The Moodle Release Cycle: Major Every 6 Months; Minor Every 2 Months
The Moodle release cycle follows a major or “1-point” release schedule every 6 months, spaced with minor “2-point” releases every other month. Keeping track of the cycle and updating as soon as possible after the release not only helps drive the LMS forward and ensure it continues to evolve along with the latest industry trends, it is probably one of the best security and vulnerability management practices.
The major releases typically happen in May and November and they unveil new features and more significant changes than the minor versions. The most recent major release was version 3.4 in early November.
With each minor release, the previous versions in active development also gain a “point release” with core bug fixes and security patches. As an example, the versions that came out with the latest January release were 3.4.1, 3.3.4, 3.2.7, and 3.1.10.
Version 3.1 is a “Long Term Support” release, meaning that bugs related to security will be addressed by HQ for 36 months after its original release, and is now considered the lowest available version that Moodle HQ supports.
All other versions follow a schedule where support for general bugs ends 12 months after its release, and any security issues are patched up until 18 months after the release of that version.
Ideally, no active Moodle site should be of an earlier version, but in reality about a quarter of them (some 23,000 sites) are Moodle 3.0.x or earlier. These sites risk being the victim to unidentified vulnerabilities that Moodle HQ will no longer fix.
Moodle 3.5 will be the next major release due out in May and we are excited to see what’s in store! You can also follow Moodle’s roadmap for upcoming release here.
How To Navigate the Moodle Release Cycle
With changes happening so frequently, you might be wondering – does it make sense to be on the highest version available?
In our experiences here at eThink, it does not pay to be on the bleeding edge. When a new version comes out, we like to carefully evaluate of the scope of the changes and new features and perform some testing before bringing eThink 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.
This also gives our support team time to update our self-paced training courses for instructors and students and prepare training sessions about what’s new and different in that version. Also, with each new release the eThink Services team hosts a “What’s New” webinar for the Moodle community at large.
In the event you are making a big jump between versions where you’ll experience a lot of changes (for example, with the introduction of the new Boost theme), we will provide you with a test site to allow you to explore and experiment with the new version.
How to Prep for a New Moodle Release/Upgrade
Here are our tips for prepping for a new release…
- As mentioned above, we recommend waiting 2-3 months after the version has been released to schedule a time to upgrade.
- Be sure to schedule your upgrade during “downtime” or a slow period to ensure that your users’ experience is not interrupted.
- Prepare your students/constituents for changes – big or small – that will be found in the upgraded version before the upgrade. This can be as simple as sending out a quick memo with the small changes that might be found when upgrading to a minor release. However, for an upgrade to a major release where there will be significant changes, you may want to have a prep/training session for faculty or staff. A webinar where you explore changes to the navigation or user interface will help ensure a smooth transition to the latest version and stave off any frustration of being unprepared.
- Make sure users have access to relevant documentation that answers at least the most common questions. Moodle HQ provides helpful resources, including video overviews and articles that cover the changes found in upgrades.