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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.

Starting April 5th, 2021, new UMass Amherst Moodle courses are hosted on Moodle in the Cloud, an upgraded version of Moodle. The following instructions provide an overview for getting started in this upgraded version. Review the Moodle in the Cloud Updates for instructors for more information on the changes and how to access additional support.

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.

You can copy a previous Moodle course rather than build a new course from scratch. If the course was taught on Moodle in the Cloud (, see Reuse a Moodle Course using Import. If the course was taught on Legacy Moodle (, or another Moodle site, see Restore a Course in Moodle.

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 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, links to your courses appear in the Navigation tray (at left). If the Navigation tray is not open, use the Navigation tray toggle (hamburger icon Hamburger menu, at top). Under My Courses click the name of the new course to open it.
    If you do not see your course in the Navigation tray, select Dashboard (speedometer icon in the Navigation tray). The Dashboard Filter menu is set by default to All (except removed from view). This filter affects which courses show on the Moodle home page. Set the Filter menu to All (except removed from view) to access your In Progress, Future and Past courses.
    Note: You can also find a list of your courses on the Moodle home page in the My courses block on the Moodle home page.)
  4. Configure the Course settings.
    When you first open your new course, it will have the default number of Sections down the center of the course page, the default set of blocks, and will use the Collapsible topics format. Your first task is to customize the Course settings to your likes and needs. In the top navigation bar of your course, select the Course Management button (gear icon Course Management Button) to open the Course Management panel. Once open, select Edit course 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, in the menu bar to the top of your course page, click Turn editing on (green pencil icon Turn editing on). Editing icons and links will appear.
  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 Collapsible Topics format or Topics format), or will display dates (if using Weekly format). For the Collapsible Topics format, section titles cannot be automatically named with dates by week, but you can rename topics yourself.

    To give each section a custom name and make your course more usable for students, at the top-right of a section, click Edit and select Edit topic or Edit week (depending on the Course format).
    • If you are using the Collapsible Topics format, Section summaries will display even when the section is collapsed. For Collapsible Topics format, you can put summary content in Label Resources within sections to have all content collapse. For more information see Add Text in a Label.
    • Section Edit menus also let you Hide or Delete a section. Deleting a section will delete everything in it, and deleted sections and items do not go to the Recycle bin. Use carefully. For more information, see Restore your Activities and Resources with the Recycle bin in Moodle.
  7. Add resources to your course.
    In Moodle, handouts, folders, pages, and links to other websites are called Resources.
    To add a resource, in the top menu, select Turn editing on (green pencil icon Turn editing on), go to the section where you want the resource to appear, and at the bottom of the section, click + Add an activity or resource. From the Add an activity or resource pop-up, select a resource. The Settings page for the resource will open. Configure the settings and click Save (at bottom of page). For more, see About Adding Resources to a Moodle Course.
    • 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).
    • Quickly add files to a course using Drag and Drop upload or click the Add... icon and select the Resources tab. Then select the File icon (File Icon). 
    • 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.
    • Once you have added a resource, you can reopen its Settings page by clicking its Edit link, then Edit settings.
    • Quickly rename a resource by clicking its Edit title icon (Edit title icon).
  8. Add activities to your course.
    Activities are the interactive tools you can use to engage students in learning and assesing their progress. These tools include Forums, Assignments, Quizzes, Glossary, Database, etc..
    To add an Activity, in the top menu bar of your course, select Turn editing on (green pencil icon Turn editing on), navigate to the section where you want the activity to appear, and at the bottom of the section, click + Add an activity or resource. From the Add an activity or resource pop-up, select an activity. The Settings page for the activity will open. Configure the settings and click Save (at bottom of page). For more, see About Adding Activities to a Moodle Course.
    • 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.
    • After 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 title icon).
  9. Set up Blocks.
    To change which blocks show in your course and where they appear, in the top menu bar of your course, select Turn editing on (green pencil icon Turn editing on), then at the bottom of the Navigation tray select + Add a block... .
    • To rearrange blocks, with editing on, use the Move tool (Move icon, top right) to drag a block to a new order in the right column.
    • To remove a block from the course, open its Actions menu (gear icon Block actions , top right), and from the drop-down menu, select Delete icon (trash can)Delete.
    • 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. Links to hidden courses are dimmed for Teachers and Course Designers, and in the tray, are indicated by a Hidden icon ().
    • Courses requested before the start of Preview Week are automatically released to students at the start of Preview Week.
    • If a course is requested during Preview Week, it will be released to students the business day before the semster starts.
    • If requested after the business day before the semester starts, instructors must release the course to students themselves.

      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 of 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 (at right) and from the drop-down, select Edit settings. For example, you may change the number of points an activity is worth in the gradebook, change the due date, etc.
  • To edit only the name of an item, click the Edit title icon (Edit title icon). You'll be able to edit the name right on the course page. Click Enter on your keyboard to save. 

Rearrange Items on Your Moodle Course Page

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, group 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 group names start with a tilde (~).
  • 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 iClicker data.

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

Communicate with your students 

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

    • Announcements (previously called News forum)
      Announcements 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 Announcements and comments are not allowed. By default, students receive an email copy of each announcement. See Course anouncements in Moodle.
    • 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. See The Quickmail Block in Moodle.
    • Email Notifications
      Students automatically receive an email notification upon successfully submitting a Moodle Assignment activity. Moodle can be set up to send email notifications to alert users of particular activities such as new posts in a discussion forum. See Manage Email Notifications for Instructors.