Our base service provides a hosted and supported installation of the software. The software is based on a recent, stable release of the open-source learning management system known as Moodle. The service provider has extended and enhanced the core Moodle product with a range of additional tools to improve teaching, learning and administration. We offer a stable platform which can be combined with a wealth of third party plug-ins, themes and support options, enabling you to customise your LMS to meet your specific institutional needs.
We have extensive experience supporting our clients with integration of vital systems including student information systems such as SITS: Vision and iSams, Office 365, Single Sign On (SSO) such as CAS, Shibboleth and Microsoft Azure Active Directory.
Development Work: Our development team has a long history of carrying out high quality bespoke development which helps our customers meet their aims and objectives. See examples of the work our team has carried out in the section below.
Whatever your learning management system, the digital learning team at CoSector – University of London are here to help with support and advice on a range of products and services that enrich learning and education.
Products and Services
The DevBox service enables the customer to engage in development and customisation of its Moodle service in a dedicated environment securely and reliably hosted by CoSector. The service provides a separate LMS environment which can be regularly synchronised with the code from the main production environment. Within the DevBox environment, the customer may add, remove or modify plugin and theme code as well as make any configuration changes as part of developing new plug-ins and themes for the production service under the provisions of the private theme and tailored service options.
The Pre-Production service enables the customer to provide end users with a preview of upcoming changes to the service. An entirely separate instance of the software is hosted alongside the production service. CoSector will make all changes and deploy all new releases to the Pre-Production instance prior to making them to the production instance. This enables customers to perform a number of key activities including User Acceptance Testing (UAT), training and familiarisation. The service provides a realistic replica of the production service including regular synchronisation of data and learning content.
The Enhanced Reporting service provides sophisticated capabilities for the customer to undertake analysis of, and gain valuable insights from the extensive dataset created by a learning management system. Access to the data is provided via reports accessible through the service or triggered by web service calls. Remote SQL-level access to the underlying database is also provided for more customised reporting requirements.The service separates the data source for reporting and analysis from the production environment so that even the heaviest of reporting needs do not impact the performance of the Enhanced Reporting Service provided to end users.
The Mahara service provides a hosted and supported installation of Mahara Software. The Mahara Software is configured so that it integrates with any Moodle-based service hosted by CoSector.
The Disaster Recovery Service provides an enterprise-class level of assurance with regards to the long-term availability of the service in the event of a disaster that severely affects CoSector’s ability to run services out of its primary date centre in London. If a disaster occurs and the recover process is invoked, the service is backed by a Recovery Time Objective (RTO) of three (3) hours and a Recovery Point Objective (RPO) of twenty-four (24) hours.
Our development team has a long history of carrying out high quality bespoke development which helps our customers meet their aims and objectives. Where an existing solution is not available, our team of developers can implement API & web service developments to support bespoke integration between Moodle and a range of third-party and proprietary software packages. We can also develop Moodle plugins such as Coursework to extend Moodle assignment to supporting multiple markers and blind and double marking. See the full range of development work we can undertake in the section below, or download our Development Work case studies PDF.
Assessment and Grade Transfer
Working with many leading universities, CoSector have developed global solutions that enable seamless online assessment of students to be carried whilst also facilitating the specific needs of the UK HE sector (such as blind marking, sampling, multiple markers). In addition to carrying out the assessment we have also provided a wide range of solutions for tasks around assessment such as bulk grading, grade transfer to student record systems and notification of assessment feedback to students.
Technology-independent: Our Moodle based assessment solutions are technology-agnostic and are able to work on and with a variety of different platforms.
Community collaboration: Where possible we make our assessment solutions on a common base so are able to share (with permission) code from other solutions and also give back in the same way.
We have developed a framework within which we can create bespoke reports for your institution. These reports can then be presented within a standard “dashboard” which can be configured to be accessed by users of all levels (student, tutor, admin). Reports can be created to display information in both tabular and graphical formats and also exported in a number of standard formats.
Performance: With our ‘Heavy database’ service, data can be exported and crunched on another server without affecting performance of the live service.
Graphical output: Data can be represented in the reports dashboard using a number of interactive charts and graphs.
Key statistics are available to inform on specific areas of interests such as student engagement; student retention and accessibility.
The team has created a suite of solutions to aid in the administration of a Moodle site, automating often mundane tasks saving administrative time. We have created and customised solutions to meet the requirements of our customers in areas such as enrolment, course creation, bulk activity creation, course reset and deletion to name just a few.
Time-saving Automation: Administration plugins often automate tasks.
Easy Scheduling: Plugins can be created to perform tasks at scheduled times using Moodle’s scheduler.
Enhanced Performance: A typical administration plugin will perform a task at speed.
External integration: We have developed bespoke plugins to import data from external sites that would have usually required human intervention.
Increased Productivity: by automating repetitive tasks, course administrators and academics can save valuable time and resources.
Integration and plug-in enhancement and development
Our team can help you integrate your VLE with external applications using our solutions. We have developed integrations to aid with information transfer between a wide range of applications whether they feature APIs or not. Web services can be used to feed information into Moodle to improve and enrich the experience of your users. And effortlessly move VLE data to external applications to carry out tasks beyond the capability of your VLE. We can also enhance existing plugins to better meet the needs of your institution.
Core customisation: Customers often find that the core Moodle web service functionality does not fit their needs. CoSector can recreate or customise these functions to a bespoke specification without modifying Moodle’s core code.
Integration: As Moodle’s web service API outputs data in the most popular protocols, it is easily exchanged with different systems which may be written in different languages or running on different platforms.
Secure: Moodle Web service API uses tokens to validate connections when paired with an https connection. This provides a secure environment with which to transfer information.
Add or remove functionality: Plugin enhancement allows functionality to be added as well as removed or restricted to meet the needs of an institution.
Update out of support plugins: Vital plugins can often fall out of support and CoSector can assist with the update of these plugins.
Support: Transitioning away from a tried and tested plugin is often difficult but the CoSector team can help with this process.
Customer development work examples
Examples of functionality we provided that extended current Moodle web services:
CoSector have been adding web service functionality to Moodle since before web service functionality was provided by Moodle’s core code. Now Moodle has web services as part of its core we still extend the functionality provided.
Obtain student daily usage information
The challenge: Our client had a data processing team that was well versed in providing their institution with statistics in their chosen environment. The institution wanted to gather information on the usage of the VLE by their students. This information needed to be as comprehensive and current as possible. The institution’s data processing team did not have the knowledge of Moodle’s data architecture or the expertise in Moodle development needed to create such a plugin.
How we helped: CoSector developed a custom web service solution that both collates and transforms Moodle data into the meaningful information that the institution needed. The solution used overnight scheduled processing to carry out the data collation at times of low usage and provided our client with a web service function that allowed them to pull the data through at a time that was convenient to them.
Examples of how automation has helped some clients:
Automated creation of assessment activity instances within Moodle
The challenge: Our client needed to manually create a large number of assessment activities within Moodle in a large number of courses. The manual process involved using module assessment information to create assessment activities in Moodle. This process occurred in bulk twice a year and often took administration staff two weeks to complete. The creation process would often lead to errors due to the various different configurations needed. When they occurred these errors were often not identified until students began using the assessments which lead to additional problems.
How we helped: CoSector created a solution that allows assessment instances to be created in bulk using data provided by either web service or uploaded in a CSV. The solution provided allowed all of the various assessment configurations to be created, also providing an admin dashboard allowing for the centralised control of all instances which had been created.
Example of single sign on:
Single sign on solution
The challenge: Our client wanted to provide their users with a seamless user experience using single sign on however due to the nature of the sector that the client is in they were unable to provide Moodle with access to their LDAP servers. They required a method of carrying out single sign on that was both secure and enabled all of their users to login without needing to create new accounts for users before first use. They already had an authentication service that could be leveraged however they did not have the expertise to integrate it with Moodle.
How we helped: CoSector created a single sign on authentication solution for Moodle that authenticated users using the client’s current authentication server without having to access their LDAP information directly. The solution allowed user accounts to be created on the fly for existing users and allowed all authentication to be carried out at the client’s normal single sign on login point that was familiar to their users.