Why can’t Moodle get upgrades right?

Ok, I love Moodle, but sometimes it really drives me crazy! Ever since 1.6, upgrades are a bear. Everytime I try to upgrade to a version in the MOODLE_18_STABLE branch, it chokes — whether one of the continue buttons fails to work half-way through the upgrade, or I click on the unattended mode, it never seems to work (1.8.2+ this summer and 1.8.3+ this week). I always end up installing a copy from the *_RELEASE branch instead but then I wonder if we’re going to encounter an issue with security patches and updates. There has to be a better way! Are there any Moodle admins out there who have suggestions about how to get this under control. I’d be happy to operate from CVS if that would be best — I just need it to work!PS — I know you Moodle folks found my post on wikis before so if you find this one, I’d love some advice on best practice for upgrading :-).

LMS Mashups

Last year we had significant performance issues with the chat module in our LMS. Under heavy load, it would bring our server to its knees. We performed several adjustments and battle tested the configuration but we were unable to keep chat from overloading our server. To solve the problem, we decided to mashup an instance of Campfire into our LMS and had wonderful results. If you haven’t used Campfire, you should give it a try (a free account lets you chat with 5 users). The results were excellent and after a little bit of adjustment our users found that they really liked it. The only thing that was missing was the ability to have a picture or avatar next to messages that each user typed (I’m sure that’s coming soon though).

This sort of scenario brings up a good question though…How should a university respond to the current push for mashing up different technologies into existing solutions for LMS and CMS? What sorts of standards or guidelines should be set for faculty who want to innovate with technology? In my experience, it doesn’t make sense to try to squash innovation by those on the leading edge. Eventually, the best work that they do finds its way into production as a solution for faculty and students.

For us, the mashup with Campfire has gone very well. What are you mashing up to provide teaching and learning tools for your faculty and students?

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?