Keywords: course format, layout, design, topics, sections, unhide, visible, make available, student access, template
What is it?
Moodle course home pages are arranged in a two column format, with sections appearing in the main column in the middle of the page and blocks appearing to the right of the main content section. The widest column in the middle is where you will put your main course content, resources and activities. By default, this column is divided into 10 topics (or sections). Other course formats can be enabled via the Course settings page, such as Tabs and Collapsed topics. This changes the layout of the page but keeps all the content.
Many departments have Moodle course templates that will determine the layout of Moodle courses. There is also a generic template (with guide) that anyone can use (and modify for their department if they wish) that:
- Helps staff to meet the baseline (in fewer steps); and
- Provides a more consistent experience for both students and staff.
If you would like to use a template, please mention this in the comments when you request a new UCL Moodle course.
Templates will include a course format that determines how each section is displayed, suggested section titles (e.g. Home, Assessment, Have your Say) and blocks to aid navigation. When all courses in a department use a common template, both students and staff have a more consistent experience and find it easier to navigate information, as everything will appear in similar places across modules. If your department doesn't yet have a Moodle template, please contact the Digital Education team and they will be able to create one in collaboration with the department's e-learning champions.
Sections help to organise your content into topics. Each section contains related resources and activities such as web pages, quizzes, files and links.
Usually, the first section (or tab) is where you will put the course title and introductory course-level information. Those using tabs format often call this tab 'Home' or 'Welcome'.
Find out how to edit the section headings and summary.
The Course Format influences how the content sections of your Moodle course display. See Questions and Answers below.
The outside columns are made up of small boxes called blocks. Blocks contain navigation aids and information that may made available from within course resources and activities, such as pages. Blocks include navigation menus, settings menus, calendar information, latest news, who else is online and so on. They can be added, moved and arranged very flexibly. Find out about adding and managing existing blocks.
Why is it important?
The way you structure your course will affect how easy it is for students and staff to navigate and find information and activities on your Moodle course. You should ensure you properly signpost different areas on your course homepage so students and staff understand what is available to them.
The course format you choose will determine how the sections are displayed. Showing all the information on one long page can be overwhelming for students and difficult for everyone to navigate, so most tutors and departments choose to show one section at a time, either by selecting this in the settings for any of the course formats or by using the tabs or collapsed topics format. It is possible to show sections as one big long scrolling list (topics, weeks with '' selected), but this is not recommended.
Who can use it?
Staff provide a name and description, structure the course sections, add labels, resources and activities to sections, select the course format and arrange blocks on the page. They also choose whether to enable course completion, so students can see items checked off as they complete them.
Students see the course and description when they search for a course. They see the other structures when they access the Moodle course homepage.
Before I start...
Check if your department has a Moodle course template and if they do you should use this for any new courses and align any existing courses to this template, to provide a consistent navigation experience for both students and staff. Unfortunately, there is no way to retrospectively fit a template to an existing Moodle course, so it means you will need to copy and paste content and manually move and add sections, items and blocks. Although you can also import items from the template course, assuming you have edit access to this
Meeting the Baseline
The UCL E-Learning Baseline suggests the following for Structure:
- 1.4 Use a Faculty or Departmental template to provide a consistent layout and experience for students and staff. These provide a starting point to help staff meet this baseline, but may be modified to suit the course being delivered.
See Before I start for further information.
How do I...?
Change the overall course structure and information
- The Administration block provides many options to set up your course. Note it has 'cascading' menus, just click on the title next to the arrow to open them.
- Click on Edit settings to take you to the Edit course settings page.
- You can change the Course full name and the Course short name; the latter appears in the breadcrumb navigation and has to be unique across UCL systems (the system will warn you if it isn't).
You can change the Course start date and Course end date. This determines whether the course will be listed in the In Progress, Future of Past tab in the Course overview block on your Moodle Home page.
- You should provide a (very short) description of your course in the Course summary, so students can see what it covers if they search for it and they can distinguish it from other courses with a similar title.
- Course visibility determines whether students can see your course.
- From the drop down menu choose Show, to reveal the course to students. Students can now see and search for the course.
- Or, choose Hide, if don't want students to find or access your course. A course can be hidden from Students but not from its Course Administrators and Tutors.
- Go to the Course format section, to change the layout/format of your course. Use the Format drop down menu to choose any of seven course formats. Popular options include Tabs format and Collapsed topics format because they allow students to see one section at a time.
- You can also choose the Number of weeks/topics. It is good to do this to prevent empty topics cluttering up the bottom of your course page, so set this to the exact number you require. Once this is set you can easily add or remove topics from the course homepage, either at the bottom of the page or to the right of the tabs, depending on the course format you choose to use.
- Enabling Course completion allows a tutor to choose which activities in a Moodle course must be completed by students. Completion tracking allows you to set activities and resources as completed either automatically (based on grades - e.g. receiving 80% in a quiz) or by allowing students to tick a task when they have completed it (e.g. a reading). To do this, change the Enable completion tracking setting to Yes.
- Click on Save changes.
Change the title and description of content sections
To quickly edit the title you can:
- click the grey pencil icon to the immediate right of the section title. Enter a new title and click the [enter] key to save it. To cancel renaming the section, click your mouse anywhere on the page.
To edit the title and/or description the long way:
- click the edit menu, to the right of the section title and/or description you'd like to edit and choose 'Edit section'.
- Uncheck 'Use default section name' and enter something more descriptive, but not too long - especially when using tabs (onesection) course format.
- Enter a description that helps students understand the purpose for the section of the course - e.g. summarise the topic, or if it contains all the assessment, give a brief overview of the assessment process.
Add or remove content sections
From the course homepage:
- You can easily show an extra section or hide the last section on your Moodle course by clicking the small + and - at the bottom of the page, below the sections (or topic areas).
- If you are using tabs format these icons appear to the right of the last tab. The last section will be removed when you click minus, so to remove a section anywhere else on your page, you first need to move it into the last position. Don't worry, removing a section doesn't delete anything within that section. It will just hide it until you choose to show it again.
- Just remember to turn editing on first.
- This works for all the course formats except the social format, which doesn't contain any sections and just displays a forum in the central column of the page.
Fron the course settings page:
- The other way to do show or hide sections is to go to the Settings block and under Course administration click Edit settings. Then under Course format change the number of sections. Remember to save your changes at the bottom of the page. This is probably the easiest option if you want to show or hide a number of sections at once.
Move sections on my course
Whole sections can be re-ordered, along with all the items inside them.
In most course formats:
- Turn editing on.
- Click and hold the cross-hairs icon and drag the topic to a new location, or
- single click on the crosshairs icon, in the top left of the topic area and choose where to move it from the list of topics that appears in a pop up window.
In Tabs (onetopic) course format:
- Turn editing on.
- Click on the tab you want to move.
- Scroll to the bottom of the tab and click 'Tabs editing options'.
- A list of new locations to move the topic to will appear. Click on the topic name you would like to move the tab to the left/right of.
Hide sections on my course
Whole sections can be hidden.
In most course formats:
- Please make sure the ‘Turn editing’ is on.
- Go to the section and click ‘Edit’ on the section
- Click on ‘Hide Section’ to hide the section from a student’s view.
Add and edit items on my course
- To begin editing your course start by clicking the Turn editing on button (in the top, right corner of your Moodle course).
You can also turn editing on in the Settings block, under Course administration.
- Once editing is turned on you will see:
- cross hairs appear for moving items around the course page. See moving elements around your course
- an 'Add an activity or resource' link at the bottom right of each topic. This is how you add content to your course.
- an Edit menu to the right of every resource and activity in the central column - click on this and you will see the following editing options for that item:
- Edit settings - lets you edit the settings and in some cases the content of that item (for most resources - except books).
- Move right - indents the item
- Move left - if you have indented an item, this will remove the indent
Hide/Show - will hide a visible item from students / show a hidden item
Duplicate - will duplicate an item with similar settings (but not activity content like forum posts or assignment submissions - do not use for Turnitin Assignments!)
- Assign roles - allows you to elevate a student (or other role) just for this one activity or resource. E.g. you may allocate a particular student to the non-editing tutor role on a forum, so they can moderate posts (delete, edit, move etc.) This does not affect their student access to any other activity or resource on the Moodle course.
- Delete - will prompt you if you really want to delete the item and then will remove it completely from Moodle - this is not recoverable unless retrieved from an overnight UCL Moodle backup.
Display descriptions for each item on my course
- Every resource and activity has the option for a description, which is where you should put instructions to students.
- You can also choose to display the description on the course homepage, which might be useful to describe the purpose of an item, providing you don't clutter the page with too much information.
Move items within or between sections
This depends on the course format you are using.
On most course formats, or if you want to simply move an item within the same tab, you can either:
- Click on the four-way arrow icon and from the resulting list choose where to place the resource/activity, or
- Click and hold on the four-way arrow icon and drag the resource/activity to its new position (you will see the outline of the resource/activity appear when you have dragged it to a place where it can be dropped).
In tabs (onetopic) format, if you want to move an item to a different tab you need to:
- Turn editing on.
- Scroll to the bottom of the tab and click 'Tabs editing options'.
- Click 'Enable moving items between tabs'.
- The cross-hair icons will change to up/down arrow icons.
- Click the up/down arrow of the item you would like to move.
- Click on the tab you would like to move it to.
- You will see an arrow pointing towards a white box in every location where you can move the item to. Click the white box where you would like the item moved to.
- Once you have finished moving item, scroll to the bottom of the tab and click 'Tabs editing options' and 'Disable moving items between tabs'.
- The four-way arrow icon will re-appear against every item, indicating that drag and drop has been re-enabled.
- None at this time.
Examples and case studies
Read about how one department is using Moodle course templates to provide a consistent course structure for students.
Questions & Answers
Q. What is the best course format to use?
A. Tabs or collapsed topics (onesection) format are good options for limiting the amount of information students and staff see at any one time. This makes the page information easier to read and is known as "chunking" content. Another option is to use topics format and set it to 'show one section per page'. Students then use the navigation menu to navigate, but you need to ensure you enable course sections within the navigation block.
Q. How do I switch off Drag-and-Drop?
A. If you are using an old browser or computer and would prefer to use the old way of clicking arrows to reorder elements on your course, you can do this by following these steps:
- Select your name in the top right of the screen.
- Select 'Edit profile'.
- Select 'Turn Ajax off'.
In tabs mode, you move sections using the 'Tabs editing options' at the bottom, left of the Moodle page.