25 August 2013

Restoring Many Copies of Moodle Courses Quickly

Semester after semester I am faced with creating copies of all of our courses for the new term. We do this because students are still finishing up in older sections and we need to have everything from prior semesters available for review and counselor access. Simply having an archived version of the course backup file wouldn't be sufficient since we'd have to waste so much time restoring one. For a lot of reasons it nice to have all of the old courses available for us to access. Additionally, it lets our instructors work on the next semester's version of the course to make improvements to layout or design, or swap out certain resources or activities.
Having said all that, unless you have to, I'd just train teachers how to make backups of their courses or grade books with user data and then reset their existing courses. This is what we do for our non-online classes.
What follows are the steps I now take to make new copies for the next term. Two years ago this process took me a couple of days to duplicate around 100 courses. I recently just completed the process for 114 courses in just under 3 hours. What follows are the steps I take to speed up the process:
Step 1: Turn on auto-backups. It doesn't really matter if you have them include user data or not. If you back them up without it will save an extra click per class, but whatever you have it set at will be fine.
Step 2: This may or may not apply to you...Create a new category in which you'd like the new courses to go.
Step 3: Click on the category from which you'd like to duplicate courses. Click on Manage this category. That will bring up a list of the courses with the editing icons (Settings, enroll users, backup, restore, etc.)
Step 4: Here's the big time-saver. Go down the list and for each course right-click the restore icon and then open in a new tab. You can do this with as many courses as you feel comfortable. I usually will do about 20 of them, but it makes no real difference.
Step 5: Go through each tab, scroll down to the backup copy from the automated backups. Click restore. Click on the next tab and repeat.
Step 6: Go back to your first course restore, Click Continue; select your category. Uncheck user data and click Next; move on to the next tab and repeat.
Step 7: Run through the tabs again, Name your new course and scroll through the list of course items and continue.
Step 8: You'll do the same thing again now that all of the items in the course have been selected. You probably don't want to click restore in the next tab until the previous one has finished.
Close all of your tabs and repeat, when finished, you can go back into the courses and add your teachers.

Once you get it down you can move through them pretty quickly. The reason this is so much faster is that you don't have to wait so long for screens to load when you run through the process one course at a time. Having all of your tabs pre-loaded with what you need saves lots of time in a number of situations in which repetitive clicking must be done.