Moodle Survival Guide

Welcome to Moodle! To get you started we’re going to go over some basic interface skills so you can get the most out of exploring your options in an online course before moving onto good habits and what tools may help you implement those habits!

Use your mouse to explore

Pay attention to how your mouse/cursor appears when you move it around the screen. It will almost always change—and give you some insight as to what you can do—when it can interact with whatever you are hovering over (such as the I-beam cursor you see when you can enter text.

  • Hand with pointing finger indicates a button or link; clicking there will do something. This is especially handy when links don’t stand out from the surrounding text. The URL of a link may also appear in the bottom left corner of your Browser, so you know where you’re headed.
  • Four-pointed arrow indicates some Drag-and-Drop or movement-related ability. Clicking and dragging may result in different responses.
  • Hover over icon buttons for tool tip text explaining what a button is or does. A lot of symbol-only interfaces can be confusing for new users, knowing that you can hover over an icon to get a written explanation can provided needed context.

Know where to look for help

We send out emails before each term (from with reminders and links to our checklists, as well as notes about upcoming updates and any associated downtime. Please read them! They contain vital information to help you successfully navigate the upcoming term.

You may notice an icon after some items in Moodle. Click the circled question mark to reveal more detailed explanations about the item and/or its settings.

Some Moodle pages will darken and load a pop-up window called User Tours. These pop-up windows help guide first-time users and/or inform more experienced users of changes within Moodle. They may also appear for just-in-time announcements on rare occasions. Please read them.

After a User Tour ends, you can always review the tour again by clicking on the “Reset user tour on this page” link at the bottom of the page.

Look for the Faculty drop-down menu in the red Moodle Primary Navigation Bar. The drop-down items contain key information for faculty, such as contact information for Moodle support, step-by-steps and troubleshooting for our most frequently asked questions, and helpful links and resources.  We advise checking this menu regularly as some steps may update or change after a term ends or Moodle applies an update. Be sure to review the Start of Term and End of Term checklists so you can make sure your courses are ready as soon as you think your preparation is done.

Identify what you can make changes to

In almost any application you can look for menus and buttons to make changes to what you see. Generally in Moodle, you will first need to Turn editing on to make any changes. Once you’ve done that, Moodle tends to rely on Edit and Settingssometimes with a menu with more options such as a down arrow, drop-down menu, or three vertically aligned dots. Smaller changes, like editing titles, may be controlled with a pen/pencil icon.

Sometimes these items are not plainly displayed to save space, but you can usually find them inside another menu.

Learn more about Editing in Moodle.

Understand who can see what

Many applications have different roles to access different content. For example, there are many instances in Moodle where teachers can access items that students cannot; this is usually indicated by items being hidden from students. These hidden items will appear grey or ghostly and will sometimes (but not always) be labeled as such. There will usually be an eye (open or closed) symbol or language like hide, show, hidden, visible, and available to indicate if an item in Moodle can be seen by students.

Look for the tell-tale…

  • transparency/greying of text
  • the available/hidden labels
  • options like “User view” or “Switch Role” to see things as your students might.

Learn more about Moodle Roles and Moodle Visibility.

Communicate with your students

It’s especially important in an online environment that you regularly check-in with your students so they feel welcomed and supported. Here are some suggestions:

Class-wide messages

Class-wide messages are a great way to welcome students to your course, provide standard college-wide reminders (like enrollment deadlines and holidays closures), and course announcements (like upcoming deadlines, projects, or important meetings).


Timely feedback

Students need timely feedback on work so they can improve… which is an important part of learning.

  • Keep your Moodle gradebook up-to-date.
  • You can provide built-in feedback for some Moodle activities, such as the Quiz activity where you can provide separate feedback for both quiz questions and responses.
  • Create and use a Rubric for Forums or Assignment activities.
  • Create a grading key with common feedback and markings you can copy, paste, and modify as needed to point students in the right direction without wearing yourself out.
  • Help students track their own progress with completion tracking.

Check-in with struggling students

Students may/may not realize they’re falling behind so reaching out to them first can make a difference to their success.

  • Message at-risk students to start a conversation.

Try to use tools as intended

No one tool will fit your every need. Use the tools as intended… and you can save lots of time down the road in terms of accessibility, device compatibility (desktops, laptops, smart phones, etc.), and consistency across courses for students and faculty. If you have to “hack” a tool to make it work, it’s not the right tool and will likely result in frustration later on.

Need help? Please email and we’ll share what insights we can to maximize Moodle functionality and efficiency going forward.

Common mistakes include…
  • Tables in text editors should be used for data only, not to manipulate the content presentation/display. Misused tables can be confusing for students and can result in badly-distorted content.
  • Manually created lists may break over time (or on other devices) and can be unwieldy to update.
    TIPS & TOOLS: Use built-in numbered and bulleted list formatting for a clean and consistent look.
  • Provide image descriptions (alt text) or captions for important graphical content. Both provide invaluable information when the image does not load or its link breaks.
    TIPS & TOOLS: Leave the description blank if the image does not convey any valuable content (such as a logo). Alternately, always provide another format of the critical content in the image description, caption, or body text.
Some Moodle tool quirks to consider…
  • Label resources are meant to be short; longer labels may be automatically truncated. Labels are ideal for headings, separators, aesthetic items, and non-vital reminders or hints.
    TIPS & TOOLS: Imagine you are using a physical label maker. Use Labels to draw attention to content in something like a Page, Book, or File resource.
  • Blocks are meant to carry secondary information, NOT vital content as it may be displayed after the center column on smaller screens or not at all in some themes.
    TIPS & TOOLS: Blocks can be located on the right side of your course content; they are NOT front and center where critical information is located. Consider repeating important Text Block content in a Page resource (or your course Syllabus) to ensure easy access for all.
  • Large files (such as video, audio, or high-resolution image) will slow things down if Moodle is tasked with hosting them.
    TIP: Consider using Kaltura, YouTube, or Google Drive or Sites to host your large video, audio, and high-resolution image files. This will make your course respond quicker for students, as well as speed up the copy course content process for you.

Ready for more? Check out our Welcome to Moodle articles for a more in-depth look at tools commonly used in Moodle, or see some of our articles that are overviews of available Moodle tools. This is a great place to explore some of the options available to you!