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Dublin City University, e-assessment & Moodle

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Adapting online learning solutions in the face of ever-changing demands



Dublin City University (DCU) is passionate about open source, as part of its university ethos. They are strong advocates for open education resources and this was a strong contributing factor in their decision to work with Catalyst. Prior to our partnership, Catalyst and Dublin City University had collaborated on various open source projects to develop and enhance learning platforms including Moodle and Mahara e-portfolio, sharing improvements back to the upstream projects to enable others to benefit in the true spirit of open source.


DCU was looking for a new hosting partner with Moodle expertise. They needed an authentic partner to fully support their online education initiatives and attain their business goals by delivering a close collaborative partnership to drive the online learning platform forward.

The University had experienced the frustrations and disruptions of hosting issues and lack of specific Moodle expertise with their previous hosting provider – being simply platform-as-a-service. Balancing the various unresolved issues with the scale and burden of managing Moodle within the university meant strong and robust support for the VLE became an increasing concern.

Catalyst and DCU forged a managed services partnership in the summer of 2019, moving the Moodle platform onto the university owned cloud infrastructure using Catalyst’s fully containerised and scalable architecture design.

Since the onset of Covid 19, DCU has had growing numbers of staff and students accessing the LMS, (now numbering over 18,000). Expectations of high quality and successful online provision are rising significantly in line with this new and increased demand.


DCU started working with Catalyst in 2019.

The initial project plan included 87 customised pieces of Moodle functionality for the growing network of over 18,000 students. Catalyst responded with a concise and proven project plan and a flexible, agile project management approach. A suitable cloud architecture was implemented, and the Moodle application was moved, on time and on budget, with all stakeholders noting a positive project experience throughout.

Unique challenges – such as solutions for user, account and grade data integrations, were solved with close working partnerships being forged between Catalyst Cloud and Moodle experts and similar experts at DCU.

Mark Glynn, Head of Teaching Enhancement Unit, Dublin City University, said this about our collaboration, "Catalyst are truly exceptional in their response and efficiency – a robust company to work with and a ‘can-do’ attitude – we can’t speak highly enough of them."

Covid 19 pandemic – a new challenge for online assessment

As Covid 19 rapidly took hold and lockdown began in Ireland, DCU put the partnership to the test and requested a suitable e-assessment solution for 11,820 exams to be delivered via the Moodle VLE for over 7,000 unique students/exams with only five weeks to prepare.

E-assessment solution

Catalyst had experience with such challenges and a ready-made e-assessment solution to achieve this. We rapidly presented a plan and delivery approach that met these needs and delivered confidence to the stakeholders at DCU. The preparation of the e-assessment system went smoothly and, as required, DCU delivered the exam programme without any issues. 1,200 concurrent examinations were achieved, (using a model which could have increased to support 4,000 students taking an exam at any one time). Both assignment upload and multiple choice question methods were used.

Academic integrity

DCU has devised a 12 point framework for Academic Integrity Principles, giving advice on robust assessment strategies and their design. DCU worked on question and examination design to ensure integrity, security and minimal plagiarism for e-assessments. DCU believes in a partnership and being proactive with students, staff and the institution at large. There are policies and supports in place with a positive technical infrastructure. DCU takes advantage of great resources such as those produced by JISC for assessment design. These fully support staff and allow them the freedom to be innovative with assessment and course design. An example of this is the option of a pre-recorded video uploaded to the VLE, rather than an ‘in class’ presentation.


DCU is not only flying the flag for e-assessment, but also removing barriers and unlocking potential for more and more non-traditional students to have a university education. (23% of their intake constitutes non-traditional access students). Online learning has positively contributed to accessibility for these students and facilitates real flexibility.

Image with words: Supporting millions of students each year


The initial project plan:

This included 87 customised pieces of Moodle functionality for the network of over 18,000 students. Challenges like solutions for user, account and grade data integrations were met via the close working partnerships we forged.

Image listing Catalyst UK Moodle integrations


Catalyst's E-assessment Solution

As required, DCU delivered the exam programme without any issues. 1,200 concurrent examinations were achieved, (using a model which could have increased to support 4,000 students taking an exam at any one time).

Our VLE is one of the most important, mission critical systems in the university so it is critical students and staff have a robust system. We needed an adaptable and dynamic partner.

Mark Glynn Head of Technology Enhancement Unit, Dublin City University