York University (YorkU) is a leading international teaching and research university with three core campuses and a series of satellite locations within Ontario, Canada and abroad. It is Canada’s fourth-largest university, with > 55,000 students and 7,000 faculty and staff . It has over 10,000 international students from 172 countries. (Source)


YorkU wanted a high availability, fully optimised enterprise Moodle Learning Management System (LMS) to support its University Academic Plan (UAP) 2020-2025. The system needed to integrate with critical systems and applications across the university’s infrastructure and scale comfortably to accommodate the increasing and fluctuating demands of their growing and far reaching operations.

Catalyst IT (Catalyst) had been providing Moodle support solutions and consulting to YorkU since 2012.

The YorkU Team was looking to leverage the experience of an expert Moodle Certified Partner with proven technical capabilities that they could rely on to deliver ongoing managed services with cost management focus. YorkU wanted to be able to focus their IT Team on delivering core business goals, without being distracted by application infrastructure management.

The project commenced in November 2021, with a target go-live date of 29 December 2021 – six weeks.


Catalyst is a Premium Moodle Certified Partner that has recently been awarded the 2021 Moodle Global Certified Service Provider of the Year. Launched officially in Canada in May 2021, the Catalyst global Team has provided Moodle services for over 15 years.

Catalyst worked in collaboration with the YorkU Team to upgrade and migrate their LMS to a cloud-based fully managed enterprise Moodle LMS on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The Project

The Catalyst Team managed the six week project to ensure the key tasks were completed to specifications, and within the agreed timeline.

Building a dedicated Cloud instance of Moodle LMS

A new Moodle cloud presence was deployed, following Catalyst best practices:

  • Automate infrastructure orchestration for rapid and consistent standup of the underlying cloud infrastructure and services
  • Deliver a cloud platform with High Availability ingrained and no single point of failure. This covered web servers, application services, data storage, session management and several types of data storage engines

A full CI/CD deployment was rolled out to enable access to Catalyst’s optimised pipelines that continuously integrate and continuously deploy code changes for our enterprise Moodle clients.

Cloud Migration of existing YorkU Moodle

Leveraging our experience of other enterprise Moodle instances for Higher Education clients, the Catalyst Infrastructure Team worked closely with YorkU to facilitate the complete migration of the existing Moodle LMS instance from on-premise to cloud. This involved moving over 15 terabytes of data assets, as well as facilitating a dedicated VPN for integration.

Moodle version upgrade

The Catalyst Team carried out a minor Moodle upgrade (from 3.11.1 to 3.11.2) to bring the York Moodle instance completely up-to-date with the latest bug fixes, security patches and provide access to the latest features. Cyber resilience is an ongoing priority for York.

Application and system integration

The YorkU Moodle had a number of significant integrations and automations that enabled the day-to-day functioning of the university’s enterprise operation. It was critical that these were migrated seamlessly. The teams took time to plan and manage the changes.

The major integrations included:

  • The Student Information System (SIS) – for enrolment and student provisioning.
  • Authentication integration, allowing students to log in with the same workflow as prior to cloud migration.
  • Business Intelligence (BI) – to allow YorkU to report and analyse all Moodle data with various tools in real time.
Load testing and performance profiling

Load testing and performance profiling are critical in assuring that Catalyst-delivered enterprise Moodle instances provide the highest standard of system reliability.

The Catalyst Infrastructure Team ran numerous full simulations of YorkU Moodle activity on the new cloud infrastructure prior to go-live. This simulated the load that the LMS would experience and gave meaningful metrics to the YorkU Team, providing them with the assurance they needed to push forward on such a tight timeline. Catalyst regularly tests the enterprise Moodle platforms that we manage, to several multiples of projected load levels.

Quality assurance and testing

The Catalyst Team worked with YorkU, following best practice QA testing processes, to ensure the enterprise Moodle was ready to support the different user stakeholder groups – staff, teachers and students. Numerous rounds of issue analysis and resolution took place prior to the official go-live date.


The enterprise Moodle instance went live on 29 December 2021, within term time. YorkU has been running on their enterprise cloud Moodle since then.

Application page load time has almost halved in the new cloud infrastructure, down to an average of 0.66 seconds!

Ongoing support – Cloud Managed Service

The ongoing fully managed service provided by Catalyst includes responsibility for the underlying AWS Cloud infrastructure. This allows YorkU to benefit from the improvements and innovations that the Catalyst Team roll out across our fleet of enterprise Moodle instances.

The routine maintenance of the site uses automation, removing the dependency on single operators to perform tasks such as:

  • Patch management – to ensure known vulnerabilities are remediated.
  • Continuous automated backups – to ensure data can be accessed following a cyber security incident or accidental deletion.
  • Regular automated backups – to ensure data can be accessed following a cyber security incident or accidental deletion.
  • Moodle system updates – to provide the latest functionality and security.
  • Infrastructure scaling and load balancing – to ensure sufficient capacity for growth and peak operational times (such as exams).

Catalyst 24/7 Follow The Sun Support Model ensures full incident and maintenance window flexibility, providing YorkU with assurance that they have ‘real person’ support when they need it most.


*Banner image source: https://www.yorku.ca/


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