Faculty QuickStart Guide for Moodle
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What is Moodle?

Moodle is a course management system that provides easy-to-edit, secure, structured course web sites. Moodle allows faculty to quickly and easily set up interactive online spaces for their courses without having to know how to create web pages. You will be able to quickly upload syllabi, host forum discussions, assign and accept homework and project work electronically, send email to your class, give quizzes, and much more.

Why Use It?

Moodle simplifies the creation and management of course web sites. Here are just a few examples of things that may be done in Moodle:

  • Organize and deliver digital content to students in your course
    (e.g., web links, resources, syllabi, short readings, simulations). 
  • Capitalize on learning opportunities outside of class time.
    For example:
    • Student study/review of class materials/content covered in class
      (e.g., PowerPoint presentations, lecture notes, short quizzes)
    • Student/Project Group preparation for the next class session
  • Encourage peer interaction and discussion
    • Threaded discussions using Forums
    • Peer-review of written assignments
    • Development of a class glossary
  • Manage class logistics
    • Use the News forum to make important class announcements
    • Use the calendar to note events, due dates, etc.
    • Use the grading features to accept assignments and/or to post grades privately.
    • Use the Choice assignment to allow students to pick research topics.
    • Use the file upload and online text assignments to collect student work

Where Do I Find It? 

You can log into Moodle by visiting http://moodle.colby.edu

Once logged in, you will see your current semester courses listed. (If you are not currently teaching a course this semester and are not enrolled as a student in any others with active course sites then you will not see any courses.) Course sites are initially grayed out to indicate that they are not available to students.  

Terms You Need to Know


Blocks appear in the right and left columns of course sites on either side of the primary content column. Blocks contain links to course site content (such as a calendar) or administrative functions that you will use as the instructor for the course (such as the Administration block). Block positions may be rearranged using the icons described below.


Activities include: Assignments, Chats, Choices, Databases, Forums, Glossaries, and Quizzes. Activities are added to a course site's primary content column using the "Add an activity" drop-down menu. When you add an activity, you will be taken to a dialog screen where you define the activity's content and instructions for your students. 


Resources include: labels, lightbox galleries (slide shows), text pages, web pages, links to files and web sites, and links to display a directory of files. Resources are added to a course site's primary content column using the "Add a resource" drop-down menu. When you add a resource, you will be taken to a dialog screen where you define the resource's content and instructions for your students.

Getting Started

Log into the Colby Moodle Site

Go to http://moodle.colby.edu and log in using your Colby username and password.
The Moodle home page displays an overview of your course sites.  Grayed out links to course sites indicate that, as instructor, you may work on the site but that the site is currently unavailable to students. No Moodle course site will be available to students until you change a site administration setting to make it available. You may choose to make all, some, or none of your course sites available.

If you are teaching a course and do not see it on the page, call Mel Regnell at x4217 or Jason Parkhill at x4213.

Clicking on a course site link takes you into that course site.

To begin editing the site, click on the "Turn editing on" button on the upper right side of the screen. This toggle-switch shows or hides the extra controls that allow you to manipulate your course site.

Once you have clicked the button, the screen will change as shown in the next figure.

The "person with key" icon initiates the assignment of roles. When you click on this icon, you will be assigning a specific role to a member of the course. Roles include such things as Student, Non-Editing Teacher, and Guest.

The eye icon indicates whether a block, resource, activity, or topic section is visible to students.

Deletes an activity, resource, or block.

Arrows rearrange the location of an activity, resource, or block.

The minus sign (or the plus sign when clicked) expands or collapses topic sections in the primary content column.

The light bulb highlights a topic section in the primary content column. Only one section may be highlighted at a time.

Course Settings

Use the Administration Block To adjust your course settings. Find the Administration block on your course homepage and click Settings. Note: This link, and in fact the whole Administration section of your course, is only available to you (and the ITS site administrator); students do not see the Administration block.

On the Settings page, you can change a number of settings about your course, from its name to what day it starts. For details about a setting, click the Help icon next to it.

IMPORTANT: please do NOT change the Short name or the Course ID number of your course.


The course format menu lets you choose how the primary content column of the course site is arranged.

  • WEEKLY format: organizes the content blocks in seven day increments from the start date to the finish date of the course. Activities and Resources can be arranged according to the week.
  • TOPICS format: is not automatically labeled, and is not restricted to any time limit. Topics can be used to organize material more thematically.
  • SOCIAL format: oriented around a single forum, this format displays discussion topics as the central content of the course.

Note that the Weekly and Topics formats are very similar in structure. The main difference is that each box in the Weekly format covers exactly one week, whereas each box in the Topic format can cover whatever you like. The Social format doesn't use much content at all and is based around one forum that will be displayed on the main page.

Number of weeks/topics

This setting is used by the Weekly and Topics course formats, and determines the number of "boxes" down the middle of the course page.

In the Topics format it specifies the number of topics in the course. In the Weekly format it specifies the number of weeks that the course will run, starting from the course starting date and displaying one block for every seven days.


All courses are created with Availability set to "This course is not available to students" so that the course will not appear on student course site listings in Moodle. Once a faculty member has built out their course site, they MUST open the Course Settings function in the Administration Block and set Availability to "This course is available to students". No students will be able to access the course - even with a specific URL - until this value has been set.

Click the Help buttons on the Course Settings page for more details.

Uploading Files, Pictures and Multimedia

Files of all kinds can be added to course sites by uploading the files to a course sites file repository and linking to them in the course site's primary content column. Web pages, audio files, video files, PDF files, Word documents, and Flash animations are examples of files that can be uploaded to your course site repository. It is important to note that each course site's file repository is exclusive to that course. If you want to use the same file in more than one course site, it must be uploaded to each one.

File are uploaded using the Files link in the Administrator block.

While your files are on the server, you can move, rename, replace, or delete them. Use the Files link in your Administration block.

The Files section looks like this:
 As shown in the screen shot, folders are listed along with individual files. You can create any number of folders to organize your files, and move your files among them.
The file space is divided into four functional areas:

1 - List of files and folders. Click a filename or folder to open the file or folder.
2 - Checkboxes, to the left of the filenames. Click a checkbox (or boxes) then choose an action from the With chosen files drop down menu.
3 - Action list, to the right of the filenames. You can rename, unzip, or choose a file to link to a resource by clicking the appropriate action next to a filename.
4 - Drop down menu and buttons along the bottom of the list:

  • With chosen files: after selecting files (marking the checkboxes) you can move them into a folder, delete them, or zip them into a single file for easier download or transfer.
  • Make a folder: creates a new folder at your current level in your file space. You can nest folders as many levels deep as you like.
  • Select all / Deselect all: checks or unchecks all of the checkboxes in the current folder. Note that the top level is simply the parent folder to any folders within it. As you open folders, you can move back up a level by clicking Parent folder.
  • Upload a file: opens the standard file dialog box and allows you to search for the file you want to upload to your course.

The maximum file size of any single to be uploaded is 20MB. To preview any file you have uploaded, just click its name in the file repository. Your web browser will take care of either displaying it or downloading it to your computer.

To change the contents of a file, edit it on your local computer then upload it again.

Important: if you upload a file that has the same name as a file that already exists on your site, your new file will not be displayed automatically. You must refresh your browser to see the new version.

Note: if your content resides on the Web, you don't need to upload files at all - you can link directly to your pages from inside the course. See the Adding Activities and Adding Resources sections below for more information.

Adding Resources and Activities

Resources and Activities make up the content of your course site. Activities are objects or assignments that you put in place for your students to respond to or interact with. Resources are objects and files that you put in place for your students to read or view. You can create simple text-based resources by typing directly into a form. A resource can also be any file you have uploaded, or any file you can point to with a URL.


To link to a file:

  1. On the drop-down menu, choose Link to a file or web site.
  2. In the next window, click the Choose or upload a file button.
  3. In the Files window, select a file from your existing files list, or add a new file, as follows:
    1. Click the Upload a file button.
    2. In the next window, click the Browse button, navigate to the file, select it, then click the Open button.
    3. When the correct filename is displayed in the window, click the Upload this file button.
    4. Back in the Files window, select the newly-added file from your files list.

To link to online articles:

Full-text articles in library subscription databases can be linked to from your Moodle course site.

Some of the library's full-text subscription databases allow you to create links to an article simply by using the URL you get when you retrieve the article. In other resources, like JSTOR, the database provide methods for generating stable URLs (a.k.a. persistent URLs) that can then be used for creating article-level links.

Once you have the stable URL, follow the instructions below for creating links to web sites.

To link to a web site:

  1. On the drop-down menu, choose Link to a file or web site.
  2. In the next window, if you know the URL of the web page, enter it in the Location field.
  3. If you don't know the URL, click the Search for web page button to open a browser window.
  4. When you locate the page, copy its URL, close the browser window, and paste the URL into the Location field.


Labels allow you you to insert text and graphics into the primary content column of a course site.


Building a course involves adding course activity modules to the main page in a logical order. You can change the order any time you like using the arrow icons.

To turn editing on: click the Turn on editing link under Administration, or the button at the top right of the page.

To add a new activity: go to the topic section or week where you want to add the activity and select the type of activity from the drop down menu.

After adding your activities, you can move them up and down in your course layout by clicking the little arrow icons next to each one.

You can delete an activity using the X icon , or edit it using the edit icon.

Summary of standard Moodle activities:


An assignment is where you assign tasks to students that have due dates and grades. Depending on the type of assignment, students will be able to upload one file to satisfy the requirements. The date a student uploads a file is recorded. Afterwards, you will have a single page on which you can view each file (and how late or early it was), and then record a grade and a comment. Half an hour after you grade a student's assignment, Moodle will automatically email that student a notification.

There are four assignment types in Moodle:

  • Advanced uploading of files: if you would like be able to comment on a student's file and upload the version of the file with your comments, choose Advanced uploading of files under Assignment type. This will still allow the student to upload a file, which you can then open and grade, but from the grade screen you will be able to upload the commented version. Students will see both their original and your commented version of their file.
  • Online text: this assignment type asks users to enter text using the normal Moodle editing tools. These assignments are graded online with the ability to add inline comments or changes.
  • Upload a single file: similar to the advanced uploading of files, this assignment type is more limited, allowing for students to upload one file. This assignment type also lacks the ability to upload files back to the student.
  • Offline activity: assignments don't necessarily have to consist of file uploads. You can create offline assignments to remind students of real-world assignments they need to complete. Currently, these "offline" assignments are used to record grades for activities that don't have an online component.


A Choice activity is very simple - you ask a question and specify a choice of responses. Students can make their choice, and you have a report screen where you can see the results. It is ideal for quick polls and class votes.


This is the module where discussion takes place. When you add a new forum, you must choose one of four different types: a simple single-topic discussion, a free-for-all general forum, a one-discussion-thread-per-user forum, or a question-and-answer forum.

Under "Force everyone to be subscribed", you can make the forum act like a list server, in that posting a message to the forum automatically sends an email to everyone who is subscribed.

Forums may also be used as graded assignments.

For additional information, see Adding and Using Forums in Moodle.


This module allows you to design and present quizzes consisting of multiple choice, true-false, and short answer questions. Your questions are kept in a categorized database, and can be re-used within courses and between courses. Quizzes can allow multiple attempts. Each attempt is automatically marked, and the teacher can choose whether to give feedback or to show correct answers. This module includes grading facilities.

Managing Enrollments

Any student registered for your course will automatically be enrolled in your course page. This applies to students who add a course late as well as pre-registered students. If you have a student who believes they are registered but cannot see the course page, contact Mel Regnell at 4217 or Jason Parkhill at 4213. 

Adding Students or Teachers

If you have a student assistant who is not registered for your course, you can add them so they can see your course site. The person must have a valid Colby email address.

  1. In the Administration block, click Assign Roles.
  2. Select the role you wish to assign (Non-Editing Teacher, Student, or Guest).
  3. On the Assign Role page, enter all or part of the name of the person you wish to add in the Search field.
  4. When the search is complete, select the correct name from the box on the right of the page, then click the left-pointing arrow to add that name to the list on the left.

Note: to unassign someone from a role, select their name on the left and click the right-pointing arrow

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