University of Essex
University of Essex

13 September 2013

Moodle archive now live!

Filed under: Information,MaHoL,Moodle — Marty Jacobs @ 3:17 pm

There is now a “read only” archive of the entire Moodle site for the 2012/2013 academic year. Both students and staff can access the archive by clicking on the link below:

You will only have access to a module if you had access to it on the 9th September 2013, as this is when the archive was created. If you dont have access to a particular module, and you think you should, please contact the Learning Technology Team (email: ltt). We will be archiving Moodle each year from this point forward, and plan to keep five years worth of data (including the current academic year).

We’re offering this service for two main reasons:

  1. To give all students “read only” access to their previous year’s modules.
  2. For data retention, auditing and backup purposes.

The introduction of an archive for Moodle is part of a bigger project we’ve been working on over the Summer (Moodle at the Heart of Learning). The aim of the this project is to promote and encourage the use of Moodle at the University.


The CMR is changing on Wednesday 18th September 2013

Filed under: CMR,Newsletter — Benjamin Steeples @ 3:08 pm

As you may have already heard, we’ve been making a number of improvements to all of our e-learning services over the summer break. The Course Materials Repository (CMR) has not been left out of this process, and this post gives some idea what’s been enhanced.

The summary of changes is as follows:

  • The CMR has been renamed to ORB (Online Resource Bank);
  • The web address reflects this, will redirect to;
  • Staff will need to remap their network drives to the new server, but there are now more and easier ways to publish materials;
  • Folders are now created automatically, and permissions assigned based upon teaching timetables (similar to FASer and Moodle);
  • All departments should think about ORB listings, even if they use Moodle. ORB listings are reused in the MyEssex student portal;
  • The change will take place on Wednesday 18th September 2013.

Covering each of these points in more detail:

The CMR is now ORB

Changing the name of things seems to be the fashion this summer, and the CMR is no exception. Although the rest of the university changed from the scheme/course to course/module terminology several years ago, the CMR maintained the former convention as part of its name.

With the move to a new server (more on this below), we’ve taken the opportunity to rename the CMR to something more appropriate and less terminology bound. Thus, the CMR is now known as ORB (Online Resource Bank).

This also means that the web address of ORB will change from to You won’t need to update any handbooks. ORB will mention that it was formerly the CMR, and the address will continue to work for the 2013/14 academic year.

It’s easier to publish materials to ORB

We have added new and exciting ways to publish materials to ORB, options now include:

  • Network drive (UNC share), on-campus only;
  • WebDAV;
  • Explicit FTPS (replacing FTP).

You will need to remap one of your network drives and change any FTP or SharePoint Designer details in order to point to the new ORB server, but we will send out instructions on how to do this closer to the switchover date.

ORB is more secure

We have improved the security on ORB so that it is both easier for students to access restricted resources, and the restricted resources are more secure.

Access to restricted folders now asks for a University of Essex username and password, rather than the older method of checking whether the user was on-campus or not.

ORB is more intelligent

We have added a lot of automation to ORB. Module folders are now automatically created, and permissions assigned based on teaching timetables; similar to how Moodle and FASer operate.

Everyone should think about ORB, even if you use Moodle

ORB serves three important functions. It’s worth considering all of these, even if your materials are stored in Moodle.

Firstly, ORB can store large files. The maximum file size that you can upload to Moodle is 64MB, whereas there is no restriction on ORB. Staff are free to upload materials to both Moodle and ORB, and then link from their Moodle courses to resources stored on ORB.

Secondly, ORB provides a home for structured documents, such as reading lists and past exam papers. This structure makes it easier for students to find the resources, as their location is common across all departments and modules. Storing these resources in Moodle, whilst possible, is undesirable as students may then need to hunt for each resource.

Finally, the My Essex student portal contains a list of modules, which is personalised to each student. Each entry in the list will contain a link to where the associated educational resources can be found (eg. Moodle, ORB, etc.). A generic version of these lists can be found on the ORB website.  This information is maintained via ESIS; it’s important to keep this information up to date, as students may be guided to out of date material.