Theme Update 2022
On Tuesday 16th August, QMplus received a much needed facelift. QMplus functionality remains the same, and all content remains intact. The changes were only made to the ‘look and feel’.
The main objective of the QMplus theme project was to update the QMplus theme ensuring that:
- Students and staff receive the benefits of all built-in Moodle functionality within QMplus, now and with future releases
- The interface is “stripped back”, embodying modern UX design and good practice.
- Student and staff requirements are met as far as possible and appropriately balanced where they conflict.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that the theme has gone live, if you have any issues or queries, please raise a ticket on the ServiceDesk. Alternatively, you can come along to an online drop-in session. Or, if you have dedicated QMplus support within your School/Department/Institute, you can contact them in the first instance as we are working closely with them, keeping them updated with progress and ensuring that we hear about local issues and concerns.
What is the QMplus theme?
The theme is the look and feel of the VLE, how QMplus looks, how and where content appears and includes branding, colours, layout etc.
Why are we updating the theme?
QMplus is based on Moodle and was launched in 2012 with its own bespoke theme. Since then, Queen Mary has changed, Moodle has been updated and it is clear that our bespoke theme is no longer fit for purpose and is causing some frustration among students and staff, both in the faculties and central support teams. Specifically, we are aware that:
- There are accessibility issues embedded within the theme that must be addressed.
- Moodle has recently launched a new dashboard which surfaces important data for students that we cannot currently display, including “My Progress” – an increasingly desirable feature as more teaching occurs online.
- There is a conflict between staff and student priorities which was addressed with landing pages and a bespoke dashboard in 2017 – a compromise that may have had the unintended consequence of prioritising staff communications over student access.
- The current design concept was developed in 2013 and a refresh is overdue.
- The testing and administrative overhead created by the theme is unsustainable and unjustified given Moodle functionality has overtaken some of our bespoke developments in recent years and is set to break away further with the launch of Moodle 4.
- A review of the QMplus landing page, dashboard and login journey in February 2021, by students, demonstrated that elements of the current theme are causing frustration for current students.
When will the theme be updated?
The theme was updated on Tuesday 16th August between 9 and 11pm (BST), after the published University resit period, with enough time before the start of term. We acknowledge that there is no good time to update the QMplus theme. Mid August is generally the least disruptive time for the majority of users.
What features are we losing?
We are not losing many features but the ones that will no longer be available are:
- The “fly down dashboard” – this is replaced by the standard Moodle dashboard which is the first thing staff and students see when they log in
- Different theme colours for different faculties – the colour scheme will be the same across the system.
- The “show hidden modules on the dashboard” feature – currently if a module is hidden from students, it still appears on their dashboard with an orange bar indicating it is hidden. In the new theme, hidden modules will not appear on a student’s dashboard. They will still appear for staff.
- The module image and announcements area at the top of a module area – the module image is displayed on the dashboard but is no longer displayed in the module area itself.
- The sub-pages activity – we are removing the sub-pages plugin from QMplus. This isn’t actually related to the theme update but is because the plugin is no longer supported and has been causing issues. Please see the related question on sub-pages for more information.
Can I see QMplus in the new theme and what my modules will look like?
Yes, please attend our QMplus new theme awareness session being scheduled over the summer. This will give you the opportunity to see what the new theme will look like before the launch date. We will also be adding videos to QMplus soon that will highlight key changes. Go to our course bookings site and search for the course code: TELT111
If you are a local school administrator with QMplus administrator access, you can raise a ticket on ITS Helpdesk, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and request access to view the new QMplus theme on our development site. You will be given an account to access our development server, which can only be accessed via the QMUL network. Please note that the theme is still work in progress, and what you will see on the development server is not the final version. Instructions will be sent to you via the Helpdesk ticket.
You can also view a short video of the QMplus dashboard in the new theme.
Will there be a transition period where both themes will be available?
No. This is something that we considered but were advised against by our design partners. We can’t have the old and new themes on our live QMplus server at the same time.
What will students/staff/users see when they first log into QMplus?
When students/staff/users first log into QMplus, they will see their ‘Dashboard’. This dashboard will display the module areas that they are enrolled on.
Outgoing QMplus dashboard:
New QMplus dashboard:
What will happen to the School landing pages in the new theme?
School landing pages will be available via a “My Home” button in the left navigation. These will no longer be the first page that students see when they log in but will be easily accessible at any time.
The pages themselves have a refreshed look in line with the rest of the theme.
Will we be able to search for modules as we can currently?
Yes. The module search function appears at the top of your dashboard.
Will the new theme affect my modules’ content as well?
No, the new theme does not affect the module content. Your content will remain in your module areas.
We are working hard to ensure that there is no work needed to module content over and above what would be required to get a module ready for a new academic year.
Will the footer maintain the same functionality and access to archives?
The footer will remain largely as it is now with links to the QMplus archives available there.
Will the existing modules be transferred automatically to the new format?
Yes. All existing modules will remain on the system and the new theme will be applied on top (with modules remaining intact).
Will I still have a copy of my module in the archive with the old theme applied?
Will the theme change help to speed QMplus up?
We hope so, as the current theme is complex and takes up resource to load. This was one of the major drivers behind the theme update project.
Once the theme has been updated we will be monitoring QMplus performance to determine the impact.
What is happening with sub-pages?
Unfortunately, the 3rd party that developed sub-pages no longer maintains this feature and therefore this plugin is no longer supported. This plugin will be retired and removed from QMplus (regardless of the theme that we use), as it isn’t supported.
If you are unsure what a sub-page is, they are indicated within your course structure by the following icon:
What will happen in course areas/pages that use subpages if they don’t do anything?
When the sub-page plugin is removed, the resources and activities from the sub-pages will still be available on QMPlus, but they will appear as topics that are not presented in any particular order or structure. This means that you will need to decide whether these items are no longer useful and can be deleted, or to restructure the course by moving the topic material manually within the relevant modules.
In most cases, this will be a relatively simple matter as most courses have few, if any, subpages. However, in some instances, there will be a significantly large number of subpages and more disordered topics to deal with.
To see the extent to which this may impact your modules, please consult this report containing a list of modules that currently have the sub-page plugin.
If you find that you have a very large number of subpages and might not have the resources to move all relevant topic data yourself, please contact us to see if we may be able to offer you some help with this at email@example.com.
How will rollover and archiving work?
The QMplus rollover and archiving process will be largely the same as in previous years, except that there will be no long downtime needed as we are not upgrading QMplus, just archiving it.
The keys points to note are:
- A snapshot of QMplus will be taken on 12th July during our standard maintenance window – whatever is on QMplus up to the 12th July at 9pm will be captured in the snapshot.
- The data from the snapshot will become the 2021/22 archive.
- The 2021/22 QMplus archive will be available to users the week of the 18th July
- The rollover block will then become available
When will staff be able to rollover their modules?
You can start to rollover your modules after a 2021/22 archive is made available (to ensure that content is in the archive before removing data). We aim to have the archive available the week of the 18th July.
Some staff like to have module images, is it possible to put them in there?
Module images will no longer appear at the top of module areas. They will appear on the module cards on user dashboards.
We found that this feature was not universally used across the organisation with the image taking up too much screen space in the module area. We have therefore decided to retire this feature.
Which version of Moodle are we currently on and which version are we upgrading to in August?
We’re currently on Moodle 3.9 and are not upgrading Moodle in August 2022. We currently plan to upgrade to Moodle 4.x in August 2023.
Can we still use custom HTML in our module areas?
Yes. For those who use custom HTML, you’ll still be able to do this. We do urge caution in doing this though as we can’t provide support for custom code and we don’t recommend doing this unless you are confident that you know what you are doing. If you are using custom code across your School/Department/Institute, then it is your responsibility to ensure that this is supported should something go wrong.
We recommend that you use Bootstrap components. You can find out more about Moodle and Bootstrap on the MoodleDocs website.
Will my content and activities still be there?
Other useful resources
- Moodle 3.9 docs – The official Moodle documentation for the version of Moodle we are using.
- Project contact email address: firstname.lastname@example.org – please email us with any questions that you have about the new theme.
- A short video of the QMplus dashboard in the new theme
Student Related Questions
Will there be a guide for students?
Yes, guides will be available for students. There is a video on the new dashboard that students can view: A short video of the QMplus dashboard in the new theme and there will be user tours available when any user first logs in.
How will students get information about the new theme?
Local school QMplus administrations will need to pass on relevant details about the theme changes to their students via their dedicated channels.
There will also be messages placed on QMplus in the lead up to the new theme launch. There will be videos available and students are welcome to come along to our theme awareness sessions. They can view details and sign up at: https://esdcourses.qmul.ac.uk/userlistcourse.php
How will students submit their assignments?
This will not change. Students will be able to submit their assignments in the same way that they do now. This is dependent on how the module has been set up. Once they have navigated to their module area on QMplus, they will locate their assignment and submit it the same way as they did before. View video of how students submit their assignment in the new theme.