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Keywords: glossary, dictionary, terms and conditions, FAQ, jargon.


What is it?

A glossary is a course-specific list of terms and definitions. Entries can be linked to words that appear within Moodle, so the definition pops-up when someone hovers their mouse over instances of the word.

Why use it?

  • To provide contextualised definitions for difficult course terms and avoid repeatedly answering similar questions.
  • It can enable students to contribute and become familiar with course concepts.
  • It can also be used as a facility that allows students to share files, links or other content with their classmates. Forums can be used for this purpose too, but a glossary can be easier to search and display items.

It can be a very useful tool, for instance, where subject specific words and definitions are used 'loosely' in a given field but need to be agreed on for the purposes of group discussion – in this case a tutor may stipulate definitions within a glossary or use the tool to ask students to reach a consensus. Options include being able to moderate student entries and allowing student to comment upon entries.

Who can use it?

  • Tutors can add terms.
  • Students can (optionally) also add terms, with or without approval from a tutor.

Before I start...

Think about:

  • Do you want student entries to be approved by default?
  • Do you want to pre-populate the glossary with some terms to show students how it can be used?
  • Do you have any quizzes or discussion forums in your course where you would want to turn off the auto-linking feature?

Meeting the baseline

The UCL E-Learning Baseline suggests the following for Orientation:

  • 2.2 Explain participation requirements:
    • Identify which activities are compulsory and optional.
    • Provide an indicator of effort (such as timings or page counts) for all compulsory tasks.
    • Explain how students are expected to use UCL and external e-learning tools. This PowerPoint Induction template provides a starting point. Wholly online courses might provide this information as a screen-cast video, with a voice over.
    • Link to instructions for any e-learning tools that students are expected to use.
  • 2.8 Outline the Intended Learning Outcomes for every activity and resource in the description and provide a clear overview of what the student is expected to do.

How do I set one up?

Add a Glossary quick guide

  1. To add a glossary to your course, Turn editing on, then click on the Add an activity or resource link and select Glossary.
  2. Enter a Name and Description (which you can display if you wish).
  3. Most of the time you can leave all the option settings as they are by default. However, you should consider these important settings in Entries
    • Automatically link glossary entries - if an instance of a term appears in your course it is highlighted with the option to click and see a pop-up definition.
    • Approved by default - student entries will appear immediately and don't need to be approved by a tutor first.

  4. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save and display.

Further help

Further guidance on Glossary settings 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.


  • If your course contains a Moodle quiz to test student knowledge, you might want to turn off the auto-linking in just this quiz. You do this by turning off Glossary auto-linking in the quiz settings.
  • If the Display Format settings are set to Simple, Dictionary style, you will not be to add or delete categories in the Glossary. To add or delete categories, please change the settings by going into the Glossary > Appearance > Display format.

Examples and case studies

  • Provide a 'Quote of the Day' or a random picture gallery that changes each time the page is refreshed, using the Random Glossary block. Guidance on the Random glossary entry block is available from moodledocs.
  • A reference for common terminology contributed by staff and/or students.
  • A way to display a searchable list of FAQs.
  • Different glossary entries can be accessed using the link, allowing for quick access to other glossaries in the course.
  • Staff ask all students to submit their definition for a particular term and either marks the responses, or chooses the best to publish to the group.
    • Note: This requires multiple instances of the same term to be enabled in the settings.

Questions & Answers

Q. How do I print a friendly version?

A. Click on edit settings and under Appearance, Allow print view should be on Yes

Further information

Glossary entries can be searched or browsed within the Glossary activity as well as set to appear as pop-up definitions whenever the term appears in texts created within a given Moodle course e.g. emails in forums and Moodle web pages (not in uploaded PDFs or Word Docs).