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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 our 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 and explore Introduction to Cryptozoology, our example course. All instructors who have requested a Moodle course are enrolled as students in Crypto101, and will see a link to the sample course in their My Courses navigation.

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

You can print out this section of this page in checklist form: Checklist for Building a New Moodle Course (PDF,180 K)

  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 that your course is ready, go to moodle.umass.edu and log in using your OIT Account NetID and Password. The Moodle home page will change to display announcements (at center) and navigation (at left).
    If you or your students are having trouble getting into Moodle, see Log in to Moodle or Access to Moodle - Overview.
  3. Edit your Personal Settings.
    In Moodle, each user has a Profile page where you can manage how Moodle sends email notifications. You also have the option to upload a profile picture (visible when you post to Moodle forums). To edit your Moodle Profile, in the Settings block, click My Profile Settings, then click Edit profile. For more, see Edit Your Moodle Profile & Personal Settings.
  4. Find your Moodle course under My Courses.
    Once logged in, at the top-left of the Moodle home page you'll see the My Courses block where your courses are listed. 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.
  5. 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. Go to Settings > Course Administration > Edit settings. For details, see Important Settings for your Moodle Course.
  6. To work on your course, click 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, small icons will appear next to each editable element on the page (see image below).  Click an icon to move, indent, delete, etc., an item.
    Guide to Edit Icons
  7. Edit Section Names.
    Depending on the Format you chose in your Course Settings, Sections will be named Topic 1, Topic 2, Topic 3, etc. (if using Collapsed Topics or Topics format), or will display dates (if using a Weekly format). To give each Section a custom name and make your course more useable for students, click the Update icon (Update icon) at the top-left of the Section.
  8. Add Resources to your course.
    In Moodle, handouts, 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 (at bottom right of section). The Activity chooser dialog box opens (Note that resources are located at the bottom of the panel). Select a resource: a description will appear at right with links to more help. Click Add: the settings screen opens where you must configure the settings and click Save (at bottom of screen). 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 edit its settings by clicking its Update icon ( Update icon ) or rename it by clicking its Edit title icon (Edit title 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).
    • An easy type of resource to overlook is the Label. Labels are simply blocks of text or images you can add to your course Sections to organize content and add interest to your course page. For more, see Add Text and Images to a Moodle Course Page.
  9. 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, click Turn editing on, go to the Section where you want the activity to appear and use click Add an activity or resource (at bottom right of section). Select an activity: a description will appear at right with links to more help. Click Add: the settings screen opens where you must configure the settings and click Save (at bottom of screen). For more, see About Adding Activities to a Moodle Course.
    • Once you have added an activity, you can edit its settings by clicking its Update icon ( Update icon) or rename it by clicking its Edit title icon (Edit title 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).
    • Some activities such as Attendance, Quizzes, Glossaries, and Databases require additional setup from within the activity. Click the link to open the Activity (not the Update icon) and complete your set up.
  10. Set up Blocks.
    To change which blocks show in your course and where they appear, you must first 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 delete a block, click the X icon in the block heading.
    • To rearrange blocks, place your cursor over the block Heading. The cursor will change to a Grab icon ( On a block you might see a Grab icon or a Move icon ) or Move icon (The move icon looks like a "t" with arrows at its ends. ). Drag the block to a new position.
  11. Make the course available to students.
    When Moodle courses are created, they are hidden from students. OIT releases courses to students three days prior to the start of classes. If you request a Moodle course after this release date, you will have to release the course yourself.
    For instructions on releasing a course to students 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 have multiple similar items in a course, you may find it helpful to use the Duplicate feature (x 2 icon) that is available after each Resource and Activity.  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.

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.

Update Resources & Activities

After you have added an Activity or Resource, to edit its settings click the Update icon (Update icon ). For example, change the number of points it’s worth in the grade book, 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.

    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 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 kind of an activity. A few important tips on 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, groups break.
    • Moodle courses automatically have 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 Grade Book

    Use the Moodle Gradebook to collect scores and calculate grades, or upload and download information to and from the Moodle Grade book if you use other software on your computer to calculate grades, or 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 Grade Book.

    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 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, or by class section or Moodle Group.
    • 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.

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