The great Moodle makeover


New look, new features, new navigation for the e-learning platform of the University of Vienna.

The E-Learning team of the ZID is currently preparing one of the biggest Moodle upgrades in years. The changes will be visible to users from 24 August.

Eva Karall, head of the E-Learning team of the ZID, and her colleague Martin Reichel tell us what's coming, what's staying and what's going on at the University of Vienna's e-learning platform. 

Moodle is an open source software for e-learning used worldwide. The University of Vienna has been using it since 2007. Why is there this big upgrade now?

Karall: The Moodle headquarters, which develops the central software, asked the worldwide Moodle community of about 300 million users about their requirements. There was an online survey, 12 workshops, a total of over 1,000 responses. Moodle version 4 is now the long-awaited result of this multi-year process.

However, the University of Vienna did not implement the new version immediately. Why? 

Karall: Exactly, we skipped versions 4.0 and 4.1 and are now getting started with version 4.2. We wanted to wait a little so that teething troubles of the new software could still be fixed. After the pandemic, we were also busy consolidating our tools. In parallel, we took a year to prepare solidly for the changeover and to introduce the new Moodle well. In the course of the upgrade, the technical infrastructure in the background is also being reorganised. But the users will not notice any of this. 

Reichel: Moodle works like a modular system in which the central software is supplemented with extensions from the Moodle community and in-house developments. We use a lot of such features that we have developed ourselves. For each of them, we had to check whether it still works and adapt it if necessary. 

What are the details of the new software version?

Karall: Besides a new, more modern look and many new features, responsiveness has been improved. In concrete terms: Moodle is also easy to use on a smartphone now. The navigation has been completely revised, is clearer and adapts to the respective process when working with the platform. Moodle calls this "context-specific navigation", which guides teachers from one step to the next. The navigation should now be easy to understand even for users who have little to do with it. The look is even more closely aligned with the corporate design and the other IT services of the University of Vienna.

Reichel: Functionally, much remains the same, but there are thoughtful adjustments and enhancements. For example, the dashboard and My Courses have been separated to provide more clarity. The dashboard is intended to serve more as a personal area that provides a quick overview of current tasks. The left-hand navigation bar has been converted into a course index to make it easier to navigate to content within a course. Another significant improvement, especially for teachers, administrators and tutors, is that activities, materials and sections can now be added at any point or several can be edited simultaneously.

However, there are also features that will be removed. Do teachers have to worry that they will no longer have access to the functions they need?

Karall: No, absolutely not. We are only deactivating those functions that have hardly been used so far and for which there is an alternative. This short list, including the suggested alternatives, can be found on Moodle Preview, our new test instance where users can try out Moodle 4.2 before the official upgrade. There is also a sample course describing all the changes and the Moodle 4.2 course where feedback can be sent to us. It is also important to emphasise: All existing Moodle courses will of course be preserved and will be available in the new design after the upgrade. 

Finally, a brief summary: What can teachers and students expect with Moodle 4.2?

Reichel: For teachers, the upgrade brings significantly more flexibility in designing courses via Moodle and even better communication and collaboration with students.

Karall: In future, students will be able to use Moodle comfortably on all devices, including mobile phones and tablets. The design is more modern and many practical functions have been added. We recommend that teachers and students simply log into Moodle Preview with their u:account and scroll through the list of activities and materials to get an overview.

Service interruption Moodle

In order to implement the Moodle upgrade, 2 service interruptions are necessary, on each of which Moodle will be unavailable for the whole day

  • 24–26 July 2023
  • 21–23 August 2023

Users will be able to see the changes from 24 August. Existing Moodle courses will continue to be available in the new design.

[Translate to Englisch:] Martin Reichel und Eva Karall, E-Learning-Team des ZID