Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Learning Systems Update - February 2013

Since the last update in December, the Open University Learning Systems team has relocated from the Learning  and Teaching Systems Unit to the IT Department, we've completed the development work for the March VLE update, we've started work on developing the bridge software linking the VLE with the Elluminate replacement and we've seen our busiest ever day on the OU VLE.

First traffic, on Monday 4th Feb – we recorded almost 1.7M transactions from over 67,000 unique users over that 24 hours.  We also took the opportunity to try and make some meaningful estimates about the number of students we see online at the same time.  This peaked, mid-evening, at over 5000 simultaneous users.

The next VLE release is currently in pre-release testing, and the upgrade is expected to happen early on Tuesday 5th March 2013.

In this release we’ll be
•          Moving to Moodle 2.3.3 as underlying platform
•          Introducing a redesigned version of the OU blog, to improve consistency with other collaborative tools within the VLE
•          Making changes to our XML-based Structured Content authoring system – enabling video download in addition to online view, and reducing our support for Microsoft Word as we continue the move from Word to Oxygen as the OU's main XML authoring environment
•          Introducing a Statement of Participation, which will be used for Non-Accrediting Learning
•          Making improvements to wide range of module administrative tools
•          Releasing the first version of the Wolfson Open Science Laboratory platform

As always, there will be a full set of release notes made available, to the OU community, around the time that the update goes live.

We’re also working towards a limited update to the VLE in April to introduce a new bridge to support pilot use of the OU’s replacement for Elluminate.

Towards the end of April there will also be a fairly major update to the OpenLearn platform – within the Moodle part of the platform the biggest changes will be support for badges and also a number of collection management tools.

At the moment the team are mainly working on the developments that are expected to appear in the June VLE update – which will, assuming we don’t uncover any performance issues, be based on Moodle 2.4.

And finally, as regular readers will know, I’ve recently made the decision to hand over the reins of the Learning Systems team, and I’ll be leaving the Open University at the end of March.  I’m expecting the advert for my replacement to appear on the OU jobs website real soon – do get in touch with me if you want to know more.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Plan B

Just occasionally I feel the need to write a post that will wind up on both my travel and photography blog and also on my e-learning blog.  The last time I did this was in September 2011 when I was about to temporarily hang up my e-learning shoes to go and spend a bit more time carrying a camera out in the wilds.

After spending most of the last 17 years around the Open University, and the last 7 years leading the Learning Systems team at the OU, I have decided that now is time to make some changes.

I’m going to be leaving the OU at the end of March, to look for interesting new things do. 

A number of people already know that I’m going to leave, and the most common question I’ve been asked is “What are you going to do?”.   My stock answer is that “I’ve got lots of ideas, but no firm plans”.

I’m certainly intending to try and achieve a better work-life balance, or perhaps more critically a better desk-wilderness balance.  During my six months away I was able to spend a lot of time outdoors – mostly in cold, bleak places – and I do want to find ways of continuing to do that for rather more of the year than is possible even with the generous annual leave allocation I’ve been getting at the OU.

I do still want to be involved in using web technologies to transform education.  I’ve been fortunate in being able to contribute to a large number of interesting educational technology projects over the last ten years and I’m keen to continue to make use of that experience.

I’ve also talked with lots of people about travel and photography in the far North and the far South, and I’m keen to continue to do that.  I also want to help people make better use of the cameras they’re carrying and to add to my own photographic portfolio.

So, if I you think I might be able help you do e-learning or educational technology projects better, do get in touch.  Or if you want to hear more about some of the places I’ve been to or think I can contribute to projects in cold and/or remote places, get in touch. 

Anything interesting considered.  Well, as long as it’s legal.