Moodle upgrades (not) and development environments for online courses

So an upgrade to Moodle 1.6.3 failed this month–when a teacher went to the Settings… area of a course the Settings page would include some content from the administrative interface and tell the teacher that they were not allowed to see that content. Good that the teacher couldn’t see it, bad that it was showing up at all. This was a patch to the Moodle 1.6.3+ stream that contains the very latest STABLE updates. This was very frustrating that a bug this large was part of the upgrade.

This did emphasize the importance of our practice in IT to run both a development and production environment. It’s always best practice to test patches, updates, and upgrades on a test or development version of a service. How does this apply though to teaching online? Do you have a development environment for trying new technologies with your learners? What is your process for evaluating a new pedagogy or new online tool before deploying it in your online or hybrid classroom? It seems to me that there is opportunity for developing a framework or process for this. What do you use? Does your program have a framework in place for this sort of curriculum development?

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