load peaks as schools let pupils message each other Would like to see a more efficient implementation of messaging
  35. 35. Problem Areas: File Storage Continual growth in usage Many content providers eager to get into moodle No way for schools to get large amounts of content into moodle
  36. 36. Problem Areas: Mail Huge amount of mail generated Often not required in school scenario, particularly primary level Puts large strain on existing infrastructure Looking to filter early and drop mail
  37. 37. Questions ? dan.poltawski@lancaster.ac.uk

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