I am new to Moodle and need help on this. How can a module "belong" to more than one course?
The structure would look like this:
Department -> Course -> Semester -> Grade -> Module or Department -> Course -> Grade -> Semester -> Module
But sometimes a module is common to more than one combination of the above, so the options are:
a) repeat the same module in all combinations;
b) some way to insert a link to a master module so that when the module is chosen a master module is called;
The modules occur in the same time frame or semester, but at different hours of the day and have common exams, altough they may differ in rythm and the proposed works.
I've looked at meta-modules but I'm unsure about their functionality - perhaps there is a simpler way to do this.
Option b) is, in the present case, preferable because the Teacher only has to insert materials and coordinate one module, subject to the condition that he/she can target specific groups, representing classes.
I'm not sure if I'll be of any help to you but this is what I've been doing on mine for right now at least for the 10 weeks that I'm running this class. Each week we have a different subject that we're discussing however it's still got the same activities going on within. For example:
Each week we do the same thing, the only difference is as I mentioned, the subject changes. I'm still learning the ins and outs of this so not sure if that answered your question or just made it more confusing for you. I'm actually curious about this now that I think more of how modules work so if you find the answer I would be interested in what it is.
Dear Joao Almeida
"Groups" seem to be the way to go.
If you set up one course page with different groups of students (each representing a class) then the different groups can be invisible to each other.
The students can be automatically enrolled into the right group by means of the enrollment key. Each class would be given a unique enrollment key, so that when they enroll they are enrolled onto a course and a group.
Despite paying for this functionality we have yet to use it. I am still backing up and restoring 20 almost identical classes. I plan to start using groups with a double class that begins in 8 days time
I am not as up to date on this issue as I was but as far as I know the problems may be:
1) Privacy issues. This may just be a baseless worry. I have not quite got a handle on the extent to which the groups are invisible to each other, and to their teachers, who may be teaching course A, B and F. I think that this issue is cleared up but there are a lot of place where users from other groups might appear such as in recent activities and online users and other blocks.
2) Mistaken enrolments. At the present time I use 20 seperate courses, each with their own unique enrolment code. Even so, students manage to get into the wrong course page, having found out the enrolment code from a friend, or having turned up to a different course for the first week. I think that the number of students that get into the wrong course would increase if all Monday's classes (say) had the same entry point.
3) As far as I know, it is impossible to have unique content (resources, activities) limited to particular groups (see this thread). While the students and their submissions are invisible to each other the groups themselves are not. This means that
3.1) Individual teachers will not be able to add activities to their class (group) because it will be seen by all other groups. Which is a shame becuase I am trying to encourage teachers to use the more friendly/personal/socially-constructive aspects of moodle, rather than the tests that I make.
3.2) Even descritions (labels) or the course header may have to be the same in all classes.
Fortunately there is John Ryan's hack for making content course specific, by adding a code word into the activity name. There is a bug on this issue. Norberto Bezi said he would be submitting a hack so that activities could be assigned to groups via a drop down menu on the course page, but Mr. Bezi is no longer enrolled here on using moodle alas.
4) Grades. Again this may be a baseless worry. Will individual teachers be able to see only their own students grades, and will it be possible to sort grades by group? Apparently if teachers are in the groups then they will only be able to see the grades in their groups. It is also possible now to assign teachers to more than one group. So this probably is NOT a problem.
5) Groups share the same time frame. Thus there would have to be a seperate class for seperate weekdays. It also means that if a teacher is sick, or through no fault of the teacher a particular class is postponed, there is no way of changing the time frame of one group. Generally, I do change the time frame of courses anyway, but I have made exceptions. It would not be possible to make an exception if I were using groups.
Unless you were to use Bernard's Super-calendar, which uses an extended calendar functionality to allow events in invididual groups to be changed.
For these reason I would like a more advanced verions of "meta courses." At present meta courses merely share the same students, not activities. It would be nice if metacourse activities appeared in their child courses, such that one meta course controlled the content in many seperate courses. Please see an earlier response by me to this sort of question, regarding why the concept of meta courses is may not as advanced as it might be.
Whatever method you go for there are two hacks/plugins that are indispensible when managing several courses
Audun Hauge's layout editor (this is brilliant!)
Brian Koontz's date management block (this is brilliant too but I have not tried it recently)
As I say, I am feeling a bit out of date, and I would like to hear from others that do manage a large number of courses. It is probable that some people are managing large numbers of courses well. I think it would be nice to have a "multiple course management" forum.
Who is using moodle to manage multiple courses running during the same time frame, with similar activities, but different students and teachers?
We are evaluating the Moodle platform to support presential courses for a small private faculty and as such we have those same needs, that is, to manage multiple courses, in the same time frame and similar activities, but different students and teachers.
A feature that I think could drag the students in the long run would be a customization of "My courses", so that it would show the student's present and past modules, arranged with a user defined hierarchy. Some sort of student's portfolio, allways available.
How could this be done with the Moodle platform? The modules would need to be unavailabe for students to enroll, perhaps in a Archived Modules category, and at the same time open in read-only mode to all that were previously enrolled.
Like you (and probably many others) I use Moodle to teach a number of classes which share a certain amount of "material". The more I use Moodle, the more I am finding it tedious and really a waste of time and storage space to have to duplicate activities and resources throught my courses.
At the moment we have a number of solutions for sharing materials betwwen courses & students, none of which really answers our problem. Let me review them.
This answers some administrative problems by facilitating enrollment of a number of "classes" following different courses into a common meta course. However, it does not answer the question of automatically enrolling the students constituting a "class" into a large number of courses. For this, using the meta course option "in reverse" has been suggested here.
At the moment, the group option is not very useful for our problem, because it is not possible to allocate resources and activities to one particular group within a course, except forum discussions. There is also the question of enrollment, which would not work.
Quiz questions "publishing"
When creating quiz questions, a teacher is given the option of publishing those site-wide. This option would be useful to me if I could publish my questions not site-wide but teacher-wide. And quizes themselves cannot be "published" or shared, which is what most people want.
A new, resource-oriented Moodle system
What would fit my needs - and maybe the needs of those teachers in the same situation - is a personal "teacher storage space" on my institution's Moodle site, where I could store the material I use in more than one course: media data (images, audio files, etc.); quizzes (and individual quiz questions); glossary (and glossary entries) etc.
This "storage space" should be accessible by one teacher (me); it might have options for sharing all or some of its directories/subdirectories with other teachers.
Let me take some concrete examples of how such a "resource-oriented system" would work. NOTE:- I am using the present tense, as if this were for real.
On my institution's Moodle site there is a Moodledata directory called \rezeau to which I have access.
Admin creates my Courses A, B, C.
In Course A I have a "Glossary of Art Terms". The entries, the links to images in some entries, are in fact stored in a \rezeau\glossaries database; the images are stored either in \rezeau\images (where I would store images used throughout my courses) or, more specifically in a \rezeau\glossaries\image directory.
In Course B I have a "Glossary of Art History & Archaeology Terms". Some of the entries are the same as the ones in the Course A Glossary, some are different, but all have beeen entered in my \rezeau\glossaries database. This means there is no duplication of resources, just links.
In Courses A, B and C I have exactly the same Quiz. This Quiz is made of questions stored in my \rezeau\quiz\questions\ database, and the Quiz itself is stored in my \rezeau\quiz\, at least the parts which can be common to all my courses. There would still remain a number of Quiz parameters proper to each course, such as date availability, score tracking, etc.
In Courses A, B and C, I have web page resources which have slightly different text versions but point to the same image files. The image links point to the same images, stored in \rezeau\images
In order to achieve what is described above, a number of teachers use Moodle only as a "front end" for their courses: they have one or several Moodle "courses" on a site, where their students are enrolled by admin or self-enrolled; they may or may not use the forums; the essential part of their course material consists in fact of various resources (HTML pages, Flash files, etc.) which reside on a totally different website, very often their own personal site. That they have to resort to such extreme "externalization" of their course resources is a reflection of the lack of a proper facility in Moodle, such as I have detailed above.
I am well aware that what I am advocating here entails radical changes in the overall structure of Moodle. Or maybe not: perhaps some genius can come up with a simple solution which would exactly answer my wish-list at the cost of minimum changes in a future version of Moodle. For instance, the new database module (forthcoming in 1.6) might solve all or some of the problems mentioned. Who knows?
I hope that the point of view expressed above, which was triggered both by personal "on-the-ground" involvement and questions and queries expressed on the Moodle forums will gather some support and lead to an even better Moodle in the near future.
Thank you for your reply, for sharing your views and for the excelent Moodle pointers in the groups and calendar areas.
I still think that a module should be alowed to belong to more than one course, because it is a more natural way of thinking - how can I evangelize and/or lobby for this feature?
The page showing all courses would look like this:
Semester I 2005/2006
Semester I 2005/2006
Do you know if this is possible in the Moodle standard with some workaround?
Just some additional reflections on the above structure:
i) It should be psssible to change the way the hierarchy is shown (not the way it is structured in the database), in a similar way to the Excel Pivot Table;
ii) It should be possible to collapse and expand the hierarchy, individually or globally;
It seems that we share similar concerns / asperations. Mine are probably more simple in that I do not need to be able to group modules in a variety of combinations, but rather simply duplicate the same course, with different students, over and over again.
I am afraid I don't know what Excel Pivot Tables are, or how the "my courses view" could be used to do what I want to do. Hmm...
but I get the idea....
Both course data structure in the database, and the way that course data (content) is input into the GUI should be independent of the way that the student sees it. At the momement, the front and and the back end are almost the same.
Audun's layout module is going some way to allowing a backdoor view of moodle. However, as with the "import data functionality" as soon as a module is placed at another point in the heirarchy (in another course) it becomes independent, so changes to the original module are not mirrored by changes to each of the instances.
Also, I often resort to using SQL from the database admin module to change many instances of modules at once.
As for evangelizing or lobbying... I guess that, if there were enough of us expressing a desire for this sort of functionality some kind programmer might volunteer to realise it, or if there were enough of us then we might be able to put together funds to pay someone to do something along these lines.
At the moment there are only two of us posting on this thread. I know that there are others that are interested in managing more than one course with similar content however...
Where are all the multiple course managers?
First of all, just a quick note about terminology. Joao wrote, "How can a module "belong" to more than one course?", I think you mean, how can 'activities' belong to more than course. Modules are the things that you use to make activities. Anyway, I see two possible versions of a 'sharing of activities' feature:
1) Activities could be copied into other courses. At the moment this is possible via the backup and restore feature. However, it would make things much easier if it were possible for a teacher to, for example, click on 'Quiz' in the 'Add an activity ...' menu, and then be faced with a list existing quizzes, one of which could be chosen, and thereby copied into the course as a completely new quiz. With this version of the 'sharing of activities' feature, the copied activity would become a completely new activity, independent from the original. So in the case of Quizzes, the results would be completely separate.
2) The second version of the 'sharing of activities' feature would be just that - sharing. A teacher would in effect be creating a link to an activity that existed in another course. By making this link, students would automatically be given access rights to that activity, but not to any other activities in the originating course. Using the example of a Quiz, a teacher would click on 'Quiz' in the 'Add an activity ...' menu, and then be faced with a list existing quizzes, one of which could be chosen. Unlike the above scenario, instead of copying the quiz to make a new one, this selection process would in fact be creating a link to the original quiz. Thus, the results and other data would not be separate, they'd be stored on the original results database set up for the original quiz.
I imagine that from a programming point of view, option 1 would be much easier to set up. Option 2 would be wonderful, but I'm sure is rather complicated, and potentially contains a number of problems as mentioned by Tim (see above).
Dear Peter and Josep
Thank you very much for your thoughtful posts, on making a better mulit-course, resource-sharing moodle.
I spend about 90 minutes responding but my post disappeared when I deleted a smiley and control z would not bring it back. I will have to be brief this time.
I think that we have focus, clarity and overlap in that which we seek.
At the same time, reiterating Peter's distinction, there may be some variance along the axist of
1) Improved resource sharing as in improved, easier, more flexible methods of publication.
2) Improved resource sharing as in improved control over distributed content.
I guess I am particularly interested in 2, functionality for revision management, or DMS of distributed content (resources and activities). How about everyone else?
In an ideal world, and often in the real one too, teachers revise and improve the content of their teaching materials. As things stand, even more stressful than the task of duplicating content, is the task of revising it after it has been distributed (using SQL or by hand).
I had held high hopes for groups but somehow the concept of dividing users does not seem as appropriate (at least to a non-programmer) as improved categorisation of resources/activities.
Perhaps metacourses as course templates might be a feasible interim advance? I guess in the future there needs to be a more flexible classification sytem for resources/activities so that then can belong to people, and groups, not just courses. But so long as resources belong to courses, meta-courses may offer a first step towards sharing and distributed control.
For the time being may I suggest we keep a look out for those that are experiencng similar issues and invite them here?
Brian Koontz (who hopes to see an improved back up and restore with refactored dates to achieve 1 above)
Genner Cerna may be in the position of having to administer many similar courses.
I hope we can bring a few more people together.
Our problem is we had to write courses that would be delivered on moodle and other VLEs. The solution is to publish course material in one location (its in a directory within the moodle tree for us but it could be anywhere) and to link to it from moodle using external links. This makes materials usable for any course, its also easier to upload with a FTP tool (I use filezilla and dreamweaver) if you maintain a lot of resources. However, it has the disadvantages that you have to have duplicate links and summative quizzes on multiple courses ( which you could do using the course backup). We use formative quizzes, (articulate quizmaker within our courses) we could use moodle quizzes by sending students into a 'quiz course' with dummy logins and passwords, that idea appealed but for various reasons I never used it.
Hope that makes sense and is helpful, just thought I'd chuck in the idea that you don't have to have your content within moodle - after all its interaction elements that are the important parts of moodle IMHO.
Thank you for sharing your solution. The solution that you suggest seems to be similar to that proposed by Josep above (in his words "externality") but even more bold.
As you point out, we do not have to use Moodle for content at all. I agree that the interactivity is Moodle's strongest feature. It was designed with that in mind.
But all these same, this seems to be a very...radical, some might say sad solution. Or at least, it would be nice to be able to use moodle. Your solution points, I believe, to the fact that moodle is so restricted in this area that sometimes it is best not to use it at all.
I looked up Articulate Quizmaker (flash based online testing system), which at $400 seems very reasonably priced. But...wow..that is radical. There would be issues such as the amalgamation and managerment of passwords and grades. The mind boggles. I guess you do not grade forums and that all the grading is managed by Articulate Quizmaker. Hold on...Can Articulate connect to Moodle somehow? As a Scorm module or something?
Thank you for the sugestion of the dummy quiz course. Upon reflection, this seems to be similar to an extension of the "meta course" idea. If one used a metacourse, then students would not need to login. We could create content on the metacourse, and then link to it from all the course instances. Then all changes made to the metacourse would be reflected in the child-courses. I wonder if there would be any problems with that.
The first one that springs to mind, is that, I guess, the gradebook would be in the metacourse and would, I guess, show the students from all courses mixed up.
Thanks again for sharing your solution.
Thanks for taking the time to pursue the quest for a more teacher-resources-oriented Moodle. In your answer to Richard above, you wite "The solution that you suggest seems to be similar to that proposed by Joseph above (in his words "externality")..."
Actually, this was not a solution I proposed, but a state of things I lamented, exactly the way you lament the fact that in order to have content shared between Moodle courses we have now to resort to such "externalization" extreme solutions!
And I do not agree with the idea that "we do not have to use Moodle for content at all". Maybe people think this because we do not have the same notion of what "content" is. So let me explain what content is for me. The "content" part of my Moodle courses is made of HTML files, which rely heavily on the autolinks to glossary entries and the image bank residing in my moodledata directory. If such files were "externalized", then obviously the autolinks to the Moodle glossaries would be lost!
No, no, what I want is to keep all resources and activities within Moodle. What I really need is what I suggested in my previous post, and that is a "teacher data directory" where I can store all the data that I need for my various Moodle courses. As a teacher, I want to be able to point to any of those data from any resource in any of my Moodle courses.
I hope I am making this clear. Would any other teacher using Moodle share the same needs/views? I wonder
Anyone know where to vote for this very useful and much needed feature? Is it in DMS or MyFiles or WebDAV or ?
Articulate Quizmaker can be used in conjunction with moodle but you have to have it 'inside' moodle so to speak. Its a bit off topic so I won't expand.
I think my broader point here is that if you are looking for a 'meta course' design in moodle you are asking for code to be written to enable that. By our way of doing things I think you could produce and manage courses just as efficiently AND not develop new code, I think your problem can be elegantly solved by applying organisation to your content and materials rather than developing new tools.
I'm watching the development of shiboleth which will enable students from different Unis to login to other VLEs. Its a solution for us in Unis but the ideas can be usefully applied to your problem. Hope that is of interest.
Thank you for your input Roland Gesthuizen
Hmm...I think that place in the database for storage, and which course does the backup, may depend on how this is going to be used.
If the meta course is seen a sort of teacher's resource repository, as would be the case in the scenario at Josep's institution, then making a course a meta-course a form of resource publication (akin to making a quiz question public) then the onus would be upon the user to store and backup the data related to their use of the resource.
If the meta course were seen as a course template for controlling distributed resources/multiple classes, then it would not matter if the data and backup remained in the metacourse only. For my purposes that would be fine.
I have some money. I got no grant from my institution for moodle but I have a special education grant associated with the formation of a new department (of tourism) of which I am a member. This may be possible. What do Josep and others think? Would the metacourse model work for you? Or do you need more control over content structure?
1. Use metacourses - maybe leverage the backup/restore/import code to sync activities between the subcourses and the metacourse. mod.php would need to be changed and probably sync_metacourse functions too. Eloy would be of help here - I'm not sure how much coding this would take, I suspect a lot. Note that this would COPY the resource, not share it.
2. Don't use metacourses, but use an approach like N Hansen outlines in this thread - this would probably mean a huge amount of rework/refactor to moodle core.... Martin D needs to come in here with bright ideas.
I think that 1 would probably be easier, but would limit "sharing" of modules between courses to the metacourse framework, which is limiting, if you want to share content but not share enrolments.
Also - consider the mess of editing rights.
Module FOO is shared between courses 1 and 2. In course 1, there are three teachers, a, b and c. In course 2, there are three teachers, a, d and e. a is the only teacher in both courses. At the moment, modules "belong" to a course - that is, anyone who is a teacher in a course can edit them. If they are shared across courses, they would need to change, to be owned by a teacher - otherwise b and c can edit activity modules affecting d and e in a completely different course.
If the model changes so that activity modules are owned by teachers, what happens if a teacher is removed from a course? Leaves the school/university? Does their module disappear from the course? Or does it stay there, uneditable except by admins?
These are a few of the difficulties I see...
You would probably have to add a configuration for each module whether it could be shared with other courses (and perhaps limit it to certain ones), and whether teachers in those other courses would have the ability to edit the module as well as the original creator, or just use it. When adding a resource or activity to a course, a teacher should also have the option to use a module already created in another course, perhaps there could be a way they could choose from a list of available modules.
Now, I can think of some issues with this that I don't have a solution for at the moment, mainly for activities, but some could apply to resources as well :
1-What course would be listed in the breadcrumbs for a module that belonged to more than one course when the student belonged to both of those courses?
2-If a forum were shared, would the students be able to see the profiles of students in other courses sharing that forum?
3-What do you do for grades associated with activities, especially when the student is enrolled in both courses that use a certain activity? Which course would their grades be associated with? (perhaps this is a theoretical issue, as why on earth would a teacher/s use the same quiz more than once with the same student anyway so perhaps it is unlikely this sort of material would be shared in this manner).
I don't know, maybe improved groups is going to be better. Improved groups would solve my problems, and it seems simpler than sharing modules.
Thank you very Much N Hansen
I think that your final comment hits the nail on the head. "Improved groups."
I have it on good authority, programmers extrodinaire Penny Leach and Jamie Pratt, inform me that it would be difficult to replicate modules in more than one course. Alas! The stomach acid continues...
However, come to think of it, groups are very nearly there. So why not make use of them.
However, even better still, from the course administrators point of view, would be a subset or clone of groups with the following functionality.
1) The clone would be called "classes"
2) It would be possible to add that group into the heirarchie of categories of courses, perhaps by a dummy course format that just links into a group of the orininal course.
3) The dummy course (in fact a view of a group/class) would have a dummy course set up page. The dummy course set up page would not allow everything to be changed.
Initially the following would be unchangable
4.1) The course start date
4.2) The course format (weekly topics)
4.4) The brief name (then the bread crumbs to each class could be the same)
4.5) The number of topics
4.6) the group mode
5) But some of the following could be made changable. They would not create a row in the moodle_course database, but rather only appear to do so, when in fact adding data to extra fields in the group/class database.
5.1) The enrollment key of the "class" would simply feed through to the enrolment key of the group.
5.2) The Course description would feed through into the group description but it would be displayed on course category pages.
5.3) Whether the course is open to students or not would feed into a field specifying whehter the group/class is open to students or not.
6) Then using some sort of modifcation like John Ryan's hack, when in the "class" (in fact group mode viewing the original course) the names of activities would immediately be preceded with "set:classX:" or the equivalent flag in the database, so that group/class members would only be able to add activities to their own groups.
To the other members of this thread...Would this work for you?
And do you have any money??! Just a little bit would be great. And even if you do not have any money your participation would be very welcome. My 22 classes of moodle are weighing heavily upon my mind.
I am putting in a request for a quote for the things I see as being required to make groups into classes
2) Dummy courses (really a group entry points) so that groupa can be used as different classes, with entry points at different points in the group heirarchy as mentioned above, a bit like that being worked upon by Robert Brenstein. Ideally the dummy courses might have different course descriptions.
2) For the ability to make activities visible only to one or all of those groups in which a course creator is enrolled, a la John Ryan hack.
I decided to have a go at hacking dummy courses myself.
My first attempt is the attached. It may not work or do really bad things so beware.
This "dummy courses" may (?) allow you to create a "doorway" to a "parent course". It might be called a doorway course.
This means that the parent course can be accessed from various places in the overall course heirarchy.
If anyone is interested, unzip the attached and then put it in the course/formats/ folder
And ideally add
$string['formatdummy'] = 'Dummy Course';
To the end of lang/moodle.php
The parent course, to which the dummy course is a doorway is specified by the
field of the course settings. This needs to be set to id of the parent course.
But somehow, I don't think that this is the way to go. It is interesting though. It may do terrible things to the database, so please do not use on production installations.
Certainly the breadcrumbs are not right at all. These are made before the courseformat is called. So either view.php need be modified (to allow the course format to choose the style of breadcrumbs) or the breadcrumbs printing in the theme of the site needs to be changed to detect for dummy/doorway courses.
Upon reflection, a "dummy" course can be a lot simpler than the one I posted above. All that is needed is to redirect the student to the other/parent course.
The attatched does that. It just redirects thers to another course. The other course is specified using the "id number" field in the course settings.
This means that the course name, description and teacher are displayed in the course heirarchy. But the user is redirected to a different course, which may or may not have the same teacher and description.
Just unzip and put in the moodle/course/format folder
$string['formatredirect'] = 'Redirect Course';
To the end of lang/moodle.php
I was going to use this dummy "Redirect Course" again but the student is left being enrolled in two courses. The students did not seem to notice last term.
<a href="http://localhost//course/view.php?id=43" style="font-weight: bold;">Course Name (for redirect) </a><br />
Just tried it on my localhost. My student was able to see the fake in one catagory (see below) and it redirected them into the enrolment screen for the real course in another catagory. Since they never entered the fake course, they didn't show up as being enroled in it. I added an enrolment key later in my fake course just to make sure they could not enrol. Am I missing something?
FYI: I had to edit via the admin block courses link, edit turned on, because you can't get to course settings any other way.
Now that you mention it, like all the best ideas, it seems obvious afterwards. Either you are a genuis or I am a bit slow or a bit of both ( That is to say...I am a bit slow and you are a bit of a genuis, NOT that you are a bit slow)
I spent the best part of a day perfecting a redirect course and the (my) course_list block hack when I could have just included a link in the course title!
All the same, now I have set up my moodle with redirect courses, I don't think that I will edit their titles because....
The redirect course + (my) courses block hack option has the *minor* advantage of showing the student enroled in the redirect (doorway) course, rather than in the mother course.
The three mother courses are called "Monday English Speaking", "Wednesday English Speaking" and "Friday English Speaking." But the redirect courses are called "4th Period Monday, Mr. Smith's English Speaking." This will hopefully give students the feeling that they are enrolled in the right course.
All the same, had I though of this idea earlier, or read your post in time, I think I would have done it the way that you suggest.
There, everyone, use Chris's tweak, not my hack!
1) Dummy courses are too hackish (and indeed too easy)
2) Acitivities for groups may not make it to moodle mainstream by april next year, which is the limitation on this year's budget allocations.
- Implementing the concept of a recyclable "learning object" in Moodle;
- Reusing an entire course.
The main problem I see with multiple course instances is not so much Groups (which we currently use to recycle courses) as the fact that the course's timeline must be individually manipulated activity-by-activity. AFAIK it is impossible to create a prototype course and then instances of that course using date offsets, e.g. the course starts on Day X and Activity 3 is due on Day X+7. In addition, this prevents multiple courses from being run at the same time unless they had identical start/end dates.
How else are people working around this issue in Moodle, or is everyone just re-programming dates with each instance, as I am, and just not planning overlapping-date courses?