Students Staff
University of Essex

7 May 2014

Students can get £5k funding for an innovative idea

Filed under: Information,News — Alex ONeill @ 9:49 am

What Students Really Want – £5k Funding to Improve Student Life

Jisc strongly believe that students should have a prime role in developing novel uses of technology to improve their experience at college or university.

That’s why last year they ran a competition – the Summer of Student Innovation – designed with RLUK, RUGIT, SCONUL and UCISA as part of a co-design approach to innovation within UK education. 21 projects were successfully funded and supported to develop their ideas. Jisc continue to work with six projects to help develop them and explore the possibility of offering them as a shared service for the whole sector.

The Summer of Student Innovation 2014 competition is running again this year and £5k is available for each successful student idea. Students have until the end of May to submit their entries and with Jisc’s help attract votes.

How you can engage with the Summer of Student Innovation:

If you have any questions, please visit the Jisc FAQs page or send them an email. You can also follow #studentideas on Twitter for the latest about the competition.

And don’t forget to tell LTT if any students get funded, we would love to hear all about it!

17 May 2013


Filed under: Information,News — Catherine McLean @ 12:53 pm

I recently joined the Learning Technology Team as the maternity cover for Alex O’Neill (who is now busy with her daughter who arrived safely towards the end of April) and I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce myself.

It is now the end of my third week as a new member of staff and I think I’ve managed to visit nearly every café or restaurant that the Colchester campus has to offer. Luckily I have also joined the Evolve gym at the Sports Centre to counteract the increase in calorie consumption!

I previously worked at University College London as a Teaching Administrator where I gained a good working knowledge of Moodle and other learning technologies. My role at the University of Essex will cover supporting staff and students in the use of the learning technology systems you use here. For those of you who don’t know, these systems include Moodle, OCS and Listen Again (to name but a few). So if you are an academic who wants to find out about different ways of using technology to deliver your lectures or engage your students more, let us know. Or if you are an administrator who wants to know a bit more about how Moodle can support your students and save you time, please contact us.  Similarly, if you are a student and are having problems using Moodle, OCS, Listen Again or have some comments about any of the Learning Technology systems at the University of Essex, please get in touch.

I look forward to meeting you and helping wherever I can.


4 April 2013

Farewell for now!

Filed under: News — Alex ONeill @ 9:19 am

As some may be aware and others may not, I am leaving to go on maternity leave from Thursday next week (11th April). It seems to have come around very quickly, but with only 3 weeks to go (due date is 27th April) it’s probably best I leave now as I don’t think Ben and Marty have been trained in midwifery!

All things going to plan, I should be back here after Christmas for a fresh start in 2014.

However, the team will not be left stranded – we have got an incoming newbie who is starting on Monday 22nd April and will be here to cover my position while I’m off. Her name is Catherine Mclean and I hope she settles in well! I’m sure you will hear from her in the not-too-distant future.

Farewell for now and wish me luck on my new endeavour – it can’t be that hard, right?!


8 February 2013

Moodle 2.4 Upgrade

Filed under: Information,Moodle,News — Tags: , , — Benjamin Steeples @ 3:15 pm

Over the weekend of Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th February, we will be taking Moodle out of service whilst we perform a small upgrade ( Moodle should be unavailable from 12noon on Saturday, and will be out of action for a few hours at most.

Like other upgrades, this will improve the security, usability, and reliability of Moodle. Major changes in this new version include:

Performance improvements
Moodle 2.4 is between 5% and 20% faster than Moodle 2.3 (our current version), meaning that all Moodle pages should load up a little quicker.

Changes to Moodle icons
Moodle 2.4 replaces a lot of the standard icons with newer, easier to understand, versions. A preview of the most common icons can be found below, but a full list is available on the Moodle website.

A full list of changes can be found on the following pages:

Upgrade complete!

The Moodle upgrade is now complete. Moodle was unavailable for approximately 90 minutes whilst the upgrade was installed and tested. Thank you all for your patience.

We’ve noticed some minor rendering and layout issues, and we’ll fix these during the week when more people are in the office (it won’t affect Moodle’s availability). If you notice any major problems, please email the Learning Technology Team (email: LTT).

Additional upgrade note

Quite a few people have pointed out bugs with the new version. These mostly relate to links not working as expected (links going to blank screens); some courses appearing to be completely blank; and the navigation block not working as expected. We now believe that the majority of these issues are fixed, however, one elusive issue still remains.

Navigation changes

In Moodle 2.4, the Navigation block behaves slightly differently to before. Clicking on the My courses link will return you to your Moodle home page (similar to My home). In order to expand the list of courses, you should click on the grey > arrow to the left of the My courses text (highlighted below).

We are looking at how we can revert this back to the old behavior, however it is not a trivial task.

9 October 2012

We’ve made some changes to OCS

Filed under: News,OCS — Alex ONeill @ 10:24 am

Our developers have been busy beavering away over the summer to make some changes to OCS that were requested by students and staff of the University. We haven’t been able to do everything you asked, but there’s lots of new bits in there! See a summary of the main changes below:


  1. It looks different – we’ve made OCS fit in with the style of the main website, so it looks a bit different now!
  2. The assignment details have been split up – where the students can see their assignment details, upload files and receive feedback has now changed and has been split into 3 tabs. This is just to make it a bit easier to read and work with.
  3. Final submission and draft files have been split up – to make it more obvious to students what is being submitted and what isn’t.
  4. Students can no longer delete files – this is to reduce the number of accidental deletions by students just before the deadline. They can move files into the draft box if they don’t want to submit them.
  5. Watermarking now happens automatically – students no longer need to specifically click on the watermarking button: if an assignment requires documents to be watermarked, this will happen automatically and all the student has to do is wait to download it.
  6. Student Support assignment cover sheets are now available through OCS – previously, students had to go to the Student Support office to collect their assignment cover sheets and get them stamped  if they were eligible to attach them to an assignment. These are now available to download directly in OCS.


  1. It looks different – we’ve done the same on the staff side as on the student side, so it looks like the main website now.
  2. You can filter and search for modules / assignments – when you click on each tab, you now get the option to filter modules and assignments so you only see the ones you want.
  3. The assignment listing has been updated – it now shows both deadlines and whether feedback is showing or hidden.
  4. Each assignment has a summary of submissions – on the overview page, you can now see total number of submissions split by when it was submitted and whether it is hidden.
  5. The number of tabs has increased – well, it hasn’t really, it’s just everything is easier to get to now as all the tabs are available on one screen. You can now get to the submissions, downloads, activity reports and feedback all in one click.
  6. The activity report now has more filter options – which will make it easy for you to run reports on submitting / non-submitting students, late submissions and extensions.

We’ve also done lots of other minor tweaks, updates and bug fixes to make everything run a little bit smoother!

These changes are now available for you to have a look at, play with and feedback your thoughts to us. Simply go to and you can use the new pages for your work, alongside the current system. We will launch the new pages at the start of week 4 (Tuesday 23rd October), but until then you have time to get used to them!

Launch date: start of week 4 (Tuesday 23rd October)

Download summary of changes

Click on the links below for a concise and distributable version of the changes detailed above in a PDF document:

13 July 2012

Moodle 2 Upgrade – Live Blog

Filed under: Information,Moodle,Moodle 2 upgrade,News,Newsletter,Tools — Tags: , , , , — Benjamin Steeples @ 7:00 am

As you probably know by now, we will be upgrading Moodle on Friday 13th July. Moodle will be unavailable over the weekend, and returned to service by 9am on Monday 16th July.

We aim to use this blog post as a means of keeping people up-to-date during this period. We’ll write brief notes as to how the upgrade process is going, and if we return Moodle to service earlier than expected we’ll announce it here.

So, watch this space. And keep an eye on the updates below.

Live upgrade

Friday 13th

09:02: Moodle is no longer available for today. We shall be starting the upgrade very shortly! Remember, if you have any problems, email us at

09:23: We’re currently in the process of backing everything up and taking disc snapshots so that we can recover if anything goes horribly wrong! (Friday 13th… we’re not superstitious…)

09:37: Just starting a small upgrade to make sure we have everything up-to-date before making the big upgrade to version 2

10:43: We’ve hit a bit of a snag with differing versions of servers which has slowed us up a bit, but we’re now looking at upgrading on a different platform now to get us back on track.

11:02: We’re now in the process of copying everything over to a brand new shiny server. This will take a couple of hours so we’ll update more after that!

13:07: Right, all files copied. We’ve now just got to press the Big Red Upgrade button!

14:44: We’re about half way through the upgrade now – things are going pretty smoothly so far (she says, reaching for some wood somewhere…)

15:29: The major part of the upgrade is now done! We still have another short upgrade to do, but it is looking good so far 😀

15:46: Did you miss out on the “What’s new in Moodle 2?” training? We are running a few more courses in September, so sign yourself up if you get a bit lost on the new Moodle!

16:10: Another server copy is happening as we speak. Once that is done, we’ll be signing off for the day and back in tomorrow to get final tweaks done and do some testing!

Saturday 14th

09:35: We’re back this morning, and ready to roll. Doing some testing to start off the day.

11:15: Testing is going well, no major issues found yet! Doing some server tweaking to get it running really smoothly for you when we go live again.

13:30: We will be setting up an FAQ page for staff and students when we go live to answer some common queries you may have about the new Moodle. We’ll also be running a live chat first thing on Monday morning for any extra questions.

14:10: Just running some testing to do with getting users to be able to view the Moodle site, so you might have seen a “maintenance” message instead of being redirected to this blog. Will be switching back shortly 🙂

14:32: Right, we have done what we can for now, the site will be back up and running from 9am on Monday morning. We will also be running our live chat then and updating our FAQ page. See you all then!

5 July 2012

Moodle 2 update #3

Filed under: Handy hint,Information,Moodle,Moodle 2 upgrade,News — Tags: , , — Benjamin Steeples @ 9:54 am

We are now just over a week away from the Moodle 2 upgrade day (13th July), and we’re still making progress. For the last two weeks we’ve been concentrating on Moodle add-ons, these are things that aren’t included in Moodle by default, but can be installed to add extra functionality. A lot of these add-ons are relatively simple to upgrade, but some are causing a few headaches, and others are no longer required. Below is a brief list of any add-ons that will change in the new version.

If a resource/activity is not listed below, it is included in Moodle by default and will continue to work. You will not need to make any changes.

Will continue to work in Moodle 2:

  • Book
  • Certificate
  • Dialogue
  • Lightbox Gallery
  • MapleTA
  • OH Placements
  • Online Users Map
  • Related Courses/Child Courses (see below)
  • Scientific Calculator
  • Side Bar/Block

Will change in Moodle 2, you may need to add this block back into your course:

  • The following will be merged into a single “Essex” block:
    • Download plugins (links to Acrobat Reader, Word Viewer, etc.)
    • Help links
    • My practice course
  • The following are now part of Moodle by default, and so may be renamed or included elsewhere:
    • My Courses
    • Site Navigation
  • Child Courses – is now part of ‘Related Courses’
  • Quickmail

Will be disabled in Moodle 2, but be re-enabled at a later date:

  • Group Select
  • Hotpot

Will be removed from Moodle 2:

  • Choice to Group
  • Dictionary (block)
  • Elluminate
  • Game
  • IA Menu
  • Slideshow
  • SLoodle

If we’re removing something that you’re still using, let us know!

Finally, we are thinking of starting the upgrade slightly earlier on Friday 13th. This would mean that Moodle is unavailable from approximately 3am that morning (3am on Friday 13th). Again, if this causes any problems, please let us know.

22 May 2012

Moodle 2 update #1

Filed under: Information,Moodle,Moodle 2 upgrade,News — Tags: , , — Benjamin Steeples @ 11:56 am

This is a brief post, outlining the latest on the Moodle 2 upgrade.

The Moodle 2 upgrade will start at 9:00am on Friday 13th July, and will be unavailable for three days. We aim to complete the upgrade by 9:00am on Monday 16th July. From our initial discussions with academic staff, it seems that this weekend will cause the least disruption.

The upgrade will include all Moodle courses, there may be some minor alterations in layout, but all resources and activties will remain intact. Moodle 2’s main differences lay in the teacher interface, so we would recommend that all teachers attend one of our Moodle 2 training sessions, and set aside some time to familiarise themselves with the new version. Students shouldn’t see many differences in the new version.

There is a huge list of improvements in Moodle 2, too many to list here and cover in our training. If you’d like to read a full list of improvements and changes, then they can be accessed via the following links:

If you have any questions or concerns about the upgrade, please contact us (email: ltt).

15 December 2011

Alert to all users of Learning Technology!

Filed under: CMR,Information,Moodle,News,OCS,PRS,QMP,Tools — Tags: , , — Alex ONeill @ 11:24 am

The Learning Technology Team have recently set up subscription email groups for users of the different tools we offer. These email lists will be used for alerting users of changes to systems, occasional information regarding news or training and to ask for user input to any future developments.

They will not be used for spam, but will be a great way of getting to know what is going on with all the e-learning tools.

To sign up, visit:

Search for any of the following:

  • ocs-user-group
  • cmr-user-group
  • prs-user-group
  • moodle-user-group
  • online-assessment-user-group

Then check the relevant checkbox.

If you are simply interested in using these tools but don’t use them yet, sign up to find out more! Our regular generic news and goings on will continue to appear on this blog.

We hope these will be useful, please feel free to make comments below!


24 October 2011

The Learning Technology Team is moving!

Filed under: Information,News,Newsletter — Benjamin Steeples @ 8:37 am

To cope with the demands of the new corporate website, and continuation of the Professional Services and Portals project, WaLT has hired four temporary members of staff. Most of these new staff have already started, but the fourth is due to join us at the start of November. This will take WaLT up to a total of 13 people (although, some of those are part-time).

Unfortunately, the WaLT office can only seat 11 people. We’ve been creative with hot-desking over the summer break, but with the imminent arrival of a new team member, we’ve had to rethink our office layout. Part of this rethink is that the LTT will temporarily move to a different office.

From early-November (exact date to be decided), the three Learning Technologists will move to 4SB.5.19. This is less than a minute’s walk from the WaLT office, and in the same square and building.
To find us, you’ll need to walk past the WaLT office (from the square), turn left at the end of the corridor, and we’re about 8 offices down – just next to the fire door. Our email addresses and phone numbers will remain the same.

We anticipate that we’ll be in the new office until Christmas, but changes in workload may increase our stay until Easter.

Update: We’ll now moved. Pop by and say “Hi”.


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