We’re looking at moving learn.gold (our Moodle VLE) to a new server infrastructure over the summer, so I’ve been working with colleagues from IT Services to look at usage levels for capacity planning and load testing.
The first thing to do is find out how the service is used at present. There are broadly speaking three approaches.
- Google analytics
- Web server log analysis
- Moodle’s own built-in statistics
I know some people find this useful, but the downside is you have to modify your themes and remember to remove it from any test instances you have. It can only start analysing from the date you set it up and of course it depends how you feel about Google. We don’t currently use it.
Web server access logs
These are just a list of every request that has been made to the server, a typical day will have hundreds of thousands of lines of text. Depending how your server is set up, it will contain the IP address of the requester, date and time, item requested, referring page and possibly the type of browser and client operating system.
To make sense of them you need to put them through a web log analysis package. For example – web expert. This will create a multi-page report of charts and tables. It’s useful to get a broad brushstroke feel for overall levels and can also be handy for spotting suspicious activity, but it does get a bit flummoxed by Moodle, as we’ll see.
So – here are some of the things it can tell us about learn.gold.
Activity by hour of day
The chart above is the average activity by hour of day. It’s clear from this that it’s used 24 hours a day but peak times are early afternoon.
Weekly pattern of use
This is because a typical Moodle page also requests these other files too and they look like extra page views to the analyser. It therefore tends to inflate the overall figures and confuse matters. There are probably workarounds for this but I find the report is fine as it is, especially combined with Moodle’s own stats.
Operating Systems 2013
This I thought was useful. This gives an idea of how people are accessing learn.gold. The Mac is by far the largest with Windows 7 second. The iPhone is also quite a chunk. Interesting to compare this to the chart I produced a couple of years back (below).
Operating Systems 2011
Web browsers 2013
This was a surprise to me – Google Chrome is the second biggest chunk of the graph. Compare it with two years ago (below).
Web browsers 2011
Finally – it seems people are still using IE! What versions though?
Internet Explorer versions
Version 9 predominates. Alarming to see someone is still using IE6! Don’t!
So how is this useful? Well, it helps to know what the most used browsers are when testing new versions of Moodle or tweaking the theme – or indeed running sessions for staff. It’s also useful to know that increasingly people are accessing the VLE from their smartphones. When I did my PGCERT in ODE with the OU (lots of letters)!, I found their Moodle mobile offering really good for staying in touch via forums. On learn.gold we have the Mobile theme enabled, but as phones get bigger again and tablets smaller – it may be that the normal desktop theme works better.
I’ll take a look at the built in stats some other time. In the meantime, if you’ve any tricks you use to look at usage – add a comment!