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South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) Thread, Merlin in Regional Broadband Consortiums (RBC); Can anyone point me toward a plan for implementing Merlin in school. My Line Manager has just set a Performance ...
  1. #16
    speckytecky's Avatar
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    Can anyone point me toward a plan for implementing Merlin in school. My Line Manager has just set a Performance Review (anyone else get these) target for me to develop a draft plan to do this in our Primary school.

    As I see it under the weight of all else that's changing in schools nowadays selling the concept to staff as a necessary extra is one of the biggest hurdles followed by convincing the pupils that it's something they are going to find useful and like - that's after they have mastered accessing it in the first place.

  2. #17
    mb2k01's Avatar
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    At the moment I'm not sure there is a plan as such as Merlin is still on a limited roll out.
    Your first port of call would probably be your LA, or SWGfL direct to find out if it is possible for you to be set up on the system. Once you have had the admin training you will be free to start provisioning users and start making use of the system.

    If you've had a sizable chunk of time to read my essay type reply earlier in the thread you might want to consider (and discuss with the person setting this review) whether it is appropriate to look at deploying Merlin at all.
    I see that you already make good use of Moodle and have a decent school website - the important thing to realise is that you will find 90% of Merlin functions replicate what you already successfully use, with minimal useful additional functions to that of Moodle or your schools website.

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  4. #18
    superfletch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by griffin View Post
    Hi all, just wondered if anyine out there has started using Merlin. If so what are your impresions?

    James
    Hiya,

    I've been using Merlin a little while now and although my first impressions weren't great I'm actually now getting to quite like it. Initially I didn't like the simplicity of the built in site designer and felt that using Merlin was clunky. Having got used to it, I actually now feel the simplicity of the site builder is genuinely helpful given that the target audience for it is teachers and TA's who don't have the skills or the time to learn how to make snazzy websites. When you listen to their feedback I'd guess it is 80% positive.

    I think Primary Schools will take it on board a lot more than Secondaries. Certainly to start with as it provides them with something they actually need (and mostly don't yet have) at nil or low cost. Sadly I think it has arrived a little too late for most of the Secondary schools who have already implemented their own solutions in the form of a VLE or CMS.

    To address some of the issues raised here (seeing I was also at the training session mentioned):


    1. SIMS Integration not yet complete, and unable to give a timescale.
    2. Unable to manually change usernames (family name changes or staff marriage etc)
    3. Limits on amount of users able to create - only increased by logging a support call with SWGfL
    4. Limits on diskspace only lifted after a support call and long wait for SWGfL
    5. No area in bulk upload for automatic creation of usernames! (Usernames must conform to one of the Merlin presets, if not, you will have to manually create or force users to remember yet another unique username!
    6. Other than the primary/secondary transition project, we were also interested in looking at Merlin to address the Parental Engagement (Online reporting etc) issue... ... Again, following this training, those features look much further away and even potentially unlikely.
    7. Moodle authentication / integration was one of the key things promised early on, although stressed that it wasn't yet ready. Following the comments from the person leading the training, I am not sure that Merlin and Moodle will ever integrate!



    1. Now being trialled successfully in a number of schools - expect SIF rollout to begin from Spring Term. Initially the "Groupcall" SIF agent will be available. Capita, RM, Pearson and others have all released SIF agents but each will need to undergo testing and approval at SWGfL.
    2. This can be done in one of two ways - Merge the old account with a new one (reconcile) or CR to SWGfL. Perhaps this wasn't clear at the training.
    3. Limit has been increased by SWGfL (secondaries has gone from 500 to 800) and a further increase is still only one phone call away.
    4. I only have a problem with the "long wait for SWGfL" bit here, that is your perception. SWGfL have a dedicated Merlin branch of their phone system and a vested interest in having Merlin work, it will be done quickly.
    5. I agree, this is rubbish you should be able to specify the username within the bulk upload. This Q went back to SWGfL last week at a regional meeting where they said the school concerned should contact them with what they need and it can (USUALLY) be added into the predefined list either for your site or if appropriate the whole grid. I'd mail this info to you but it looks like I'd be wasting my time.
    6. Merlin WILL address PE and Online reporting in whatever way SWGfL choose. It will be done using MIS integration and needs to be done right to ensure the MIS data is good and there are no nasty slip ups. The SWGfL insist that it will happen, it will be trialled from Spring next year and SWGfL will take their time to make sure it is right.
    7. I wasn't privvy to the conversations where this was promised so perhaps I'm being unfair here as I don't have the background. Seeing Merlin is SIF compliant then surely it is each and every Moodle implementation that needs to sort their house out and find an appropriate solution to meeting the SIF?
    Last edited by superfletch; 29th November 2009 at 12:08 PM.

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    mb2k01's Avatar
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    Superfletch,

    I hope I haven't upset you by my previous post on here?
    I am aware that for the most part we both have a certain degree of anonymity on here, but I am also aware we both know each other in the real world, and suspected you might read this thread! I wanted my posts to be a fair reflection of my investigation in to Merlin for other readers, not a reflection if your involvement in the project.

    I dare say if you were involved at an earlier / more senior point a lot of my negative points might not exist!

    I'm fine with most of the things you addressed in your previous post other than point 7...
    Absolutely not! Why should every single Moodle administrator have to personally investigate how to implement some form of Merlin / Moodle interaction?
    If SWGfL or Cornwall LA wishes to present Merlin as a viable option, and then expect schools to pick up the bill further down the road, why should they also expect us to make the two systems work?

    If two or three years ago SWGfL and/or Cornwall LA had worked with schools to offer a unified VLE solution instead of forcing schools to go it alone to address DCSF requirements ourselves then we would never have been in the situation of finding Merlin offering 80% of what we already have and promising 20% of something we might never get.

  6. #20

    witch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mb2k01 View Post
    If two or three years ago SWGfL and/or Cornwall LA had worked with schools to offer a unified VLE solution instead of forcing schools to go it alone to address DCSF requirements ourselves then we would never have been in the situation of finding Merlin offering 80% of what we already have and promising 20% of something we might never get.
    Or in my case, SWGfL and Dorset LA....
    the problem with Merlin for us is that it was not really finished and still isn't, and it doesn't offer full VLE functionality. We have gone with Moodle and are currently very happy.
    I think it is a shame as I would have liked to use the same solution across the LA region. I feel very strongly that at least all the schools in the same pyramid should use the same VLE but in ours we currently have Moodle, EFront, Merlin and goodness knows what!

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    mb2k01 (1st December 2009)

  8. #21
    superfletch's Avatar
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    mb2k01 & Witch

    I hope I haven't upset you by my previous post on here?

    Absolutely not... ...just felt it was worth replying with my 2p opinion

    I can see your reasons RE Point 7,

    Would I be right in thinking that if a Moodle implementation elsewhere within the 15 SWGfL LA's sorted out SIF integration between Moodle and Merlin (or for arguments sake Moodle and Sharepoint on a more general level) then under the Moodle Development process this could conceivably become a module or plugin for Moodle?

    What I'm getting at is only one implementation would need to get it sorted before the others could use what they had done.

    I think is is a bit unfair to say every single Moodle administrator would have to personally investigate some form of Merlin / Moodle interaction given that Merlin isn't mandatory for any school. However I agree with your comment that Witch cited whereby a wholescale solution across each LA or the grid would have been the way to go.

    Being my boat - we can't win whatever we picked as the VLE solution no one would have liked!!

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    mb2k01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by superfletch View Post
    Being my boat - we can't win whatever we picked as the VLE solution no one would have liked!!
    I'm not sure that would have been the case. But without strategic planning, consultation or advice several years ago we won't know. (That isn't a dig at you - I know you had about as much influence as I did back then!)

    Personally I think if SWGfL or Cornwall LA had put their hand in the air offering a centralised Moodle installation, we'd have took the option.
    It has been a huge task for many administrators who weren't fluent in web deployment to get their individual sites up and running, and a massive task getting staff enthused and trained in using Moodle and using it as a key part of teaching and learning.
    It is probably those kind of efforts that stick in the minds of schools with Moodle or any other VLE when thinking about Merlin.

    My concern is that despite SWGfL / Cornwall not picking a VLE solution, several years have now passed in which time schools have been forced to pick their own solution - whether that was Moodle or something else. Now comes Merlin championed by the LA and presented as a Learning Platform, which largely mirrors functionality offered by VLE solutions already in operation, and offers more questions or concerns than answers and new functionality (at this stage).

    Schools who have no VLE will probably embrace Merlin. Schools who do have a VLE and want the other functionality face playing the waiting game for Merlin to hopefully deliver, or are forced to go it alone again.

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    speckytecky (2nd December 2009)

  11. #23
    superfletch's Avatar
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    A lot of time has passed since the last post in this thread, so forgive me for bringing this topic back to the top of the list. I have access to a test Merlin site and in the last couple of days a new item has appeared under a new link called applications.

    That link is moodle (and incidently an easymail link also appeared). I haven't had the full lowdown on this yet, but I did speak to the helpdesk about it.

    They said that the applications area would allow a user to enter details (username, password, URL) for moodle/easymail etc into Merlin once and then on subsequent visits to Merlin users would have to fill in a Captcha to traverse pages in the two systems.

    It's a small step, but it is a start I suppose.

    I think full integration will be a complex affair requiring a SIF compliant connection between the moodle server and the Grids Shibboleth IDP. There are people out there acting as a testbed for it.

    Hopefully their findings can address point 7 of my older post.

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    witch's Avatar
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    I say again: speak to lindylou on here - she knows everything and can tell you exactly what is going on.
    Having gone with moodle in one school, it looks like we are going with Merlin in the other.
    The senior school in the first pyramid has Merlin, so moodle integration is important to us.
    The top of the other pyramid has Sharepoint, so I am not quite sure what is going on there.

    Anyway, looks like I may well be involved in Merlin again, so I look forward to seeing how it is all going

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    My middle school was one of the Merlin early adopters (We had a trial up a few months before Summer break 09). We didn't have a VLE at the time so it was an easy option. We pushed Merlin to staff in September but interest quickly died out due to the numerous shortcomings stated earlier. At the moment it's mostly used for room timetabling. The calendar on there is probably one of the better features that worked almost perfectly from the start and the 1 bug I had with it has been squashed.

    It looks like a years work has improved Merlin a lot and there is much more just around the corner with MIS integration from all major players coming at some point. There is a 2012 deadline for MIS integration (to give parents more feedback on targets/results/behaviour) for schools so I imagine the developers deadline is coming sooner rather than later. The ICT co-ordinator has decided to push it to the staff again in September. One of the nice new features I noticed is outlook calendar importing which will allow us to move staff away from exchange easily and save ourselves some money in the long run. We are planning to deliver the majority of daily staff notices on it next year in order to force adoption. We will also be hiring a staff member to work on Merlin for a few hours a week and help any staff who may be having problems. With all that I'm hoping we will have more success next year than this year.

  14. #26
    lindylou's Avatar
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    Morning!

    Superfletch is correct, in the last week or so, application links to Moodle, SWGfL Easymail and KnowledgeBox have appeared in the Manage Modules area of Merlin Admin Tasks. There is also one for EducationCity, but I am not sure if that one is fully functional yet. Administrators choose the apps appropriate to their school, then teachers and pupils see a new icon called My Applications appear in My Place. The user fills in their usernames and passwords, plus domain name where needed and they have single sign-on to those apps. Admin users don't seem to get the My Apps icon though.

    I haven't written up the Help notes for Dorset users yet (my patch of SWGfL) and given it is the end of term and the system is down from tomorrow for the big summer upgrade, I hoped they wouldn't notice! Witch, give it a go with both your Moodle school and the other that plans to use Merlin and let me know if you have any problems.

    The SIF programme to link Merlin and SIMS has been rolling for some months and other MIS are under final testing. Please talk to your LA contact about their plans, I can only speak for Dorset.

    Hope that helps!

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