Keep Your Moodle Site Sharp By Planning For Moodle's Release Cycle
“Chart of the decemnovenale cycle, the cycle of epacts, and the cycle of the "claves."” by Sacro Bosco, Joannes de (fl. 1230) is licensed under CC0 1.0

By Claire Machia, eThink Education

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The Moodle release cycle follows a major or “1-point” release schedule every 6 months, spaced with minor (“2-point”) releases every other month. Keeping track of the cycle and updating as soon as possible after the release not only helps drive the LMS forward and ensure it continues to evolve along with the latest industry trends, it is probably one of the best security and vulnerability management practices.

The major releases typically happen in May and November and they unveil new features and more significant changes than the minor versions. The most recent major release was version 3.4 in early November.

With each minor release, the versions in active development gain core bug fixes and security patches. As an example, the versions that came out with the latest January release were 3.4.1, 3.3.4, 3.2.7, and 3.1.10.

Version 3.1 is a “Long Term Support” release, meaning that bugs related to security will be addressed by HQ for 36 months after its original release. Currently this is the lowest available version that Moodle HQ supports. Ideally, no active Moodle site should be of an earlier version, but in reality about a quarter of them (some 23,000 sites) are Moodle 3.0.x or earlier. These sites risk being the victim to unidentified vulnerabilities that Moodle HQ will no longer fix.

Moodle 3.5 will be the next major release due out in May and we are excited to see what’s in store! You can also follow Moodle’s roadmap for upcoming releases here.

How to Navigate the Release Cycle

With changes happening so frequently, you might be wondering – does it make sense to be on the highest version available?

In our experience, it does not always pay to be on the bleeding edge. When a new version comes out, we like to carefully evaluate the scope of the changes and new features. We perform some testing before bringing eThink clients up-to-date. This helps ensure any major bugs or other kinks get worked out first to prevent issues related to the upgrade.

This also gives our support team some time to update our self-paced training courses for instructors and students and prepare training sessions about what’s new and different in that version. Shortly after each new release, the eThink Services team hosts a “What’s New” webinar for the Moodle community at large. You can watch the “What’s New in Moodle 3.4” session here.

In the event that you skipped a few versions and are now making a big jump (or if you’ll otherwise experience a lot of changes for other reasons, like the introduction of the brand new “Boost” default theme), we will give you a test site to allow you to explore and experiment with the new version.

How to Prep for a New Release

As mentioned above, we recommend waiting 2-3 months after the version has been released to schedule a time to upgrade.

Be sure to schedule your upgrade during “downtime,” or a slow period, to ensure interruptions to the users’ experience is kept at a minimum.

Prepare your users for any significant changes that will be found in the upgraded version beforehand. This can be as simple as sending out a quick memo with the small changes they are bound to find in the new release. For an upgrade to a major release, where there will be significant changes, you may want to prepare for an onboarding session with faculty or staff. A webinar to explore and demo changes in navigation or user interface might help ensure a smooth transition into the newer version and stave off any frustration of being unprepared.

Make sure users have access to relevant documentation that answers at least the most common questions. Moodle HQ provides helpful resources, including video overviews, articles, and Docs, covering the changes found in each upgrade.

Any questions about the Moodle release cycle and upgrade process? Speak with our Moodle experts! Contact us.

Disclaimer: eThink Education is a MoodleNews sponsor.

eThink LogoThis Moodle Practice related post is made possible by: eThink Education, a Certified Moodle Partner that provides a fully-managed Moodle experience including implementation, integration, cloud-hosting, and management services. To learn more about eThink, click here.

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