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The Ultimate How-To: Use Cohorts to Manage Access in Moodle

by Gemma Mellings on | Nov 28, 2013 | Moodle, Moodle Tips | 17 comments

In many large organisations, the ability to manage a number of users collectively and to control their enrolment is important. In schools for example, classes may need to be added to specific subject-related courses, or in large organisations individuals in different roles need to be enrolled in appropriate courses. Whatever the reason, using cohorts allows this to be managed efficiently.

Cohorts are site-wide (or category) collections of users that can be enrolled in a course in a single action. There are 3 stages to this process;

  1. Creating a cohort
  2. Adding users to the cohort
  3. Setting up the course enrolment

Note - as the Cohort sync enrolment method is disabled by default, it must first be enabled by the site administrator.

How to create a cohort in Moodle

  1. As an administrator or manager go into Site administration > Users > Accounts > Cohorts
  2. Click the Add button
  3. Fill in the Add new cohort form with the necessary information.
    • Context – choose from between System (site-wide) or a particular category limiting the cohort enrolment to courses within that category.
    • Cohort ID – a unique reference that can be used to add users to an existing cohort via a CSV upload.

How to add users into a cohort in Moodle

  1. From within the Cohorts page (see step 1 above), click the Assign users icon (icon with 2 heads) in the Edit column for the cohort you wish to add users to.
  2. Select the users in the right pane (you may need to search for them if there are many users in the site) and click the Add button. This will move users from the right pane (labelled “Potential users”) to the left (“Current users”).


How to enrol a cohort into a course in Moodle

From within the Course administration, go to Users > Enrolment methods and select Cohort sync from the Add method dropdown. Immediately, you are directed to configure the cohort sync – from the Cohort dropdown select the cohort you wish to enrol in your course.


All members of the selected will now be enrolled in the course, where they will remain for as long as they are members of that cohort.

While this is an effective way of enrolling students into a course, what if the site’s course access policy requires that users be able to choose their own courses but only if those courses are appropriate to their role or other limitation, e.g. language or role.

To allow any user to enrol themselves in a course, the enrolment method should be set to Self enrolment. If you then edit the enrolment method there is a setting called “Only cohort members” which allows the teacher to restrict self-enrolment to members of a particular cohort.


What Next

How to use cohorts to manage access in Moodle is one of the many topics we cover in our Online Moodle Training Courses.

If you would like to get more out of your Moodle site, we want to help. Call us on 0330 660 1111 or contact us via

Develop your Moodle skills further with our online Moodle Training

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