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A Quick Tour of Moodle for Instructors

The Navigation Block and the Navigation Bar

The Navigation Block

Screenshot of the Navigation blockThe Navigation block is a reliable way to find your way around Moodle.

  • Home is the entry page for all of Moodle.
  • My Home lists the courses in which you are currently enrolled.  Anyone can customize their My Home page by adding Blocks such as the Calendar or Upcoming Events to show deadlines and events for the classes they are teaching or taking.
  • My Courses opens to show links to your current courses and is the most convenient way to move between one course and another.

The Navigation Bar

In the Navigation bar (or “breadcrumb links”) at the very top of the page, Home links to the entry page for all of Moodle. Click the course name to return to the main course page from a sub page.

annotated screenshot of breacrumb links

Note: Grayed-out text in the Navigation bar is for reference only, and is not cilck-able.

Moodle is Structured Around "Blocks" and "Sections"

In Moodle, a course is delivered via a single page, divided into columns. The sides contain Blocks and the center contains Sections.

screenshot of coulmns containing blocks (sides) and sections (center) (click to enlarge)


The side columns of a Moodle page contain Blocks. The Navigation and Settings Blocks are required, but other Blocks are optional. You can rearrange the Blocks in the sidebars 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. The HTML Block can be added to post static text in a side column. The Remote RSS Feed brings in the latest blog posts or other RSS content from outside Web sites.

Which Blocks show at any moment depends on where you are in Moodle. 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 don't see.

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


The central column of the main 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 chronologically, in which case you can have Moodle automatically provide a section per week, or you can name the sections yourself.

Inside the sections of your main course page, you will put links to Resources (PDFs, Web pages, URLs, etc.), and Activities (discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, etc.).  Labels (a type of Resource) can be used to add text, and images to Sections.

Section names can be changed by clicking on the Edit summary icon (The update icon looks like a gear or wheel)at the top of each section when Editing is turned on (see "Turn Editing On," below).

Course Settings

CLick "Edit Settings" in the Settings blockThe overall settings for your course are found in the Settings block of your main course page. Click Edit Settings to make changes.

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

The Edit Settings screen 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 make grades visible to students.

Note: The Settings Block is context-aware. To edit the settings for your course, you need to be on your main course page.  For example, if you open a Forum activity and click Edit settings in the Settings block, it will open the settings for the forum.

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


Screenshot- turn editing onClick Turn editing on at the top-right of your course page.

When editing is on, small icons will appear next to each editable element on the page (see image for a summary of each icon). Rolling over an icon tells you its name and what it does. 

Guide to Editing icons

Add Content to your Course

Add Resources and Activities to Sections

Screenshot of the To add content to your course, go to a Section and click Add an Activity or Resource (at bottom right of each section when editing is on).

  • Resources include static content such as Files, Labels (text you add to a Section), and URLs. A quick way to add Files to a course is to drag them from your a computer desktop window onto your course page in the browser window.  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 (at top right), and helps students find all the Resources or Activities of one type (for instance all Assignments, or Quizzes).
Each new type of Activity you use in a course 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, grade student activity.
  • Non-editing teacher (default role for TAs)
    Non-editing teachers can view content, review and grade student submissions. 
  • Student (default role for students)
    Students can view Resources and participate in Activities, and appear in the Grade Book.
  • Guest
    Guests have access to the course page and can link to materials but cannot participate in activities or interact with students. Guest access is turned off by default but can be enabled by an instructor. For more see Guest Access to Moodle Courses.

Switch role to... student, TA or guest to see what they seeDepending 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 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 grade book to confirm grade calculations are correct.

Need help? Click the Help Icons  Screenshot of the "Help" icon (looks like a question mark in a circle)OIT Help icon
or Search the OIT Support Center

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, others offer more detail.

You can also find OIT help links ( OIT Help icon ) when adding activities or resources, which will open the help page for that topic in the OIT Support Center, with instructions customized for how Moodle is set up at UMass Amherst.

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

A Few More things to Consider ... 

  • Use the "Eye" icon to hide things.
    To hide Sections, Blocks, Activities or Resources from your students, click Turn Editing On and click the Eye icon next to the item you wish to hide or show. 

  • URLs can link directly to 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 in your browser's location bar (URL) to link directly to your Moodle course. A login screen will control access to only those enrolled in the course. 

  • 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! (Note, an alternative that provides more traditional file management is to upload your course files to your My Private Files area.)

  • 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 "x" scores 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 the News Forum for announcements.
    Only the instructor can post to the News Forum for a course, and when they do an email is automatically sent to everyone enrolled in the course.

  • Moodle sends email notices when course members are "subscribed" to an activity.
    You can have Moodle send email notices to you or your students when forum posts are made, Assignments submitted, grades posted, etc. Individuals can control some aspects of subscription from individual activities and in their My profile settings.