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A Quick Tour of Moodle for Instructors

The Navigation Tray and the Course Management Panel

The Navigation Tray

The Navigation tray is a collapsible menu that allows you to move about your course, access your gradebook, move to other available courses, and access your dashboard. (click to enlarge)

To open and close the Navigation tray, select the Navigation tray toggle (hamburger menuNavigation tray toggle screenshot (hamburger icon), top left). The Navigation tray will either open on the left side of your page or collapse; creating an expanded view of your page.

  • Home is the entry page for all of Moodle.
  • Dashboard lists the courses in which you are currently enrolled, links to future and past courses, and links to activities requiring attention such as ungraded assignment submissions. You can customize your Dashboard page by adding blocks such as Calendar or Upcoming Events to show deadlines and events for the classes you are teaching or taking.
  • Calendar lists University events, course events, group events, and user events.
  • My Courses, when selected, opens a list of your current courses. This is the most convenient way to move between one course and another.

The Course Management Panel

The Course Management panel gives you quick access to all the essential settings you need for your Moodle course. To open it, select the Course Management button (black gear icon Screenshot of Course Management button (black background, white gear icon), top right), which can be found on any page in your Moodle course. The Course Management panel will open. The panel contains easily identifiable links for pages related to Activities, Quiz Questions, Reports, Grading, User links, and Course Settings (see image below).

Course Management Panel Screenshot showing four columns of settings(click to enlarge)

The Breadcrumb Navigation Bar

The Breadcrumb navigation bar (or “breadcrumb links”) begins with a link to the Homepage of Moodle. Further links to the right show your current location. Select the course name to return to your course page from a sub-page.Breadcrumb bar annotated screenshot indicating that it can be used to navigate to the Course page, the section, and Current location

Note: The text in the Navigation bar that is light grey is for reference only, and is not clickable.

Moodle is Structured Around "Blocks" and "Sections"

By default, a Moodle course page is divided into two colums. The right side contains blocks and the center contains sections (see image below for an example).

Sections and blocks annotated screenshot indicating blocks to the right and sections in center of page (click to enlarge)

When the Navigation tray is open, the center will move to accomodate the tray to its left (see image below for an example).

Navigation Tray (on left), Sections (in middle), and Blocks (to right) Screenshot annotated. (click to enlarge)

Blocks

The right side column of a Moodle page contains blocks. You can rearrange most of the blocks and set whether particular blocks show only on the Moodle course home page, or on all pages.

Most blocks update dynamically with information about the course. For example, blocks such as Calendar and Upcoming Events update when date-based activities are added to the course. In contrast, an HTML block can be added to post static text in a side column. This can be useful for posting contact information and office hours.

Which blocks show at any moment depends on where you are in Moodle. For example, the blocks displayed on your course home page are different from those displayed when viewing an assignment or forum. Which blocks are displayed can also depend on your role in the course. For example, teachers may see blocks that students do not.

Blocks can be minimized by selecting the gear icon (The update icon looks like a gear or wheel)in the top right corner of the block and choosing Hide [Block Name] in the drop-down menu. For more about blocks, see Add and Remove Blocks in Moodle.

Sections

The central column of the your course page is divided into Sections where course content and activities are shown. You can use the sections to organize your course by topic, content type, or chronology. If you choose to order your course chronologically, you can have Moodle automatically provide a section per week.

You can put links to Resources (files, weblinks, folders, etc.), and Activities (discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, etc.) inside the sections of your course page. Labels (a type of Resource) can be used to add text, and images to sections.

To edit Section names, click Turn editing on (green pencil iconScreenshot of Turn editing on (green pencil icon), top right), then click on Edit The update icon looks like a gear or wheel (at top of section) and select Edit Settings from the drop-down menu. This will open the Section settings page.

Course Settings

The overall settings for your course are found in the Course Management panel which can opens by selecting the Course Management button (black gear iconScreenshot of Course Management button (black background, white gear icon), top right). Under Course Settings, click Edit course settings. The Edit course settings page will open.

Some settings are populated automatically with information from SPIRE when the course is created. Other settings are up to the instructor.

The Edit course settings page is where you select the course format. You can organize your course sections by Topics or Weeks. You can determine how many sections appear in the center column, and determine whether the course is visible to students. For more information, see Important Settings for Your Moodle Course.

"Turn Editing On" to Add Content to Your Course Page

Turn Editing On

Select Turn editing on (green pencil iconScreenshot of Turn editing on (green pencil icon), top right). A pencil (pencil icon screenshot) icon will appear next to any editable elements already on the page Turn editing on Screenshot with annotations describing that you can drag and move items by selecting the cross icon and that Activity names can be changed by clicking the pencil icon (click to enlarge)

To edit other items, click Edit below the item name (e.g. Assignments). A drop-down menu will appear with several actions, including Edit settings, Move right, Hide, Duplicate, Assign roles, and Delete.

To edit sections, click the Edit link to the right of the Section title and below the gear icon (The update icon looks like a gear or wheel). A drop-down menu will appear with several actions, including Edit section, Highlight, Hide section, and Delete section.

To change the names of Sections and of added Activities or Resources select the pencil icon (pencil icon screenshot)to the right of the activity name. A textbox with highlighted text will open. Type the new name and hit Enter on your keyboard to save the changes. The page will refresh and reflect the new name.

Add Resources and Activities to Sections

To add content to your course, with editing turned on, at the bottom right of the Section to which you wish to add content, click + Add an Activity or Resource.

  • Resources include static content such as files, labels, and URLs. A quick way to add files to a course is to drag them from your computer desktop onto the specific section of your course page in the browser. For more about adding resources, see About Adding Resources to a Moodle Course.
  • Activities, such as forums, quizzes, assignments, and wikis, enable your students to interact with each other and submit work to instructors. For more about adding activities, see About Adding Activities to a Moodle Course.)

The Activities Block

Activities Block Screenshot showing links to other Activities such as Assignments and WorkshopsThe Activities block is added to new courses by default and can usually be found towards the top of the blocks on the right side of the Course page (see image to the right). When students select any of the various links in this block, which are determined by the types of Activities populating the Moodle course, they can view all activities of a particular type on a summary page (for example, all quizzes or assignments).
 
The first time you create a new type of activity in a course, a link to the summary page showing all instances of that kind of activity will automatically be added to the Activities block.
 
For more information, see The Activities Block in Moodle.

There are Different "Roles" in your Course

Within Moodle, each user has a default Role:
  • Teacher (default role for instructors)
    Teachers can add resources and activities, change course settings, and grade student activity.
  • Non-editing teacher (default role for TAs)
    Non-editing teachers can view content and grade student submissions. 
  • Student (default role for students)
    Students can view Resources, participate in Activities, and appear in the Gradebook.
  • Guest
    Guests have access to the course page and can view materials but cannot participate in activities or view student-submitted content. Guest access is turned off by default but can be enabled by an instructor. For more see Guest Access to Moodle Courses.

Depending on your role in Moodle, you may be able to switch to other roles. For instance, if you are a Teacher, you can switch to a Student role to see how the course looks to a student, or switch to a Non-editing Teacher to view the course as a teaching assistant. (For details, see Roles in Moodle.)

Need help?

The Get Help link is always available at the top right of Moodle. Click Get Help to bring up the help drop-down menu. Click Help For Instructors or Help for Students to be directed to the IT website with links to helpful articles.

Throughout Moodle, you will see circles with question marks (Screenshot of the "Help" icon (looks like a question mark in a circle)). Click these to get information about the associated element. Some are simple glossary entries, while others offer additional detail.

You can also find the IT help links Moodle Help for Students, Moodle Help for Instructors, and Moodle Docs for this page at the bottom of your page when adding activities or resources. Click them to open the help page for that topic in the IT Support Center.

UMass Amherst IT provides step-by-step help pages on most features available in Moodle at UMass Amherst. Search the IT Support Center or browse the Moodle articles in the IT Support Center.

Instructors, TAs, and departmental support staff are welcome to contact the Instructional Media Lab with questions about Moodle at 413 545-2823 or instruct@umass.edu.

Students looking for additional support should contact the IT Help Center at 413 545-9400 or it@umass.edu

A Few More Things to Consider ... 

  • Hide/Show items from students.
    To hide a Section or Activity click Turn editing on (green pencil icon, top right) and select the Edit link or icon (The update icon looks like a gear or wheel) for the Section or Activity you wish to hide. In the drop-down menu that will open, select Hide section. To make the item visible again, select Show section.

  • URLs can link directly into your course site.
    If you want to bookmark your course, or put a link to it in an email or on a Web page, share the address (URL) in your browser's address bar to link directly to your Moodle course. Users will be directed to a login page.

  • When you delete files that you uploaded to your course pages, they remain temporarily available in the Recycling bin.
    When you upload a file to a course page, it goes into the System Files for your course. If you delete the link to a file from your course home page, the recycling bin will contain the items deleted for seven days. You will be able to restore the items during this period, including activities that contain student data. Be sure you also have a backup on your own computer or stored online, for example in Box at UMass Amherst or Apps at UMass Amherst (Google) Drive.

  • The Gradebook in Moodle has many built-in functions.
    The Moodle Gradebook is a powerful tool that provides instructors with the ability to do complex calculations and organize student grades in a variety of ways. You can mark tasks as extra credit, drop the lowest score(s) from a category, ignore blank grades in a category if the work is optional, and aggregate the scores in a given category (e.g. all quizzes) and make it a percentage of a final grade. For more, see An Overview of the Moodle Gradebook.

  • Use Announcements to notify students.
    Only the instructor and TAs can post to Announcements (previously called News Forum) for a course. When they do, an email copy of that post is automatically sent to everyone enrolled in the course. See Course Announcements in Moodle.

  • Moodle sends email notifications for some activities.
    You can have Moodle send email notices to you or your students when posts are made to a Forum. We recommend setting forums for optional subscription. Individuals can control some aspects of subscription from forums in their Profile settings.

    When students submit an Assignment, they are automatically sent a submission confirmation email. Instructors can opt to receive notification when students submit, but the setting is disabled by default.