Moodle Monday: 6 Tips to Manage Course Sizes by @timdalton

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A while ago I wrote about the reports available to admins to see how courses were being used. These reports very much cover staff/student access which is useful, but as a Moodle admin I’m also interested in the disc space these courses are taking up. The amount of disc use is important, particularly if you are paying for your hosting. The following are a few tips to help keep this number low without having any serious impact on your users.

Tip 1) Keep your maximum upload size down

How low do you set this limit? There is a balance between making it too low so staff can’t add the content they need and making it so high content is uploaded without consideration for the best way to add the file. We are running with a 10mb upload limit at the moment, but I’d like it to be lower. If you can help staff streamline the content they are uploading your course size will come down. Help people compress their photos/video, show that there are better ways to share that massive PowerPoint than just simply uploading it.

Tip 2) Reduce the number of backups you keep

Most of us seem to use the automated backup routine to create the zipped backups of the course. But, do you need to keep more than one old backup on your Moodle server? The more of these you have the faster your disc space will disappear. Our method is to run the automated backup nightly, keep the most recent backup as part of the Moodle course but also take a copy of these down to our backup server where we keep a few weeks worth of backups.

Tip 3) Get rid of old courses

If you’re anything like me you don’t delete things. When we finish with a course I often remove the users and then just hide it, leaving it on the site in case we need it again. I had a quick look this morning and removed courses from 3 years ago that hadn’t been touched since. Remember you don’t need to get rid completely, just keep a copy of that zipped backup file somewhere else and you can keep that hoarding instinct happy…

Tip 4) Use external repositories for big files

We haven’t really started to get into this in Moodle 2.0 yet, but there are also things in Moodle 1.x you can do here. We found certain departments adding lots of video to our Moodle a few years ago so we set the school up with a dedicated media server to host the video files, linking them to Moodle. Shifting the video elsewhere saves loads of space. You could even do this with Youtube- an account for the school where the videos aren’t available unless you know the link could act as a private store of films referenced on your Moodle site without any disc space requirement on your own institution.

Tip 5) Check which courses are using the most space

The Course Size Report module for Moodle 1.9 can help you. It adds a new admin report where you can list all courses by size. Identify the biggest ones, go investigate what makes them so large. I spent an hour doing this today, a few Gbs of space saved by making quick changes that this tool to found.

Tip 6) Encourage your staff to use more Moodle activities and less upload a file!

This is something that you’ll read on this site all the time… Uploading a file is fine, but there is so much more you can do with Moodle… Spend some time with the ‘add an activity’ dropdown- you’ll soon find that the Quiz/Lesson/whatever module is not only much more interesting for the students than uploading that 20Mb PowerPoint, it’s also a whole lot smaller…

Do you have any other tips for managing your course sizes? Do add them in the comments.