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A Quick Tour of Moodle for Instructors

The Navigation Block and the Navigation Bar

The Navigation Block

The Navigation block is a reliable way to find your way around Moodle.

  • The Navigation Block

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

The Navigation Bar

The Navigation bar (or “breadcrumb links”) begins with a link to the Homepage of Moodle. Further links to the right show your current location. Click the course name to return to your course page from a sub page.

Breadcrumb Links

Note: The text in the Navigation bar that has no underline or color is for reference only, and is not clickable.

Moodle is Structured Around "Blocks" and "Sections"

By default, a Moodle course page is divided into three columns. The sides contain blocks and the center contains sections.

(click to enlarge)


The side columns of a Moodle page contain blocks. The Navigation and Administration blocks are required, but other blocks are optional. You can rearrange the blocks and set whether particular blocks show only on the 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, the 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 using the Minus Icon (), moved around the block sections using the Move Icon () and stacked on the left side of the screen using the Dock Icon (Dock Icon).

For more about blocks, see Add and Remove Blocks in Moodle.


The central column of the your course page is divided into Sections where your 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.

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 (at top right), then click on The update icon looks like a gear or wheel Edit (at top of section) and select Edit Settings from the dropdown. This will open the Section settings page.

Course Settings

Click "Edit Settings" in the Administration blockThe overall settings for your course are found in the Administration block on your course page. Under Course administration, click Edit settings to make changes. 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 choose to format course sections by Topic or Week, determine how many sections appear in the center column, choose a theme (visual style), and determine whether the course is visible to students. For more see Important Settings for Your Moodle Course.

Note: The Administration block is context-dependent. The available options will change depending on what page you are on.

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

Turn Editing On

Click Turn editing on at the top-right of your course page.
Turn editing on button on the top right of the page

Small icons will appear next to any editable elements already on the page (see image below). Click the Edit link after the section title. A drop-down menu will appear with several actions, including Edit settings, Move, Duplicate, and Hide.

Edit link, Move Tool icon & Quick Rename Pen Icon

Add Resources and Activities to Sections

To add content to your course, with editing turned on, at 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 a computer 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

Screenshot - The Activities block lists course content by activity typeThe Activities block is added to new courses by default (under Quick Settings block), and helps students view all course activities of a particular type (for instance all Assignments or Quizzes) at once on a summary page.
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.

You Can Use Different "Roles" to View 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.

Change roleDepending 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.)

Note: Instructors are enrolled in courses as Teachers and as Students. This allows instructors to submit Quizzes, Assignments, or other graded activities, then work with their own grades in the Moodle Gradebook to confirm grade calculations are correct.

Need help?

The Get Help link is always available at the top right of Moodle. Click Get Help to bring up the help dropdown. 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 more detail.

You can also find IT help links (  ) 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

Students looking for additional support should contact the IT Help Center at (413) 545-9400 or

A Few More Things to Consider ... 

  • Hide/Show items from students.
    To hide a section, block, activity or resource from your students, click Turn editing on and click the Edit link or icon (The update icon looks like a gear or wheel) for the item you wish to hide, then select Hide. To make the item visible visible again, select Show.

  • 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.

  • Files uploaded to your course pages are deleted from Moodle if deleted from the page.
    When you upload a file to a course page, it goes into the System Files for your course. Moodle does not provide a tool for managing those files. If you delete the link to a file from your course home page, it deletes the file from Moodle. Be sure you 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 sum up the total score 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 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.