Design Best Practices

Your Moodle site has the potential to be a visually appealing and efficient platform for class interaction. The center section of your site contains topics, resources, and activities. The side sections of your site contain blocks for navigation, scheduling, and information. The following guide gives recommendations on how to customize your site. Be sure to turn editing on before making changes.

Appearance and Content

The overall appearance of your Moodle course is determined by your topic formatting. Your course can be organized by weeks, topics, or several other formats described in topic and section formatting. One of the best formats is collapsed topics. This format allows students to quickly access a topic without doing lots of scrolling. Once you have formatted your topics, you can begin editing each section.

Introductory Section

At the top of the page, add a course title and a relevant photo. These provide an introduction to your course, engage students in course themes, and set the tone for your site. You can add a summary that may contain the professor’s name, an optional 3-4 sentence course description, and links to 2-3 main course documents. Make sure the introductory section is small enough so that you can see the beginning of the first week or topic without having to scroll down. The following steps describe how to edit the top section’s title and summary.

  1. Navigate to your course homepage and turn editing on.
  2. To change the introduction section, select Edit on the right hand side. (If you already have content in the introduction section, the edit settings gear will appear on the left hand side instead.)
  3. You can now edit the topic name and summary.
  4. Save changes when you are finished.


Add a relevant photo or graphic to each topic or week. Alternatively, embed a video. These introduce the theme for the week and engage students to think about new course topics. A brief amount of text summarizing the topic is optional. Many different types of resources and activities can be added to each topic, including files, pages, surveys, and assignments. Resources can be organized using labels. The following steps describe how to edit a topic’s title and summary.

  1. Navigate to your course homepage and turn editing on.
  2. Select Edit in the upper right corner of the topic.
  3. You can now edit the topic name and summary.
  4. Save changes when you are finished.


In the introduction section and each topic, you can upload a variety of resources. These are the core content of your course. Each is described below.

  • Book: Multi-page resource in a book-like format, with chapters and subchapters. May contain media files and text. Best for lengthy passages.
  • File: Generic place to upload files. Displays within course interface when possible. Students must have appropriate software to download and view files if necessary.
  • FolderDisplays a number of files inside, reducing scrolling on course page.
  • LabelText and multimedia may be inserted between other resources and activities. Can improve appearance.
  • Page: Webpage created by teacher in text editor. Displays text, multimedia, links, and embedded code. Easier to access than files, especially for students on mobile devices. Recommended for smaller amount of content than book.
  • URL: Provides a web link to any freely available online page. May be documents or images instead of just a webpage. Can be added via other resources too through the text editor.


In Moodle, there are a variety of blocks in the left and right sidebars for navigation, news, calendars, scheduling, and lists of links. Some of the blocks are standard for every course site, but course designers can move, delete, and add blocks as desired.  In addition, the designers can create their own blocks, and St. Olaf professors often add blocks to improve navigation, add links to departmental information, and gather links to other Internet sites that provide more background information for the course.

Organization of Content

If a topic is longer than two screens, consider putting some of the information in a Moodle webpage rather than adding it all as labels. Similarly, if you have a long list of documents or resources, consider putting them together in a folder.

Interactivity and Communication

In Moodle, activities are the various types of things that course participants do. At St. Olaf, professors often have their students upload assignments, participate in chat sessions, write responses in an online forum, or take online quizzes. Experiment with Moodle’s various communication tools to determine what might benefit you and your students.

  • Assignments: Offline assignments that students must complete without a computer and online assignments that require students to upload digital content (text, image, audio, or video files) or type text directly into the text editor. Teachers can give feedback online and record grades in the gradebook.
  • Chat: The chat activity module enables participants to have text-based, real-time synchronous discussions. Chats are especially useful when the group chatting is not able to meet face-to-face, such as sessions to help students prepare for tests where the teacher, or other students, would pose sample questions
  • Choice: An activity that allows teachers to ask a single question and offer a selection of possible responses. This activity may be used as a quick poll to stimulate thinking about a topic or to quickly test students’ understanding.
  • Database: Collection of entries structured by fields created by students.
  • Feedback: Custom survey for collecting feedback from participants. Created by teacher. Responses may be anonymous if desired.
  • Forum: Online threaded discussion (standard forum, one-topic forum, question-and-answer forum). Participants may subscribe to receive notifications of new posts. Posts can also be rated by teachers and peers.
  • Glossary: Online glossary created by the professor or by students. This can be used as a study resource of facts, terms, or concepts to remember.
  • Journal: This activity enables teachers to obtain students’ feedback about a specific topic.
  • Lesson: A set of content pages or instructional activities that offer a variety of paths for users. These may be used for self-directed learning of a new topic or differentiated review that adjusts questions based on previous answers.
  • Quiz: Self-correcting quizzes (multiple choice, true-false, cloze, matching, etc.)
  • Scheduler: This activity helps you in scheduling appointments with your students with specified time slots. A grade can be assigned to the meeting.
  • Survey: Pre-populated survey instruments. Teachers who wish to create their own survey should use the feedback activity module.
  • Wiki: An individual or collaborative activity that allows students to add and edit a collection of web pages.
  • Workshop: An activity that enables the collection, review, and peer assessment of students’ work.


If you teach two sections of a course, send an email to to request a metacourse. It is more efficient to manage one metacourse instead of updating two identical sites.


Now that you have considered what will make your site tick, you can learn about editing icons you will see while adding course content.