Return to Moodle Assists Tutorials for Moodle 2.0

CREATING A Course in Moodle

Dr. Richard L. Bowman
Harrisonburg, VA, USA  22802

I. Introduction

Moodle, as an open-source course management system, provides a large number of capabilities that may be tapped by a faculty user. Each educational institution may rename and configure Moodle as they wish. As an example, below is a screenshot of a course I taught in the Spring 2011 semester at Bridgewater College. I then restored and updated it in my own test install of Moodle (version 2.0).

PHYS 110 main page

All of the screenshots in the remainder of this tutorial are from this test Moodle (version 2.0).

As a review, some of the capabilities of Moodle are:

This tutorial will not delve into these capabilities but will enable faculty to get a course set up properly for use with students. Before using this tutorial, each user should carefully read and follow the tutorial, "A Guide for New Faculty Users of Moodle," which was written for version 2.0 of Moodle

NOTE: Moodle may be used for "courses" that are not on the academic list. It is a very flexible place for discussing and sharing of ideas and resources. This tutorial, while aimed at faculty members, will also be useful for anyone wishing to set up a "course" in their institution's Moodle.

II. Adding Courses to Moodle

  1. Academic Courses

    Several weeks prior to the beginning of a new term, the technology people at your school will probably take the initiative in populating each faculty member's "My home" page with the courses appropriate for the upcoming term. Then at the beginning of the new term, they will also place the registered students into each Moodle course. During the first couple weeks of the term, the student lists will be updated regularly, probably daily; while after any drop-add period, these updates may be done less frequently.

  2. Non-academic Courses

    For those wishing to use Moodle for committees, task forces, clubs, etc., contact the helpdesk of your educational technology center with your request. They will be glad to set up your "course."

III. Choosing an Organization Style for a Course

There are two major styles, and a couple of less-used styles, for the general layout of a course in Moodle. The teacher of a course must choose one of them, but it can be changed at a later date. However, so that nothing in the layout is lost, it would be good to decide up front on a style. In general one of these will be the default style for your Moodle, but the user may easily switch to the other one.

  1. Topic Outline

    The topics style, when selected, will appear with several "empty" topics. The precise number may be set or changed by the instructor at any time. (See below.) This style works well for courses organized around chapters in a textbook as well as those designed to cover specific topics.

  2. Weekly Outline

    If your course is organized by weekly assignments, then the weekly format is best. Again the default number of weeks will probably be the number of weeks in a typical term, for example, many colleges will have it set to the 15 weeks in a usual semester, but this can be changed at any time. (See below.)

  3. Social Forum

    If your course is primarily a discussion course, then the social forum organizational style might work best. This is focused on the creation and use of discussion forums, where a discussion question or topic is introduced and others may post their responses.

  4. SCORM Format

    The SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) format is a set of standards that are designed to facilitate the sharing of learning modules between different course management system software. However, it is not yet gained a wide acceptance among textbook publishers.

IV. Organizing the Layout of the Main Page for the Course

One change in Moodle 2 compared to Moodle 1.9 is the addition of a dock on many pages and the ability to move blocks to or from the dock. Note that any changes made on the pages of one course will effect the same items on other pages, including your "My home" page. You may have already tailored your "My home" page, but you may also make such changes here.

By default the dock is located on the left-side of the page. To move a block there, simply click on the small button on the upper right of a particular block to be moved. An enlarged photo of this button is shown below.

Dock button.

The -/+ icon  will do the usual "hide" or "show" of the menu item. The next thin rectangle followed by a wider rectangle is the button to send the item to the dock.

Below is how the upper-left-hand portion of the course main page shows up when the Navigation block has been moved to the dock. Hovering over the Navigation link will cause the Navigation menu to be displayed as in the right-hand screenshot below. When the menu is showing, clicking the "Undock this item" button will return the block to its original location on the page.

The dock.   The dock expanded.

Use the dock to simplify the layout of your course page, if you think that is useful.

V. Applying the Correct Settings

After deciding upon an organizational style for a course, the teacher must then change some settings. Move the cursor to the Administration section (on the left-hand side of the main page for the course)  and click on "Edit settings." Make (or do not make) the following changes in the new window that displays.

  1.  At most institutions, the first four lines (and even the course summary) are set by the system. DO NOT CHANGE THEM. These are set by the registrar's office.

    General settings that should not be changed.

  2. Select the format you want for the course and set the number of weeks or topics. See section III above for more information on the possible styles.

  3. Be certain to set "Show gradebook to students" to "Yes." If this is set to "No," then students will not be able to view their grades even if the instructor has graded an assignment.

  4. You may explore a different theme for the "look-and-feel" of your course in Moodle if this has been enabled by your site's admiistrator. But notice that not all of the listed themes (or those you find on the Internet) may necessarily support all of the capabilities of the version of Moodle running at your institution. (Version 2 themes are not upgradable from previous versions.) Some teachers do like to have a different theme for each section of a course so as not confuse which section they are working in at a given time.

  5. Make appropriate changes to the Groups settings area if you wish to have different groups working together in the same course. Otherwise this should be left as it is with its default settings.

  6. When ready to make the course available to students, move to the Availability section and change the value there to "This course is available to students." However, while working on the course, leave this value set so that students cannot view the course prematurely.

For a more complete list of what must not be changed, may be changed and should be changed, see the tutorial, "Important Things to Remember for Moodle Users" (written for version 1.9; it will be revised for 2.0 soon).

VI. Constructing the Course

To begin building the course for your purposes, editing must be turned on. Click on the button on the upper right-hand side of the main course page. The page will be automatically redrawn, so wait until that happens. The center section of your new course page should look like the screenshot below, if you are using Topic format. If you are using Weekly format, then each section under the main one will have the dates of the week included as the first line of each entry, e.g., "30 August - 5 September.".

Editing turned on for a new course. 

While no course in Moodle is ever really complete until the last class activity is finished, you can try building it completely to begin or just decide that you will build it as you go. Below is what one course has looked like after a lot of it had been built. It shows that editing (the hand-with-a-pencil icon) and even deleting (the X icon) can happen at any time.

Editing is turned on in a course that has already been worked in. 

Follow the directions below to take your empty course and fill it with the resources and activities you want your students to experience.

A. Editing a Label for the Course or the Topics

Regardless of the organizational style selected, the topmost entry can be used to place general items regarding the course. Finding the "hand-with-a-pencil" graphic and clicking on it will bring up a simple web editor so that the course can be labeled. The editor that shows up is similar to what is displayed at many locations when editing a course in Moodle. Below is a screenshot of the editor.

HTML editor in Moodle. 

This is a powerful WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) HTML editor, so you do not need to know HTML to use it. Simply begin by typing in the editing box below the toolbars.

NOTE: Do not forget to run the spell-checker when you are finished. In the above screenshot, this is the button with "abc" above a check mark.

Finally, click the "Save changes" button and you will be returned to the page you left. 

B. Linking a Resource to the Course

Back at editing the main course page, click on the arrow by the  the text box labeled "Add a resource" to see all the possibilities. Resources are by definition text or web pages of information, files (documents, images, etc.) and links to web sites. Additional resources may be added to each topic or week of the course.

The possible resource types include the following:

C. Adding an Activity to the Course

After you have explored adding resources, explore adding an activity. Activities by definition include anything requiring students to respond to it. For example, an activity could be an assignment where students write a paper, a simple or more complicated quiz, or a question in a forum to which they need to respond. Select one of these options and check it out.


D. Rearranging Resources and Activities on the Course Main Page

Clicking the double-headed arrow next to an item causes Moodle to redraw the main page of the course with empty dashed rectangles wherever the item may be placed. Clicking on on of the rectangles will cause Moodle to update itself with the item moved to that new location. So do not worry to much to begin with about what order you might want resources or assignments to appear in Moodle. They can always be moved.

E. Getting News to All Students in the Course

One important default entry in all courses in Moodle is the "News forum." DO NOT change its setting, but DO use it! By default all students and teachers in a particular course are subscribed permanently to the "News forum." That means that every message that is posted through this forum will be distributed through email to all students and teachers in the course. (This is one important reason why students need to check their school email account every day and maybe several times a day!)

The simplest way to access this forum is to move to the "Latest news" block on the right-hand side of the main course web page and click on the link "Add a new topic...." In the new window that shows up, enter the subject of the email and the text of the message you wish to send to all students (including any graphics, links to files or web-based material). A file may also be attached. Finally click "Post to forum."

NOTE: If you select the checkbox after the words "Mail now" which are right above the "Post to forum" link, the message will be sent within a minute or two as Moodle will immediately calls up its email program. If this box is not checked, the message will not be sent for 30 minutes during which time the sender may come back and edit the message prior to it be sent.

VII. Assistance

In addition to a large number of help files that can be accessed through the help question mark graphics liberally scattered throughout Moodle, there are also Moodle docs for nearly every page that one can view in Moodle. Links to these docs are usually placed at the bottom of each page with which they are associated.

The main page of Moodle Assists (at Ed Tech by Bowman) gives numerous resources for learning to use Moodle. Some of these are from while others are tutorials from other sources. A few books are also referenced there.

If you have any questions or need additional assistance, contact your local help center or email Richard Bowman @ .

©2009-11; Dr. Richard L. Bowman

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Created and maintained by: Richard L. Bowman ( ); last updated: 5-Sep-11.