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printKeywords: course format, structure, topics, tabs, tabbed, collapsible, collapse, drop-down sections, accordion, grid, one, single, chunk content.

What is it?

The course format changes the layout of the main content area of a Moodle course. The blocks then appear alongside. You can choose from the following formats:

  • Topics format - the default option. Topics appear one under the other. Courses with numerous or long sections will benefit from the use of Collapsed Topics instead.
  • Collapsed topics format - topics appear one under the other as in Topics, but can be expanded/collapsed (one-by-one or all). Recommended for accessibility.
  • Tabs format - topics appear one at a time with a tabbed menu at the top of the course page. 
  • Grid format - topics appear one at a time with a 'grid' style graphical navigation of the course page.
  • Social format - a discussion forum is displayed in the main section of the page and content appears instead in a block to the side of the course. An example of this format is the Moodle Users Forum. It is useful for simple, discussion based courses, but is unsuitable for most module courses, as they usually require more space for subject-related content and general module information.
  • Weekly format - you set the course start date and the sections are then automatically named with dates. This format is rarely used, as it doesn't allow you to use sections without a date, e.g. for general information, or assessment.
  • Single Activity FormatThe single activity format only has 1 section, and allows the teacher to add one activity only to the course. When the single activity format is selected, a drop down menu appears for the teacher to choose the activity they wish to use.

Why use it?

Depending on your mode of delivery and structural approach employed, use of alternative course formats can create more logical or engaging layouts. Courses with a large amount of content and learning activities, for example, may benefit from the tabs or collapsed topics formats, reducing the amount of material that is visible on the page at any one time.

Who can use it?

  • Tutors
  • Course Administrators

Before I start...

Check with your department whether there is a standard departmental Moodle template that you should use, which will determine the course format as well as common section headings. If a departmental template DOES exist, it is a good idea to use the course format defined in this template, since it provides students with consistency across their Moodle courses. This helps both students and staff to find information for each module, as they are familiar with the sections used in other modules. For example, a Moodle template will help students understand where to submit assessments and where to ask for help. If you would like a Moodle template developed your department, please contact Digital Education.

Meeting the baseline

The UCL Connected 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 set one up?

Change course format quick guide

  • Locate the Administration block, click Course Administration and Edit settings
  • Scroll to Course format and choose your preferred format (for accessibility reasons the Collapsed topics format is now recommended for CLB compliance):

    • Collapsed topics format
      Collapsed topics provides an 'accordion' style layout, with all sections appearing in an expandable list. Each section can be expanded or collapsed independently of other sections, or you can expand or collapse all sections at once. This format comes with a range of editable style and behaviour options. It works well with screen readers and if you have longer topic titles. Hence, to maximise the accessibility of courses, the Collapsed topics format is recommended. More information can be found on the Moodle plugin page.

    • Topics format
      Topics is the most commonly used format. The course is organised into topic sections that a teacher can give titles to. Each topic section consists of activities, resources and labels.

    • Tabs (onetopic) format
      Tabs show one section at a time with an optional tabbed navigation at the top of the page. Tabs work particularly well when you have fewer than 8 sections, and/or you keep the titles short. If there are many tabs, or they have long titles, they tend to push down onto 3 lines on a computer screen and it becomes difficult to navigate, especially for students with dyslexia. If your topics have longer titles the 'Collapsed topics' format looks better and is equally easy to navigate. Unfortunately, Tabs are not ideal for screen reader users and sub-tabs are completely inaccessible. So presently, the Collapsed topics format is recommended. 
    • Grid format
      Grid displays a grid of clickable images that link to each of your course sections. The format comes with a set of default colours, icons, and blank placeholders for the images. Their style and behaviour can be edited in the course settings. More information can be found at the Grid format Moodle plugin page.
    • Single activity format
      The single activity format only has 1 section, and allows the teacher to add one activity only to the course. When the single activity format is selected, a drop down menu appears for the teacher to choose the activity they wish to use. 
    • Weekly format
      The course is organized week by week, with a clear start date and a finish date. Moodle will create a section for each week of your course. You can add content, forums, quizzes, and so on in the section for each week.
    • TIP: If you want all your students to work on the same materials at the same time, this would be a good format to choose.
    • NOTE: Make sure your course start date is correct. If it is not your weeks will have the wrong date on it. This is especially important if you are restoring a course to use with a new section of students.
    • Social format
      This format is oriented around one main forum,the social forum, which appears listed on the main page. It is useful for situations that are more free form. They may not even be courses.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save changes.

Select your Formatting options:

  • Show all sections on one page: all topics are displayed on the page, one after another.
  • Show one section per page: one topic is displayed per page, with topic headings visible and acting as a link to each preceding and subsequent topic.

Further help

Further guidance on Course formats is available from moodledocs.

If you find any inaccurate or missing information you can even update this yourself (it's a communal wiki).

If you have a specific question about the tool please contact the Digital Education team.


- None at this time. 

Examples and case studies

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Questions & Answers

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Further information

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