1.7 Planning ahead

VLE Annual Calendar

This page is designed to help you pull together the guidance from the rest of the “Baseline use of Yorkshare” chapter to help you plan and schedule your VLE preparations and activities for the academic year.

Each year, the VLE and our related systems are subject to a number of maintenance and upgrade activities. These occur during the holiday periods to help avoid impact on learning, but it’s important to keep them in mind when preparing your VLE sites for each term, along with the normal flow of the academic year.

We’ve broken this page down into different times of year, to give you a quick guide of what you should ideally be thinking about and when:

For specific information about the dates when planned outages are scheduled for our systems (for maintenance or upgrade work) see our “System Availability” page.

We have also created a poster summarising the information on this page, which you could print out and stick up in your office for reference: Download calendar poster [PDF]. The poster is not screen-reader friendly, as such the below text on this page should be used as a textual alternative.

Screenshot of the downloadable calendar poster, screen reader users are advised to read this TEL handbook page (1.7) instead, rather than use this image due to its visual complexity

Summer Holiday

(week 1 or 2) VLE Site Rollover

Every summer we contact administrators in teaching departments and ask for confirmation of which VLE sites need to be copied for use in the next academic year, we then run automated processes to produce all these new sites en masse. This process is known as “Rollover”, and means that academics are given a fresh copy of their module site each year which they can then tweak/update as desired for their next cohort, whilst leaving the previous years’ sites intact as an archive.

The newly-rolled sites are hidden from students, and do not have student enrolments set up on them at this point.  The new site also has its name prefixed with the incoming academic year to distinguish it from the site that it is a copy of (e.g. 2019/20:).

We can roll sites over for you earlier than this bulk task if needed, just let us know.

(≈ week 3) VLE Upgrade

We usually upgrade the VLE twice within each academic year: A substantial upgrade during the summer holidays and a smaller, maintenance upgrade over Christmas. This allows us to keep the system up to date, fix issues and add new functionality/improvements.

We advise that the VLE (including Replay, Collaborate and Reading Lists) will be completely offline for two consecutive work days whilst upgrades are undertaken, but do endeavour to return the system sooner than that if possible. No-one can access the system whilst it’s offline for upgrade.

The days when the summer upgrade is undertaken vary slightly year on year, but they tend to fall in week three of the summer holiday. We liaise with many stakeholders throughout the University to identify the least-impacting period in which to perform the upgrade. Once a date has been agreed, we advertise it repeatedly for months in advance both on Twitter and in our monthly Newsletters.

Learn more about VLE upgrades here: FAQ – VLE Upgrades.

(week 7 or 8) UCAS Embargo and SITS Progression

During the annual UCAS Embargo, all applicant students accounts in the VLE are disabled (ie. they can no longer log in) so that changes in their VLE account status does not inadvertantly reveal a change to their UCAS status before it’s officially announced and released. The SITS Progression and the Registry Academic Year rollovers (that other central teams perform) fall around the same time as the UCAS Embargo. During

During , the nightly automatic enrolments of users and the creation of accounts is frozen, to avoid conflicts with their systems.

(≈ week 9) Rolled VLE Site Enrolments

Once Embargo and Progression are complete, we then bulk-enrol special VLE accounts (called “Group Users”) that facilitate automatic enrolment of the actual individual student accounts onto VLE sites rolled over at the start of the summer holiday (as noted above).

Note any change to the detail of a SITS module from one year to the next will prevent this process from working (a change to the SITS code or a change in the Term the module is running for example).   This is why checking enrolments is considered a crticial ‘start of term readiness’ task.

(≈ week 12) Site Archive & Rename

The process that effectively closes out the automatic rollover procedures for an academic year is two-fold.

Each VLE site from the outgoing academic year has its name prefixed in the following format: ZArchive 18/19:
The years indicated in this prefix (18/19 in the example above) reflect the academic year in which the VLE site was used.  The reason the prefix starts with the letter ‘Z’ is to push the display of the VLE site down to the bottom of the enrolment list that you see on your VLE Home page (the list is displayed in alpha-numeric order by default).

The VLE site for the incoming academic year has the year prefix removed from the site title.  For example, a site called 2019/20: Theoretical Vampirism before the process will be called Theoretical Vampirism after the process has run.

Assignment Deadlines and Assignment Inductions

Ensure that no electronically submitted assignment deadlines (formative or summative) are set for when the December upgrade is scheduled to occur.  Once the VLE downtime scheduling has been announced it cannot be changed (it is set many months in advance of the Autumn term by consultation across the University to minimise its impact as much as possible).

If you intend to have a member of the PDLT (Programme Design and Learning Technology Team) deliver an Anonymous Assignment induction to your students for you in the Autumn term then be sure to organise this with the team directly well in advance of the session.  Note that the PDLT cannot operate via use of the University’s Timetable so arrangements with the PDLT must be made directly (even if the session is also timetabled).  Typically it’s only necessary to induct your first year cohort where Anonymous Assignment is concerned.

Start of (Autumn) Term Readiness

It’s critical that staff check their VLE sites sufficiently in advance of going live with them, particularly if students’ attention is going to be deliberately drawn to VLE sites.

We’ve produced a guide specifically covering start of term readiness.  The key areas covered by this guide are as follows:

  • Checking your VLE site exists
  • Checking your content is up to date (inc. Reading lists)
  • Checking your students are enrolled on the site
  • Checking your site’s visibility

Special Note:  Never make Announcements in a VLE site (including Announcements that you set a to release at a later date) unless you are sure the students are enrolled on the site and that it is set to be Available.  If either of these two requirements are not met then the Announcement won’t be emailed to the students.

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Autumn Term

Archiving of Replay Recordings

Following the completion of any resit activity at the start of the Autumn Term, old Replay recordings are archived and deleted.

In line with the University’s VLE archiving policy, lecture recordings are retained for 5 years. Where lecture recordings veer from other VLE resources is that are made ‘unavailable’ for student viewership after 2 years. Between the point of being made unavailable and the point of permanent deletion, recordings will only be accessible and visible to staff, as to provide flexibility where a student (returning from a leave of absence, for example) may need access to older recordings.

For example, a lecture capture made in the Spring Term of 2015/16 will have been made unavailable for viewership in September 2018, and will be automatically deleted at the end of the Summer vacation in 2021.

Recordings using Personal Recording software or uploaded video resources (i.e. hosted video materials not made using the automated Replay service) will not be targeted as part of the implementation of this policy, and will therefore remain available for viewing on an ongoing basis. Lecturers may download an archival copy of their own recordings at any time prior to permanent deletion.

Affected staff will be notified again prior to recordings being made unavailable.

If you have any concerns or queries in regards to this, please contact vle-support@york.ac.uk.

Electronic Assignment Readiness

For departments who use the Anonymous Assignment tool, departmental administrative staff are responsible for setting up Anonymous Assignment submission points.  Submission points may be inserted into the discrete VLE sites used for teaching or in a separate site containing all submission points.  Departmental administrative staff will typically also be responsible for non-anonymous summative submissions as well.

Setting up electronic assignment submission points for formative work is generally handled by teaching staff rather than administrative staff.  It’s critical that electronic handling of formative submissions is considered well in advance of needing to set up it up for successful use; this helps ensure some of (but not limited to) the following requirements aren’t left to chance or to the eleventh hour (where the impact of not having considered them can be significant):

  • If there is a need for Groups to be set up in the VLE that this work is undertaken (and that Groups are formed and finalised well enough in advance of their need to be populated within the VLE)
  • That the submission points are set up appropriately and accurately (such as to initially suppress feedback visibility or to map a score to a text indicator where scores aren’t relevant)
  • That markers know how to find student work and mark it using the VLE’s tools
  • If there are multiple markers that the Grade Centre can be shaped to ease marking for different markers
  • If submissions are unusual (i.e not simply text documents) that the submission method implemented appropriately supports the submission type

If you are unsure about how to set up for assessment we’ve produced this assessment diagnostic document to help inform your decision making.

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Winter/Christmas Holiday

(week 1) VLE Mini-Upgrade

The VLE’s maintenance upgrade occurs in December, usually in Week 1 of the break between the Autumn and Spring terms. The upgrade helps us to keep the system up to date, fix issues and add new functionality/improvements.

We advise that the VLE (including Replay recordings and Reading Lists) will be completely offline for two consecutive work days whilst the upgrade takes place, but do endeavour to return the system sooner than that if possible. No-one can access the system whilst it’s offline for upgrade.

We liaise with many stakeholders throughout the University to identify the least-impacting period in which to perform this upgrade and once a date has been agreed, we advertise it repeatedly many months in advance both on Twitter and in our monthly Newsletters.

No formative or summative submissions should be set for the two days that the VLE are scheduled to be down.  Scheduled downtime cannot be changed.

Learn more about VLE upgrades here: FAQ – VLE Upgrades.

Start of Term Readiness

It’s critical that staff check their VLE sites sufficiently in advance of going live with them, particularly if students’ attention is going to be deliberately drawn to VLE sites.

We’ve produced a guide specifically covering start of term readiness.  The key areas covered by this guide are as follows:

  • Checking your VLE site exists
  • Checking your content is up to date (inc. Reading lists)
  • Checking your students are enrolled on the site
  • Checking your site’s visibility

Special Note:  Never make Announcements in a VLE site (including Announcements that you set a to release at a later date) unless you are sure the students are enrolled on the site and that it is set to be Available.  If either of these two requirements are not met then the Announcement won’t be emailed to the students.

Electronic Assignment Readiness

For departments who use the Anonymous Assignment tool, departmental administrative staff are responsible for setting up Anonymous Assignment submission points.  Submission points may be inserted into the discrete VLE sites used for teaching or in a separate site containing all submission points.  Departmental administrative staff will typically also be responsible for non-anonymous summative submissions as well.

Setting up electronic assignment submission points for formative work is generally handled by teaching staff rather than administrative staff.  It’s critical that electronic handling of formative submissions is considered well in advance of needing to set up it up for successful use; this helps ensure some of (but not limited to) the following requirements aren’t left to chance or to the eleventh hour (where the impact of not having considered them can be significant):

  • If there is a need for Groups to be set up in the VLE that this work is undertaken (and that Groups are formed and finalised well enough in advance of their need to be populated within the VLE)
  • That the submission points are set up appropriately and accurately (such as to initially suppress feedback visibility or to map a score to a text indicator where scores aren’t relevant)
  • That markers know how to find student work and mark it using the VLE’s tools
  • If there are multiple markers that the Grade Centre can be shaped to ease marking for different markers
  • If submissions are unusual (i.e not simply text documents) that the submission method implemented appropriately supports the submission type

If you are unsure about how to set up for assessment we’ve produced this assessment diagnostic document to help inform your decision making.

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Spring Term

Keep calm and carry on! Ensure your assignments for later in spring term are in good shape and ready to go:

Electronic Assignment Readiness

For departments who use the Anonymous Assignment tool, departmental administrative staff are responsible for setting up Anonymous Assignment submission points.  Submission points may be inserted into the discrete VLE sites used for teaching or in a separate site containing all submission points.  Departmental administrative staff will typically also be responsible for non-anonymous summative submissions as well.

Setting up electronic assignment submission points for formative work is generally handled by teaching staff rather than administrative staff.  It’s critical that electronic handling of formative submissions is considered well in advance of needing to set up it up for successful use; this helps ensure some of (but not limited to) the following requirements aren’t left to chance or to the eleventh hour (where the impact of not having considered them can be significant):

  • If there is a need for Groups to be set up in the VLE that this work is undertaken (and that Groups are formed and finalised well enough in advance of their need to be populated within the VLE)
  • That the submission points are set up appropriately and accurately (such as to initially suppress feedback visibility or to map a score to a text indicator where scores aren’t relevant)
  • That markers know how to find student work and mark it using the VLE’s tools
  • If there are multiple markers that the Grade Centre can be shaped to ease marking for different markers
  • If submissions are unusual (i.e not simply text documents) that the submission method implemented appropriately supports the submission type

If you are unsure about how to set up for assessment we’ve produced this assessment diagnostic document to help inform your decision making.

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Spring/Easter Holiday

Start of Term Readiness

It’s critical that staff check their VLE sites sufficiently in advance of going live with them, particularly if students’ attention is going to be deliberately drawn to VLE sites.

We’ve produced a guide specifically covering start of term readiness.  The key areas covered by this guide are as follows:

  • Checking your VLE site exists
  • Checking your content is up to date (inc. Reading lists)
  • Checking your students are enrolled on the site
  • Checking your site’s visibility

Special Note:  Never make Announcements in a VLE site (including Announcements that you set a to release at a later date) unless you are sure the students are enrolled on the site and that it is set to be Available.  If either of these two requirements are not met then the Announcement won’t be emailed to the students.

VLE Purge

The VLE Purge occurs annually (in the March to May period – the precise date of purging is variable) to remove VLE sites that are more than five years old.  VLE sites remain in the system for a minimum of five years in accordance with the University’s archiving policies.

As with rollover, we contact administrators in teaching departments (well in advance of the purge) providing them with a list of all those VLE sites that will be deleted from the system during the purge process.  Unless exceptions are returned to us by departmental administrative staff all the VLE sites indicated in the list will be deleted irretrievably during the purge process.  Any exceptions indicated to us will be removed from the purge list and, as a consequence, remain on the system indefinitely.

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Summer Term

Electronic Assignment Readiness

For departments who use the Anonymous Assignment tool, departmental administrative staff are responsible for setting up Anonymous Assignment submission points.  Submission points may be inserted into the discrete VLE sites used for teaching or in a separate site containing all submission points.  Departmental administrative staff will typically also be responsible for non-anonymous summative submissions as well.

Setting up electronic assignment submission points for formative work is generally handled by teaching staff rather than administrative staff.  It’s critical that electronic handling of formative submissions is considered well in advance of needing to set up it up for successful use; this helps ensure some of (but not limited to) the following requirements aren’t left to chance or to the eleventh hour (where the impact of not having considered them can be significant):

  • If there is a need for Groups to be set up in the VLE that this work is undertaken (and that Groups are formed and finalised well enough in advance of their need to be populated within the VLE)
  • That the submission points are set up appropriately and accurately (such as to initially suppress feedback visibility or to map a score to a text indicator where scores aren’t relevant)
  • That markers know how to find student work and mark it using the VLE’s tools
  • If there are multiple markers that the Grade Centre can be shaped to ease marking for different markers
  • If submissions are unusual (i.e not simply text documents) that the submission method implemented appropriately supports the submission type

If you are unsure about how to set up for assessment we’ve produced this assessment diagnostic document to help inform your decision making.

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