Thinking about Moodle course design

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be responsible for the design of a Moodle course site. This will be the first time in almost 5 years that I’ve been the academic responsible for a course site, the first time in Moodle and in fact the first time in an “LMS” I didn’t design. Add to this my on-going feelings of discomfort about the affordances of Moodle’s course structure (scroll of death etc.) and the observation of some truly ugly Moodle course sites and I feel the need to be further informed.

The following is a collection of sites and resources I’ve gathered to inform my design of the course site. What have I missed? What are the really good resources for Moodle course design?


  • A very recent effort from Mark Drechsler that gives a introduction to the basics concepts of Moodle course design.
  • Some material from the University of Ballarat (which I’ve referenced previously), very basic background.

Avoiding the scroll of death

  • Video showing how to “Make your Moodle course page look like a webpage”.
    This feels like the “workaround” solution to me. It’s a case of using the linking capability of the web and some unexpected aspects of Moodle (if you reduce # of topics to 1, the other topics remain but aren’t visible) to workaround Moodle’s actual supposed structure.

    I believe this “working around” bites you in the rear-end when you go to copy the course for the next offering. The “workaround” links tend to point back to the resources/activities from the last offering, not the current, which leads to all sorts of confusion.

    Another video that uses the same “unexpected aspect” for something a little different.

  • Description and video of a similar, but slightly different approach to improving navigation.
  • The collapsed topics course format is somewhat related and as it happens is installed at USQ.
  • A blog post that combines a bit of design 101 with four Moodle design strategies.
  • A blog post showing some of the alternate course formats.


  • A presentation on best practices for course design.
    The principles include:

    • Don’t use more than 3 font styles per page.
    • Maintain consistency.
    • Don’t use the course page for content.
    • Do use the course page as a launchpad.
    • Don’t be the one doing all the work (I didn’t get this one).
    • Do let the students participate and collaborate.
      Ahh, the problem with the previous point is a site that contains only content and no ability for students to do something on the site.
    • Don’t make folk scroll side to side.
    • Make sure the content fits.
    • Don’t forget about the value of logs??
    • Don’t over do the activity names, keep them short and sweet.
    • Use labels to guide students.
    • Don’t be afraid of white space.
    • Use topic summaries for titles.
    • Don’t force users to scroll and scroll and..
    • Use images to enhance your course.
    • Simplify delivery.
    • Don’t be afraid to branch out???
    • Give your learner’s completion tracking. (a Moodle 2 feature I believe)
      i.e. turn on a Moodle feature for them to “tick off” what they’ve done.
    • Don’t overdo the conditional activities.
      I think the Moodle dailies breaks this one.

Up a level

The following resources take a step back and connect the low-level task of layout the Moodle course site with the broader task of designing the course.

  • Joyce Seitzinger’s Moodle course design: a high-wire act presentation from Moot’NZ.
    Gives a good “best practice” overview of how an institutional environment/process should work with academics working with learning designers (use appropriate word).

    Does have links to some useful resources. Especially the very useful Moodle tool guide.

  • Article in the IRRODL journal title “Universal instructional design principles for Moodle”.


  • Also from this week is an article describing some “cool course design” from the University of Sussex.
    Seems to break the blocks and scroll of death model. Includes pointers to example sites you can login as guest.

    It appears that this is achieved through a new course format called pages. Which I believe means that the local Moodle admins would have to install the course format into Moodle before it would be available. Apparently Moodle 2.3 will have this.

  • The Moodle dailies.
  • A Moodle instance that lets you see three different course formats (social, topics, and weekly) in Moodle.

4 thoughts on “Thinking about Moodle course design

  1. @steve_collis shared a trend at his school where image maps are being used to implement visual metaphors for Moodle courses.


    It appears that there is direct linking to the activities. Related to the first two videos shown under “avoiding the scroll of death” heading.

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