Mad At Moodle? 5 Tips for Moodle Novices

Moodle Novices

So, your school, college, company decided they need eLearning on Moodle, and you were put in charge. How difficult can that be? Or, maybe you found yourself in a job role where working with Moodle is your first introduction to eLearning, and you are struggling with the user-unfriendliness of this popular LMS? If you find yourself creating courses in Moodle, here are the key five pointers to keep in mind.

5 Tips for Moodle Novices

Whatever the situation be, a lot of people new to instructional design start off on Moodle, and find themselves grappling with the cryptic, curt personality that Moodle greets you with. Having helped a few of my friends with the Moodle Madness, I thought may be a few general design guidelines were in order for complete starters. If you find yourself creating courses in Moodle, here are the key five pointers to keep in mind.

  1. Start with the structure
    Moodle has a hierarchical structure. Activities or Resources belong to Topics, which belong to a course that is housed in a category. So think about how you want to organize your information so the hierarchy makes sense. For example, a lesson on Hair Care for dogs might go in a Topic about Grooming, which will be part of a wider course, “Dog Owners 101”. All similar courses will be housed in one category- which in this case may be Pet Care. Of course if you don’t need this hierarchy, you don’t have to use it. But a well-organized eLearning makes sense to learners, and makes it easier for us to manage it!
  2. Choose your Resources/Activities wisely
    Moodle comes out-of-box with an impressive array of options to use. You could choose to house your content in a lesson, book, folder or a page. Assess the learners through choice, assignments, feedback, quiz, reach out to them via News Forum, chat, Label. Need more functionality- explore Glossary or a survey. For a starter, the options can be confusing. Here are my suggestions:

    1. If your content is multimedia or interactive, or sits well in a single screen length, consider using page. This creates a simple webpage, and is easiest to create and manage.
    2. If you need to deliver multiple pages worth of content, consider lesson. Lesson is a multi-page activity, where you can define custom paths, embed question pages, and generally provide learner some choice as per their learning route.
    3. Book activity makes sense if you have considerable amount of data that should be organized as an e-book. One great advantage of Book is that learners can print off the whole book in one go, unlike the lesson.
    4. Quizzes in Moodle are easy to create, especially if you are familiar with GIFT format. Simple multiple choice or free text assessments are good to go through the quiz.
    5. However, if you need the students to upload something, considerassignments for greater flexibility.
  3. Look closely at the settings
    A lot of power that Moodle has is hidden in that small gear button besides everything you create. Different settings can result in significantly different user experiences. For example, quiz settings can provide adaptive questions, immediate feedback, certainty based marking and so on… How lessons appear, what does the user see, can they mark an activity complete, when does an activity become available- these are all options hidden in the settings. If you are new to Moodle, take the time and effort to play with it, so you learn the functions of each little option on the settings page.
  4. Make it jazzy, make it branded. The homepage
    There is no excuse to implement Moodle with it default FrontPage. Unfortunately there is not too much of freedom here for a non-programmer, but you still have some leeway in terms of how your LMS will look without paying a single penny to a programmer. You could choose from one of the many themes that come pre-packaged with the LMS, and change the default look and feel. The FrontPage has a “general Summary of Site” section that you can jazz up with images and all.. The web has a number of lovely Moodle implementations to take inspiration from. We, as instructional designers, and as adult learners, know how much appeal does good design has in learning. Let’s not let Moodle’s unfriendliness ruin it for our learners.
  5. Language Pack – you have the power
    This is a gem that stays hidden for a long time for a lot of Moodle Managers, The language tab in site administration lets you download the language pack for your installation of Moodle. This is a one-time activity. And then, you can customize the language Moodle uses to interact with your users. The errors, the site messages like change passwords, etc. can all be customized to say exactly what you want to say. Even choose an alternate login page if you are up to it using the customizations!!

There are plenty of tricks and capabilities Moodle offers that you can use to enrich your and your learners experience. Use these tips as a starting point to your journey. Bon voyage!

first published in eLearning at

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