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Top 5 Lessons Learned from the Moodle Upgrade Season

By July 10, 2019 No Comments

Institutions and organizations using the Moodle Learning Management System (LMS) need to keep their solution up-to-date in order to make the most of their learning platform and satisfy users. After hundreds of upgrades over the last several months, the eThink Support Team has learned a few valuable lessons about new features and the importance of planning for the Moodle upgrade season. Here are our top 5 lessons learned from the Moodle upgrade season…

Lesson #1: Upgrade Regularly

In our experiences here at eThink, it does not pay to be on the bleeding edge and rush to update as soon as the new Moodle version releases. When a new version comes out, we like to carefully evaluate the scope of the changes and new features and perform some testing before bringing clients to this version. This helps to ensure any major bugs or other kinks get worked out first in order to prevent issues related to the upgrade.

Many institutions schedule their upgrades over the winter and summer breaks or other slow times of the year. However, it is not uncommon for institutions to have a policy where they will only run ‘Long Term Support’ (LTS) releases, which is a version that is supported for months or years longer than the software’s standard edition. In which case, we respect that decision as each client upgrade is handled separately and scheduled at a time most convenient for them. We just require that clients stay within two versions of the most recent stable or security supported version. Staying as current as possible between and during Moodle release cycles ensures you can leverage the best features that Moodle has to offer to facilitate your learning experiences even as changes are being made. 

Lesson #2: Test sites are your friend!

When preparing for an upgrade, we provide test sites to allow clients to explore the scope of the changes they can expect and how they will impact their end users. We have found that many institutions don’t do much testing and are then surprised by the changes they see following the live upgrade.

Our team has developed an extensive checklist of key items that administrators of the system should review so they can plan and perform their upgrade safely and smoothly. This testing is especially important if the site has any customizations applied to ensure those items continue to function as expected in the new version.

Lesson #3: Don’t fear change

Making full use of your test site prior to your production upgrade helps to ease anxiety about what will be new and different about the latest version. You can also use the site to develop documentation about what users can expect to see.

Not all new features will be well-received, but that shouldn’t deter you from staying current. For example, we did not anticipate the number of questions and reactions we received about the introduction of course end dates and how that changed the Course overview block on the Dashboard. Over time, however, most users and admins adjusted to these changes.

Lesson #4: Be prepared

We have found that a little bit of training in preparation for an upgrade goes a long way. eThink regularly hosts webinars when rolling out a new version to highlight the new features and enhancements. Our team also regularly offers a “Make the Most of New Features” workshop through the eThink Academy which is designed to give administrators or instructional designers an overview of the newly available features, ideas for ways in which they can be utilized, and the opportunity to collaborate with peers to learn how different organizations engage with Moodle.

Consider how you might use new features or take advantage of enhancements to previously existing functionality. This helps your administrative team anticipate questions that may come up frequently and ensure a smooth transition to the new version.

Lesson #5: Communication is key

Site maintenance often involves several people from different departments depending on the scope of the changes being made. Lay out the process in advance and keep an open door for questions and concerns when preparing for the live upgrade.

Developing a communication plan to set expectations for your end users is also a key component for a successful upgrade. A series of news posts leading up to the upgrade and the creation of custom user tours that highlight the changes your users need to know about are two strategies we strongly recommend planning out in advance.

While all of these lessons are closely related, we feel that they are critical factors for a painless Moodle upgrade! Contact us or join the eThink Support Team for an upcoming eThink Academy course to learn more about managing and maximizing the benefits of your next Moodle upgrade.

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