Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dealing with large volumes of content

First things first: if you're using Moodle, please take a couple of seconds to cast your vote over on the right-hand side near the top of the page - I'm interested to know what versions people are running. We're currently using 1.6.5 for our school sites but are planning on upgrading to 1.8.something during the Spring half-term break. Atomwide are currently running a testing server of their 1.8 build for us and I'm hoping that we'll be able to give our Buckinghamshire Moodle admins access to such a server soon, so they can start to get their heads around the more complex (but much more flexible and powerful) roles system. We're skipping version 1.7 which, by Martin Dougiamas's own admission, was a rushed release and not really up to scratch. Still, with 1.6.5 being stable we can stay as we are for a while in case any issues come out of the woodwork with 1.8.n. If it ain't broke then... etc..
One thing I'm trying to write at the moment is the definitive guide for Bucks users on how to effectively utilise our Breeze server (soon to be upgraded to Adobe Connect) to remove the large payloads of files which they might include in their Moodle courses. Our Moodles have a file size upload limit of 30Mb, which means that after a few large PowerPoints, audio files and (especially) video files it becomes a pain to move them around. Also, if a course is shared by one school and becomes really popular - downloaded and used by many many other schools on their Moodle sites - we'll soon have multiple versions of that large content on our schools' Moodles, taking up lots of space with duplicates of the same information.
It's with this in mind that we can start to use Breeze Connect as a content repository - hosting MP3s, videos, PowerPoints, PDFs, Flash files, etc. etc. in a centralised location where (with permission) they could be shared within and between schools. It’s all like a local version of YouTube - mentioned in a case study of how we might use Connect which has come out somewhere else.
A natural process for us would be to host our Moodle training and support resources centrally (on the Connect server), create a "How to Moodle" course which linked directly to them, and then share that Moodle course with our schools (or ensure that it was installed in their Moodles when they were created). That way, we can easily keep all of the training videos (made in Captivate and streamed from the Connect server) up to date in all of the "How To..." courses in all of our schools' Moodles simply by republishing the Captivate movies on the central server. A really nice feature is the "rerecording" option - which means if I record a "how to do something in Moodle" demonstration of a site and the site then changes (e.g. colour or version), then Captivate can go back and re-record the demonstration automatically, without my having to click through the whole process again. I think this is what I'm going to cover at BETT2008 as part of my role as an AEL, unless you've got any better ideas...

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