Moodle 2.1 Upgrade

I upgraded our Moodle 1.9 site to version 2.1 today on our Debian HyperV server. The process went rather poorly compared to my test upgrades in the spring. In May, I copied our entire site to a different server and upgraded it to 2.0 without difficulty. This time, I ran into more issues but got there by the end of the day. I gather this was largely due to changes in the installer itself from version 2.0 to 2.1.

Converting the database engine to INNODB as suggested slowed performance way down, and changing database collation to utf8_general_ci led to “mixed collation” database errors during upgrade, and I had more success with the original MYISAM engine and utf8_unicode_ci collation. I will need to find out how important those settings are to long-term site performance.

With these problems solved, the upgrade script could actually run. The first time through, it failed partway through, and the course files did not get converted. This caused all file links to break, so delete database, delete data directory, duplicate old site, and try again! It went smoothly the next time. Apparently, Moodle has changed the way it stores uploaded files and had to reshuffle all of the existing files to fit.

I am not so pleased with Moodle theme choices. My two favorite potential site themes so far are Accentuate and Créatif, but I wish I had more good choices. Do you have any? I may just install a few themes on the site and add Theme Selector so that people can make their own choices. It will be interesting to see whether the benefits of customization outweigh the potential confusion caused by people seeing so many different Moodle looks. Currently, our pages are very recognizable.

After I activate our new Google Apps domain, I will install the Google-Moodle integration plug-in and activate the Google Apps repository so that users may use the file picker to select Apps documents. Then it will be time to rewrite the assignment calendar plug-ins for Moodle 2.0 (or convince the school to adopt a commercial solution!).


  1. Darren says:

    Well done, an informative post, thanks. I look forward to hearing how the Google Apps integration goes. I’m planning to do the same upgrade soon.

  2. We’re in the middle of the same process, but we’re working with a hosting company in Dublin that’s doing the data conversion and config of 2.1 for us. It’s been pretty stress free, and they can roll back to 1.9 if we find deal breakers in 2.1.

    All data is now converted and in, and we’re running off their hosted servers. The theme we’re working on is Afterburner, and the first objectives are to increase some of the font sizes. The second objective may be to increase the width of the left column to accomodate videos that have been loaded by our faculty.


  3. Richard says:

    Terrific, Jim. I will look forward to comparing notes. Afterburner looks like a good base theme — I would want to improve spacing in block list items like RSS feeds. I have for the moment selected Créatif as our default theme and installed Theme Switcher block for users to choose their own favorite if they like.

    Have you found a practical limit for the number of courses in your Moodle site? We have 700 now since I have been archiving past years instead of deleting them. I’m wondering when to start pruning. Our Moodle database is 380MB in size.

  4. Hi, Richard

    Our database is at about 200 megs, and we also have three years of zipped classes stored for access (and future access). We’ve had to increase our hosted storage to about 150 gigs (which is 150 working gigs, and a matching 150 gigs for backups).

    We moved from a relatively beefy dual CentOS setup (one for Moodle, one for the database), and so far we believe the hosted solution is running faster than it was. However, that may be simply because 2.1 was so heavily re-written and hopefully more efficient now. Even with relatively strong servers, we had some slow downs last year (especially with simultaneous quiz use.)

    We also plan to do a Google Apps integration as you have, and Single Sign on from our Finalsite portals. I’m curious to see how the Moodle, Google Apps, Picasa Web Albums, Youtube, Blogger mixing turns out…

  5. Richard says:

    Did you export and then zip the old courses? So far we are just leaving them hidden and in a separate category.

  6. Hi, Richard

    For good or bad, three years ago our web manager set up Moodle to do a scripted backup of all courses every 48 hours as part of the back up routine. These individual course zips were accessible on the server by the tech coordinators.

    As part of the end-of-year rollover, all current courses were blanked entirely, and the tech coordinators would restore from zip backups the courses to be done again the next year. They could also resurrect courses that hadn’t been taught for 2 or 3 years.

    I can check with our web manager why this was set up this way, but it may have been to clear out the database of the previous year’s courses. We were just discussing a couple of days ago if this was still the correct way to go forward with rolling from one year to the next, since it is a bit labor intensive to restore the courses from backup.

    FYI, we’ve been testing, and it appears that 2.1 will restore a class from 1.9 correctly, including the quizzes, etc.

  7. My mistake– the same year backups do contain student information and posts and files (as they do in Moodle 2.1), so the 48 hour zips are a backup system for us.

    I talked to the Web manager today, and we started like you have your set up, but he started getting nervous when our database reached a size of 1.3 gigs, and that’s when we started zipping the courses out of it.