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A Guide to Building a New Course in Moodle

There are several basic steps to setting up a new Moodle course. Use this page as a guide and follow the links to IT support articles that explain your options in greater detail.

Before you start building your first Moodle course, it may be helpful to review A Quick Tour of Moodle for Instructors. Instructors can request to be enrolled in a sample course as a student. Please contact the Instructional Media Lab if you think you would find this helpful.

To copy a previous Moodle course rather than build a new course from scratch, see Reuse a Moodle Course using Import.

Building a New Moodle Course

  1. Request a Moodle course.
    Moodle courses must be requested in SPIRE every semester a class is taught, and only primary instructors for a course can request a Moodle course. See Request Your Moodle Course - Overview
  2. Log in to Moodle.
    Once you have been notified via email that your course is ready, go to moodle.umass.edu and log in using your IT Account NetID and Password. The Moodle home page will change to display announcements (center) and navigation (left).
    If you or your students are having trouble logging in to Moodle, see Log in to Moodle or Access to Moodle - Overview.
  3. Find your Moodle course under My courses.
    After logging in to Moodle you will see a list of your courses in the My courses block at the top left of the Moodle home page. Click a course link to open the course.
    Note: New courses start out hidden from students. To see the links to all your courses on Moodle, you may need to click Show hidden courses at the bottom of the My courses block. Clicking Show hidden courses only makes hidden course links visible to you; it does not make them visible to students.
    For details, see Working in a Moodle Course that is Hidden from Students.
  4. Configure the Course settings.
    When you first open your new course it will use the default Theme, have the default number of Sections down the center of the course page, and use the Collapsed topics format. Your first task is to customize the Course settings to your likes and needs. In the Administration block, under Course administration click Edit settings. For details, see Important Settings for your Moodle Course.
  5. To work on your course, turn editing on.
    To add Resources and Activities to your course, add or remove Blocks, or rearrange items on the course page, click Turn editing on (top-right). When editing is on, Edit links and small icons will appear next to each editable element on the page.
  6. Edit Section Names.
    Depending on the Course Format you chose in your Course settings, sections will be named Section 1, Section 2, Section 3, etc. (if using Collapsed Topics or Topics format), or will display dates (if using Weekly format).
    To give each section a custom name and make your course more useable for students, at the top-right of the Section, click Edit and select Edit section. From the Section Edit menu, you can also hide, an entire section, or delete a Section. 
    Note: Deleting a section will delete everything in it. Use carefully.
  7. Add Resources to your course.
    In Moodle, handouts, folders, pages, and links to other Web sites are called Resources.
    To add a Resource, click Turn editing on (top-right), go to the section where you want the Resource to appear and click + Add an activity or resource. The Activity Chooser will open (note that Resources are located at the bottom of the list). Select an option and click Add. The settings page opens. Configure the settings and click Save (at bottom of page). For more, see About Adding Resources to a Moodle Course.
    • Quickly add files to a course using Drag and Drop upload.
    • Once you have added a resource, you can reopen its Settings page by clicking its Edit link, then Edit settings.
    • To quickly rename a Resource, click its Edit title icon (Edit icon).
    • Resources are added to the bottom of a Section. To move a Resource up or down the page, drag it by its Move icon (Move icon) (to left of Title).
    • An easy type of resource to overlook is the Label. Labels are text or images you can add to course Sections to organize content and add interest to your course page. For more, see Organize Your Moodle Course Page.
  8. Add Activities to your course.
    Activities are the interactive tools you can use to engage students in learning and asses their progress. These tools include Forums, Assignments, Quizzes, Glossary, Database, etc..
    To add an Activity, on your main course page, click Turn editing on, navigate to the section where you want the activity to appear and click + Add an activity or resource. Select an activity and click Add. The settings page will open. Configure the settings and click Save (at bottom of page). For more, see About Adding Activities to a Moodle Course.
    • Once you have added an activity, you can reopen its Settings page by clicking its Edit link, then Edit settings.
    • Quickly rename an Activity by clicking its Edit title icon (Edit icon).
    • Activities are added to the bottom of a section. To move an activity up or down the page, drag it by its Move icon (Move icon) (to left of Title).
    • Some activities such as Attendance, Quiz, Glossary, and Database require additional setup from within the activity. Click the link on your course page to open the Activity and complete your set up.
  9. Set up Blocks.
    To change which blocks show in your course and where they appear, on your course page click Turn editing on.
    • To add a new block, use the Add a block... drop-down at the bottom of the right column of your course page.
    • To remove a block from the course, click the Actions icon (Block actions ) , and from the drop-down menu, select X Delete block.
    • To rearrange blocks, dag the a block by its Move icon (Move icon).
    • For more, see Add & Remove Blocks in Moodle.
  10. Make the course available to students.
    When Moodle courses are created, they are hidden from students. IT releases courses to students one business day prior to the start of classes. If you request a Moodle course after this release date, you will have to release the course yourself. See Make your Moodle Course Available to Students.

Course Building Tips

Duplicate Activities or Resources

It can be very time-consuming to add Resources and Activities to a course. If you need multiple similar items in a course, you may find it helpful to use the Duplicate command (Duplicate icon) available in the Edit menu for any Resource or Activity. This will duplicate the settings with the item.

Duplication can be especially useful if you use the same Labels in each section. For more see Duplicate Activities or Resources in Your Moodle Course.

Note: You cannot duplicate entire sections but you can duplicate all the items in a section using the Mass Actions block.

Update Resources & Activities

After you have added or duplicated an Activity or Resource, to edit its settings click Edit and from the drop-down, select Edit settings. For example, change the number of points it’s worth in the gradebook, change the due date, etc. To edit only the name of an item, click the Edit title icon (Edit icon). You'll be able to edit the name right on the course page.

Rearrange Items on Your Moodle Course Page

Moodle makes it easy to reorder and move items in your Moodle course. For details, see Reorder Sections or Items in Your Moodle Course.

    Next Steps: Tools for Managing your Class in Moodle

    Now that your basic course is set up, you may wish to set up some tools to assist with managing your class and communicating with your students.

    Work with Groups

    The Groups feature in Moodle allows an instructor to assign students and instructors to one or more groups for either the entire course or for individual activities. Students can be in multiple groups at once, allowing the instructor to change the groups based on the activity. A few important tips for working with groups:

    • Always wait until Add-drop is over to set up groups in Moodle. When students are removed or added to the course on SPIRE, groups membership on Moodle is affected.
    • Moodle courses automatically create groups based on Class Sections. Do not add or remove students from these groups and do not change the group names. (Automated groups start with a "~".)

    For details on working with groups, see An Overview of Managing Groups in Moodle.

    Set Up the Gradebook

    You can use the Moodle Gradebook to collect scores and calculate grades. You can also export information from the gradebook if you use other software to calculate grades, then import the data back into Moodle. You may also wish to import data from another source such as OPSCAN exams or i>clicker data.

    For details on grading in Moodle, see An Overview of the Moodle Gradebook.

    Communicate with your students 

    • The News Forum
      The News Forum is a special forum that can act as an announcements tool for your Moodle course. It appears by default in the top section of your course and is related to the Latest news block.  Only instructors can post to the News Forum and comments are not allowed. By default, students receive an email copy of each announcement.
    • Quickmail
      The Quickmail block allows instructors and TAs (and students, if the instructor allows) to send emails to course members from within Moodle. Instructors may find Quickmail a convenient alternative to setting up a class email list in SPIRE. You can send emails to individual students, the entire class, class sections, or Moodle groups.
    • Email Notifications
      Moodle can be set up to send email notifications to alert users of particular activities such as new posts in a discussion forum. Students automatically receive an email notification upon successfully submitting a Moodle Assignment activity.

    To learn about additional communication tools in Moodle, see An Overview of Communication Tools in Moodle.