Moodle 4.1 has landed

1 December 2022 by Joey Murison

The first Long Term Stable release for the new 4th generation Moodle LMS.

It’s fair to say it's been a little while in the making, but we are finally there - Moodle 4.1 LTS is now available.

For many of the partners and clients of Catalyst IT, this has been a major milestone that we’ve all been awaiting. Due to the late release of Moodle 4.0, and the requirement to ensure that our annual upgrade programmes can guarantee that a targetted version will remain inside the support period (such as is agreed with all of our university partners), the pending round of upgrades to target Moodle 4.1 have been long awaited.

Here at Catalyst we're very excited to now begin the work to deliver upgrades to all of our sites and partners over the coming 6-8 months. We also know that the many partners we support, especially those delivering to those in the Higher Education sector with large scale high performance Moodle platforms are also very excited. In the mean time, however, we haven’t been sitting still, we have already been busily working away behind the scenes to get in good shape for the upgrade season.

The work to be done in the upgrade - we’re on it

We would ask our partners not to get too stressed about the upgrade path ahead, with Catalyst as your partner we will ensure that the upgrade is taken care of with the minimum strain. Some of the work we have been doing in advance is outlined below, in addition to a body of work that kicked off on release day to begin analysing every partner’s Moodle codebase to identify plugins and features which will need attention as part of this upgrade. Of course, there will be work to be done, but we have probably the strongest and deepest team of Moodle experts worldwide ready to get cracking.

The analysis looks at plugin maintainer repositories upstream to identify if a Moodle 4.x version of the plugin is available, and also runs a trial upgrade to include the plugin(s) to observe if any code conflict issues are visible already. Once we have completed the base code works described here we can provide our partners with the resulting analysis. This will give insight into the scale and potential areas of issues in the pending upgrades.

As soon as feasible we will set to work in providing everybody with their staging sites upgraded to Moodle 4.1 - so that we can all begin the work to test manually using traditional manual and test script-based methods. This is not trivial, in addition to the code upgrades our Moodle 4.1 builds will move to new versions of MySQL (8), Postgres (14) and (if possible) new versions of PHP (8). Therefore we have to begin building out new AWS ECS clusters, RDS database services and docker containers upon which we will host the new staging (and eventual production) sites. 

Whilst it is clear that the urgency and desire to get cracking early will be higher in the Moodle community this year, Catalyst is well versed and well ahead in terms of preparation for upgrades. I'd ask that you work closely with Catalyst Account Champion, and discuss the timelines we have already planned for you and your stakeholders so that we can all align to deliver a seamless as possible upgrade experience.

So what have we been doing so far?

Catawesome theme works

We have been working extensively on the Catawesome theme, which we provide as part-of-service to all of our partners, ensuring that it is fit, ready and fully compatible with the new features within Moodle 4.1 We didn’t just stop at ensuring it worked cleanly with the new Moodle 4.1 features and base theme, though, we have also been busy adding in a range of shiny new features of our own to ensure that the Moodle 4.1 experience available to our partners is outstanding - right out of the box.

Catalyst toolkit and plugins suite works

By choosing to work with Catalyst you are provided with a number of outstanding plugins and features by standard, each of these needs to be tested, enhanced and verified as working in readiness for the pending upgrades, we have been making our way down this list including applying fixes and enhancements to;

  • The Multi-Block plugin
  • The Libre Lambda document converter plugin
  • The Excimer performance insights tool
  • The Elastic Search plugin for cloud environments
  • A wide range of plugins we use to deliver exemplary hosting and managed services that set us apart.

Up next we will begin to engage with our partners and their own third-party plugin providers - working top-down from those most widely utilised. We expect to see early readiness from the big providers of Higher Education specific tooling and features, but of course where there is slowness or lacking response our team are on hand to develop fixes or enhancements as required.

Final thoughts - benefits of open source

As we progress through the suite of plugins, over the course of the upgrade season, it is a certainty that a number of the plugins in use in the wide world of Moodle will need work. We will be offering our services to carry out those works, especially where a plugin either has no active maintainer or where the plugin is a custom-developed plugin owned, designed or operated by our partner.

As those works and fixes make their way to completion, of course, the wide Moodle community benefits and in return may well collaborate to develop, test and deliver fixes to wider plugins that are being utilised in the community.  This is what makes the Moodle open source community so powerful, sharing the burden of maintenance and delivering beneficial outcomes for all - so that we may stand on each other's shoulders to deliver outstanding learning platforms.

If you are already aware of plugins or wider features relating to Moodle which are going to need work - please get in touch with us and our team of developers and Moodle experts are available to assist in resolving your challenges.