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A Quick Tour of Moodle for Instructors

The Navigation Block and the Navigation Bar

The Navigation BlockThe Navigation Block

The 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 Calendar or Upcoming Events to show deadlines and events for the classes they are teaching or taking.
  • Click My Courses to show links to your current courses. This is the most convenient way to move between one course and another.

The Navigation Bar

The Navigation bar (or “breadcrumb links”) begins with a link to the entry page for all of Moodle. Further links to the right show your current location. Click the course name to return to the main course page from a sub page.

Breadcrumb Links

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

Moodle is Structured Around "Blocks" and "Sections"

By default, a Moodle course page is divided into three 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 Administration blocks are required, but other blocks are optional. You can rearrange the blocks 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. In contrast, the HTML Block can be added to post static text in a side column.

Which blocks show at any moment depends on where you are in Moodle. For example, 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 do not.

Blocks can also be minimized using the Minus Icon (), moved around the block sections using the Move Icon () and stacked on the left side of the screen using the Dock Icon (Dock Icon).

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 chronology. If you choose to order your course chronologically, you can have Moodle automatically provide a section per week.

Inside the sections of your main course page, you will put links to Resources (files, Web links, folders, 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 Edit settings (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

The overall settings for your course are found in the Administration block on your main course Click "Edit Settings" in the Administration blockpage. 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 course settings page 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 determine whether the course is visible to students.

Note: The Administration block is context-dependent. The available options will change depending on what page you are on.

"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.

Small icons will appear next to each editable element on the page (see image below). ​Click the Edit link after the section title. A drop-down menu will appear with several actions, including edit, move, duplicate, etc. the item (see right image).

Edit Link, Move Tool & Select for Action Mass

Add Content to Your Course

Add Resources and Activities to Sections

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 onto your course page in the browser.  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 view all course activities of a particular type (for instance all Assignments or Quizzes) at once on a summary page.
The first time you create a new type of activity in a course, a link to the summary page showing all instances of that kind of activity 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, and grade student activity.
  • Non-editing teacher (default role for TAs)
    Non-editing teachers can view content and grade student submissions. 
  • Student (default role for students)
    Students can view Resources, participate in Activities, and appear in the Gradebook.
  • Guest
    Guests have access to the course page and can view materials but cannot participate in activities or view student-submitted content. Guest access is turned off by default but can be enabled by an instructor. For more see Guest Access to Moodle Courses.

Depending on your role in Moodle, you may be able to switch to other roles. For instance, if you areChange role 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 Gradebook 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) 

or Search the IT 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, while others offer more detail.

You can also find IT help links (  ) when adding activities or resources. Click them to open the help page for that topic in the IT Support Center.

IT provides step-by-step help pages on most features available in Moodle at UMass Amherst. Search the IT Support Center or browse the Moodle articles in the IT 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 Hide icon to hide items.
    To hide sections, blocks, activities or resources from your students, click Turn editing on. For sections click the Hide icon (The hide icon looks like an eye) next to the section you wish to hide. For activities or resources click the Hide icon inside the Edit drop-down menu. For blocks click the Hide icon located inside the Edit settings (The update icon looks like a gear or wheel) drop-down menu. (Click the Hide icon again to make the item visible.)

  • URLs can link directly into 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 (URL) in your browser's address bar to link directly to your Moodle course. Users will be directed to a login page. 

  • 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! 

  • 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 score(s) 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. When they do, an email copy of that post 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.