Students Staff

July 26, 2018

[Scheduled] Improvements to authentication servers

Filed under: [Scheduled] — Tags: , , — admin @ 5:15 pm

At 7:00am on Tuesday 31 July we will be making changes to some of our authentication servers (ADFS and Shibboleth). This is a continuation of our efforts to improve security and reduce the number of times users are prompted to log in.

Important note: Please be aware that this change will remove the existing ‘beige box’ login page for Shibboleth-based services (list at the bottom of this post). Instead, users will be directed to our ADFS-based login page shown below, with an address starting

ADFS log in page

Users should not experience any disruption during this change. If, after the change, you are experiencing problems logging in to the services below, you should restart your computer in the first instance and then contact the IT Help Desk if problems persist.

ADFS-based services:

  • Email ( and Microsoft Outlook)
  • FASER (
  • Box ( and Box Sync)

Shibboleth-based services (not an exhaustive list):

  • Moodle (
  • MoodleX (
  • Some library services
  • Talis (
  • (
  • Box of Broadcasts (
  • TuirningPoint

In the future we hope to add additional services to ADFS, which will ultimately reduce the number of times you are asked to log in. Services include:

  • Listen Again ( and Panopto (
  • MyEssex (
The University of Essex will moderate comments and there will be a delay before any posts appear.

July 25, 2018

[Resolved] – Unavailable

Filed under: University website, [Resolved], [Service Alert] — Kyle Cooke @ 8:37 am


The earlier problem affecting the main Essex website has now been resolved. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

We are currently experiencing a problem that is preventing access to the University’s main site,
Engineers are working to resolve the issue, we apologise for any inconvenience caused and will update this service alert once the issue has been resolved.

The University of Essex will moderate comments and there will be a delay before any posts appear.

July 24, 2018

Making sense of modules in Moodle

Filed under: Elearning, Moodle — admin @ 11:53 am

For 2018-19 we plan to rationalise our approach to Moodle courses. We will be making changes to the creation, naming, and retirement of academic-related courses; and making further changes to how we handle module-based courses with multiple instances (eg. multiple campuses, multiple levels, multiple intakes). It is advised that anyone responsible for an academic-related Moodle course take the time to read this post.

With the planned retirement of the Online Resource Bank (ORB) Moodle will soon be our main platform for publishing learning resources. This will add to the 11,000 courses that are already hosted there.

That’s a lot of Moodle courses.

Whilst Moodle can cope with these large numbers it can get a bit confusing for those using the service, especially when someone is added to a course they don’t need, or when looking for a specific Moodle course and faced with multiple confusing options.

To try and reduce this confusion, we will be making several changes for 2018-19:

  1. We will automatically create a Moodle course for each module
    Historically, we have created Moodle courses on request, only setting them up when a department has asked.
    Going forward we will be automatically creating Moodle courses for all academic modules where one does not already exist. Teaching staff will then be given editing access to the relevant courses.
  2. Each department now has an Information for current students area
    As departments have lost their information for current students areas on the main University website, we have created equivalent courses in Moodle. These courses have pre-defined areas for undergraduate, postgraduate taught, and postgraduate research students.
  3. Academic Moodle courses will use the full module or programme code
    We are seeing an increased number of modules which have multiple intakes within a single academic year. For example, modules which run on two campuses, or those which have both an October and May intake.
    To ensure that Moodle grabs the correct student cohort(s) at the correct time of year, we will be renaming module-based courses so that they include the full code-level-period-campus-year-sequence elements. This also reduces problems that some departments have with external LTI tools.
    Additionally, we will be adding support for programme-based Moodle courses, tied to a specific entry year, eg. CER B940JS16. Some departments run this type of Moodle course, and so this will also help ensure that the correct students have access.
  4. Academic Moodle courses will automatically set their title and visibility based on course records
    MyEssex, Enrol, FASER, and other services rely on student records to show the correct details for a module and, until now, Moodle has largely relied on these details being entered by hand.
    Using the full module code will allow us to automatically set a Moodle courses’ title, start and end dates, visibility to students, and summary based on information held in ESIS. This will help ensure that a Moodle course is visible to students at the start of their studies and that courses are shown in a consistent manner.
  5. We will be discouraging the use of multiple Moodle courses for a single module cohort
    A very small number of modules have multiple Moodle courses associated with them, for example, XX101 – Fishing (Sea fishing) and XX101 – Fishing (River fishing). This approach is often confusing for students, as they are presented with multiple courses and no clear idea which to tackle first.
    We will be discouraging this practice in the future, and instead steer departments towards having a single Moodle course per module. We will be reaching out to module supervisors affected by this, and discussing alternative approaches for the future.
    The exception to this are modules with multiple intakes per academic year; for example, modules running on multiple campuses, or those with an October and May intake. We understand that departments may wish to keep these cohorts completely separate. We will work with departments where this occurs, but our aim is for students to be presented with a single Moodle course per module studied.
  6. We will remove inactive courses
    Previously, we have been asked to create Moodle courses for one-off projects, or for a specific student intake (eg. XX101 – June 2014). These courses often end up forgotten about, with both their owners and audience moving on.
    To reduce the occurrence of these, we will start to remove courses that are inactive for a period of time. Courses will initially be moved to a special ‘graveyard’ category and have their titles changed to reflect their planned removal. In July of each year, the courses will be moved to the Moodle Archive server, where they will be held for a further four years before being deleted.

    • Academic-related courses will be removed one year after the module or programme is active. eg. a Moodle course set up for 2015-16 would be moved to the archive in July 2016-17 and ultimately deleted in July 2019-20.
    • Non-academic courses will be removed one year after the last interaction with the course, again this will be done in July.
    • Individual courses will be removed as soon as the individual leaves the University. eg. a practice course for a member of staff will be removed in the July following the end of their contract.
  7. We are discouraging supplementary academic courses that do not tie to a course or module
    Previously, we have been asked to create Moodle courses for a specific purpose within a department (eg. Lab Safety for Students, or Placement information for undergraduates). Relating to points 2 and 6 above, we are discouraging the creation of these wherever possible, and are encouraging departments to use the existing Information for current students courses instead.

The ultimate aim of these measures are to ensure that students are presented with the correct Moodle course(s) at the correct point in their studies, to reduce the administrative overhead of maintaining a Moodle course, and to reduce the volume of support enquiries that these generate.

Staff do not need to do anything to enact these changes as they will be implemented automatically over the summer vacation, and through further discussion with those affected. If you’d like to take this as an opportunity to revamp your Moodle course, or learn more about the service; both the Technology Enhanced Learning and Learning Technology Teams are running training courses throughout the year. Simply log in to HR Organiser and search for ‘Moodle’.

Finally, if you’d like further information on these planned changes, please contact the Learning Technology Team.

The University of Essex will moderate comments and there will be a delay before any posts appear.

A fresh round of phishing emails

Filed under: Email, Information security — Trevor Smith @ 10:19 am

A new phishing attempt has hit many of our mailboxes over the last 24hrs and IT Services have managed to halt the activities of one compromised account which was responsible for sending out around 9,500 emails (we prevented more than 7,000 of these from being read). The authors of this phishing email were once again attempting to dupe our staff and students into providing their login credentials.

We would like to remind staff and students once again to be aware of the dangers of clicking links within email messages, the source of which you are unsure of. In particular, messages which ask you to login and provide your username and password (or indeed any other personal information) should be treated with caution. More information on how to identify and report such messages can be found at the url below:

The University of Essex will moderate comments and there will be a delay before any posts appear.

July 23, 2018

[Service Alert] [Resolved] Moodle unavailable

Filed under: Moodle, [Resolved], [Service Alert] — Benjamin Steeples @ 9:56 am

Between 17:30 and 19:45 on Sunday 22 July, the following Moodle services were unavailable:


Initial investigations indicate that this was related to a series of power losses over the weekend, and servers not rebooting as expected (configuration).

The University of Essex will moderate comments and there will be a delay before any posts appear.


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