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How to Build your Moodle Course Quickly

by Gemma Mellings on | Feb 05, 2015 | Blog, Moodle Tips, Moodle | 0 comments

Creating your Moodle course can be a timely affair so in this post I am going to focus on ways that you can speed up the process and at the same time make your courses consistent in terms of how Moodle content is displayed.

How to set course defaults in Moodle 

You may have to ask your site’s administrator to do this, but setting course defaults at a site level make it quicker to create multiple courses and to set course level behaviours.

Course defaults

In Site administration > Courses > Course default settings you can set most of the default settings in the course settings page. The following are examples of commonly changed default settings;

  • Course format
  • Number of sections
  • News items to show
  • Completion tracking

Changing the course format to Topics or Single activity format is common for short courses, for example, compliance courses for organisations or product summaries for retail companies. These courses often use a small number of sections, some just a single section, so it is often the case that this could be reduced from 10 to just 1 or 2.

If you do not use News forums in your Moodle courses, make the News item to show setting 0 as this suppresses their creation in new courses. Enabling Completion tracking allows you to immediately decide whether or not you use this feature when you create activities in your course – just because it is enabled doesn't mean you have to use it!

How to set activity defaults in Moodle 

Making sure that you use the same settings for all your activities, particularly if there is a site-wide policy in place, can be time consuming. For example, if it has been decided that all files are downloaded and not displayed in some other way, then this can be set in the activity default settings - in Site administration go to Plugins > Activity Modules > File and from the Default values for activity settings make the Display setting, Force download.

It is worth having a look at the settings for each of the activity types as there are hidden values that you may wish to use for your course content, for example, you might want to use pop-ups for Page resources occasionally or to change the Description from being required a field – our clients often mention this as an inconvenience when adding content.

How to manage your course files in Moodle 

Creating your images before creating your actual activities is a quicker way of creating your Moodle content as it keeps you on the task at hand, but to upload a zip file and extract them in your Private files allows you to add them easily to activities and resources in all the courses where you have an editing role. Once you have finished creating your Moodle course, you can remove the My private files block.

Drag and drop has improved since its introduction so if you have Moodle 2.3 - 2.6, make sure you have Ajax enabled so you can use this functionality. For those who are on earlier versions, you can add the Drag and drop file upload block to your site.

If you have a file that you want to make available to learners, then you simply have to drag your file over the course page and drop it. This creates a File resource with the default settings (hopefully you will have changed this to how you want them ) and link text which will be the filename.

Drag and drop files

Of course, if you didn’t have the foresight to make the file name the same as the link text you wanted on the course page then you can always use another time-saving feature; edit the link text by clicking the pencil icon – press Enter when you have made the changes.

Changing an activity's link text

Using drag and drop for other files will have some different effects, for instance, dragging a SCORM package onto the course page will create a SCORM activity, a zip file containing files will create a folder resource and extract the files into that folder, and images will give you the option of either adding the image to a new label and showing it on the course page or making it available as a file resource. All these save you the time of having to create the activities/resources.

Image file - the choice of displaying or adding them as a File resource

How to use existing content in Moodle

One great way of saving time is to duplicate activities you are using elsewhere, whether from the same Moodle course or a different one.

Duplicating activities in a course allows you to create another instance of that activity with all the same settings. One example of this could be a quiz that you are using for formative assessment in a course, i.e. as part of the learning process, and you wish to duplicate it so that it acts as a summative assessment at the end of a topic too. Note, in this example, you may want to change the questions or, if randomly selected, make sure you have enough questions in the question category for both quizzes and perhaps change the feedback options.

Creating duplicates is straight-forward as you may know; from the Edit setting dropdown on the course page, click Duplicate and a copy of the activity appears below the original.

Duplicating an activity

Duplicating activities between courses can be achieved in a couple of ways; by importing the activity, or by backing it up in its current position and restoring it to another Moodle course.


Importing an activity starts by clicking Import in the Course administration section of the Administration block. Once you have chosen the course you want to take the activity from and selected exactly which activity you want to import, a duplicate of that activity will be created in your current course. You may have to move it as it will be in the same section it was in the original course.


Backing up activities can be done from inside an actual activity which certainly makes the content of the backup file easier to select if you just want a single item.

The backup process can also be used to save time and promote consistency across courses by creating a template course.

If you have a course that you wish to use as a template for other courses on your site, then you could create a backup of this course and restore for subsequent new courses. In your template, you might want to include departmental groups for your learners, each with its own group enrolment key for example, an HTML block with the contact information for support, or activities common to all courses (or at least most) like a glossary of key terminology.

If you are based in a school or college and you create new courses for all your classes/subjects at key times of the academic year, you could use the Upload courses functionality to create your different Moodle courses and select your template backup, or identify your template course, to be used for each new course. Such a time saver!

How to add site items in Moodle

Adding certain items at a site level can, over time (and if you remember!), make some things easier and quicker for you. A couple of examples that spring to mind are RSS feeds and gradebook settings.

As described in a previous post, RSS feeds can be used to add additional related articles to a course. If these feeds are added at a site level by the administrator, then all the feeds should be available to every teacher in their courses, allowing them to reuse feeds and not have to search to find the URL each time they are to be added to an RSS block. It should be said though that by default, RSS feeds added by a teacher in one course, will be available to that same teacher in other courses but other teachers will not be able to access them.

Scales can be used to assess learners’ contributions in, for example forums. Creating scales at a site level (tick the Standard scale checkbox when creating the scale, permissions permitting) will mean that teachers can reuse existing scales – also nice for the learners to see consistency across courses.

Making scales available site-wide

I certainly hope that this has given you a few ideas for ways that you can speed up your course creation and to get more consistency between courses. 

What Next

We cover all the above on our popular Course Creator and Moodle Administrator courses if you wish to look at these features in more depth.

Happy Moodling!

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