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Year-end procedures

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Where Moodle is used in an academic environment, such as a school or university, it is useful to have procedures in place for removing students and teachers who have left and moving current students "up" a year while ensuring all essential work is preserved. While we talk about "year end procedures",the approach of preparing for the next intake of students for one or more courses may have nothing to do with a year-end. Some organisations might run two-week online courses every month; others might complete a qualification each term/semester, while yet others might have a self-paced, rolling programme with enrolment at any time.


Below are some suggested procedures and aspects to be taken into consideration. (Thanks to Gavin Henrick whose End of Year rollover blog post provided much of the content below.)

Contents

First thoughts

  • When will this be done? At the end of the term(semester)? During the break? Many establishments find it easier to perform admin tasks during the holidays when fewer students and teachers are accessing Moodle. It might be advisable to put the site into Maintenance mode while this is being done.
  • Will students who have left at the end of the current year be removed permanently or will their details need to be retained for a period of time? This will depend on the policies of on your own establishment or education authority.
  • Teachers and other staff members who have left will also need removing from the site.

Which strategy to use?

There are a number of rolling over strategies used by schools, colleges and other organisations. Which strategy is used is dependent on a number of different criteria including:

  • who creates the course structure/content
  • the type of courses which are in place
  • the volume of courses that is live
  • whether all courses stop/start at the same time.

Here are some standard mechanisms for a course rollover:

Backing up (archiving) courses

Courses may be made copied for archiving by using the Course backup feature and including user details (ie, assignment submissions, forum posts etc) (Note that this would be done by the administrator, as a regular course teacher is not allowed, for security reasons, to back up courses with user details.) The courses can then be stored either externally on a disc or within Moodle in a category named, for instance, "Archives" which can be hidden from regular users. The original course may then be "reset" for a new intake of students.


Pros:

  • Students and teachers have live access to the prior instance of the module.
  • The initial content and activities are already built for the incoming class
  • The effort can be outsourced from central administration to each teacher if they have sufficient permissions in their own category

Cons:

  • There is more than one copy of the course in the Moodle site
  • If carried out by a teacher they now need course creation rights in a category.
  • This is effort that is needed for every course and is a linear cost in time based on the number of courses that need resetting.

An alternative is to create empty courses for teachers, give them editing rights in the course and allow them to import the resources and activities from their old course into the new course. See Import course data


Resetting the courses

Once a course has been backed up for safekeeping, it can be reset by clicking the link in Settings>Course administration>Reset This removes all user data from a course but keeps the activities themselves ready to start afresh with students who will then be enrolled for the new academic year.

This can be done manually by teachers for their own courses and as such, they have control over what aspects are reset. They may for example choose to not reset certain activities that they want to keep the user content from (a forum, or a glossary or database for example). See Reset course

Pros:

  • There is only one course in the instance
  • Permissions for teachers do not change
  • The initial content and activities are already built for the incoming class
  • The effort can be outsourced to each teacher

Cons:

  • This is effort that is needed for every course and is a linear cost in time based on the number of courses that need resetting.
  • Students and teachers do not have live access to the prior instance of the module which may be desirable for a number of reasons.

Creating a new course

A third option is where an empty course is created each year and the teacher is assigned to it. However, this requires the teacher to build it again each year with the new resources and activities. They can import if they wish but this is often done where the content has potentially changed so new versions of resources need to be added rather than last year’s re-used.

Pros:

  • Students and teachers have live access to the prior instance of the module.
  • The content is potentially different in each instance of the course
  • Some of the effort is outsourced to the teacher

Cons:

  • The effort cannot all be outsourced to each teacher as someone has to create the course and assign the teacher rights.
  • There is more than one copy of the course in the Moodle site
  • This is effort that is needed for every course and is a linear cost in time based on the number of courses that need resetting.
  • The initial content and activities are not already built for the incoming class

Make a new Moodle

Another approach is to isolate each year by creating a new instance of Moodle for the upcoming student intake. Then only the needed courses, users, and resources/activities are added to this, so that it is kept as lean and as high performance as possible. If you still want your students and teachers to have access to the old course you can keep it on an archive URL so that they can still log in and use it, but it is now isolated from the new content and users.

Pros:

  • The old courses are still live to be accessed by students/teachers
  • The live site only has the data that is needed in it.
  • The live site does not necessarily have to be the same version as the old one.

Cons:

  • There is now another Moodle instance to maintain/patch/upgrade
  • If a teacher wants something from the old instance they need to back up the content and the upload to the new site before restoring, adding two extra steps of downloading/uploading.

Other considerations

  • Who creates the content? Who does the actual work of uploading to a course? Depending on the institution, it might be a single teacher, an admin, a learning technologist or an IT assistant. Understanding where the burden of work will fall and having buy-in for this to happen, is of primary importance.
  • How does the type of course impact the approach to roll over? If the course has predefined content and activities which will not change for the next iteration of the course then forcing a full rebuild is a huge cost which could be avoided. However if the resources are digital copies of the latest lecture notes and recorded lecture, then it potentially changes every instance of the course and is built over time.
  • How large is your Moodle? If your Moodle has 10 courses managing a rollover is a different prospect compared to if your Moodle site has 2,000 courses. Doing backups of 2,000 courses and restoring them in a few days, or short period will add significant load to your Moodle site which needs to be taken into account when planning.

Accessing the courses next year

  • How will new students and new teachers access their courses? They will need both accounts creating and enrolment into their courses. Which methods of Authentication and Enrolment will best suit your needs?
  • Likewise, how will existing teachers and students access their new courses?

See also