M10 - Reading List

Keywords: module readings, resources, library, journal articles, access, electronic, reading lists, required, optional  

Upgrade warning

Following the Moodle upgrade, the Reading List plugin was upgraded to LTI version 1.3. However, we retained the previous version for those that had already set up their reading lists for the academic year 2023-2024. When adding an activity to your course you will now see two buttons for Reading Lists: the usual "Reading Lists" button and the new "Reading List LTI 1.3 (NEW)" button. In order to use the new version, you need to add this activity to your course and add the links to your reading lists or sections afresh. You can continue to use the previous version until July 2024 but please be aware that this will be removed in August 2024, so you must ensure you have moved your reading lists over to the new version by then. 

What is it?

ReadingLists@UCL is an online service that gives students easy access to materials on their reading lists from any web connection and lets staff create and update lists whenever they need to.

Lists have a unique identifier - an 8-character code. Moodle editors use this code to associate the list with that Moodle course. This allows staff to connect students with the relevant digital materials including journals, databases, books and web-based resources. For materials not available digitally, students are instructed about borrowing a hard copy.

There are two ways to include lists in your Moodle course:

  • To link to one or more reading lists in their entirety, you include the 'Library Resources' block.
  • To link to a particular list or section within a list, you add a 'Reading List' activity (note this requires some maintenance in advance of each new academic year).

Why use it?

It avoids intellectual property issues, especially when used with the Library's Course Readings digitisation service.

It links students directly to Library and external items, with the option of presenting these in context in the body of your Moodle course.

This context allows you to give students extra guidance about, say, questions to keep in mind or theoretical lenses to adopt while reading.

Who can use it?

Staff with editing permissions in a Moodle course set up and display lists.

Anybody with access to that Moodle course can click through to the linked list items.

Before I start...

Either request a new reading list or arrange editing rights to an existing one via the Library's ReadingLists@UCL service (refer to ReadingLists@UCL for teaching staff).

Ensure that the code for your list matches the Portico Identifier in the corresponding Moodle course's settings (to get to the course settings, toggle Edit mode on and click on the Settings tab that will appear at the top of the page). If necessary, correct the Portico Identifier to match your list's code.

Don't worry, the Portico Identifier in your Moodle course settings doesn't affect which students populate your Moodle course - that is achieved through the Portico Enrolment block

To find the code for your reading list, sign into the ReadingLists@UCL service and note your list's 'Linked to' field. If you need help with this part, please contact readinglists@ucl.ac.uk.

How do I set up Reading Lists?

The 'Library Resources Block' gives a link to one or more reading lists

The Library Resources Block appears on the right of your main content and contains a number of Library links. It can be configured to display any reading list.

After finding your reading list code (see above) and checking that it matches the module's Portico Identifier, you then use the Library Resources Block in your Moodle course as follows:

  1. Go to your Moodle course and use the toggle switch to turn 'Edit mode' on.  
  2. On the right-hand side of the screen, click the arrow to ' Open the block drawer' . Check if the ' Library Resources block has already been added. If it has not been added , follow the instructions below.    

  3. In the block drawer on the right-hand side, click + Add a 'Library Resources' block.
  4. Click the ‘Actions menu’ cog icon, then select ‘Configure Library Resources block
  5. To add Additional Reading Lists enter the module code in lower case then click the 'Display' tick box.
  6. Select Save Changes
  7. Reading List details will display, including a link to the Reading List corresponding to the Portico Identifier in the Moodle settings.

Sometimes you want to display particular list items within the body of your Moodle course - the 'Reading List' activity enables this.

Tutors find this helpful when they wish to highlight a few resources at a time - such as weekly readings - in particular Moodle sections. If you've divided your reading list into sections, you can display those sections as well as individual items.

Here's how to display items within the main Moodle content area:

The 'Reading List' activity (previous version)

  1. Go to your Moodle course and use the toggle switch to turn 'Edit mode' on.   
  2. Hover your mouse pointer over the course area, where you would like the Reading List Activity to appear, and click the +Plus symbol (or go to the bottom of the Moodle section and click its Add an activity or resource link.
  3. Select Reading Lists from the list of activities.
  4. Enter the Activity name. For example, this could be the name of the reading list or a specific section that it's being linked to.
  5. Click Save and display.
  6. Click on the 'Start' button and enter the list code.  This will allow you to set up the link to either a reading list or specific section for your students to use.

Information on how the Reading List system works is provided by the UCL Library team and can be found by visiting ReadingLists@UCL.

The Reading List LTI 1.3 activity (NEW)

  1. Go to your Moodle course and use the toggle switch to turn 'Edit mode' on.   
  2. Hover your mouse pointer over the course area, where you would like the Reading List Activity to appear, and click the +Plus symbol (or go to the bottom of the Moodle section and click its Add an activity or resource link.
  3. Select Reading List LTI 1.3 (NEW) from the list of activities.
  4. Click Select content. The system will add an activity name once you have embedded your section or list, which you can edit later.
  5. You may be asked to authenticate again at this point. Click the Start button to log-in.
  6. Start typing the module code or title of the list in the search box.
  7. Select the list you want.
  8. Choose whether to embed a section or the entire list. 
  9.  If you want a section, select the section you want to embed, and click ‘Embed section’.
  10. Click Save and Display.

Further information on how the Reading List system works is provided by the UCL Library team and can be found by visiting ReadingLists@UCL.

Here is the library guide on embedding a reading list on Moodle using the LTI 1.3 activity.


A small but important amount of maintenance is required before each new academic year to maintain Reading List items links - see below and make a note in your diary to do this since it is easily overlooked.

What you need to do before each new academic year

At the end of each academic year, the Library makes a duplicate of your list for the coming year and archives the original. You can follow developments on the ReadingLists@UCL blog.

After the Library archives your list each summer and duplicates a new one, the Moodle 'Reading List block/activity' requires you to re-link the readings to the new list (this situation affects all institutions using the plugin - not just UCL).

If it is unclear to you whether the Reading List items link to the archived or current list, check as follows:

  1. Click on the link to the reading list.
  2. Choose an item from the list and click its title; this takes you to the item’s entry page on the reading list.
  3. In the right hand column of that entry page is the context of the item: “This item appears on List: …”.

  4. Click on the link to the List; the list page displays.

  5. There you can see an alert “This list relates to the academic year Academic Year 2021/22 which ended on 23/06/2022”, followed by “This list has a newer version. Click here to view”, and “This list has been archived”.

To mend links to reading list items so they point to the current reading list:

  1. For each Reading List item, edit its Settings; all possible Reading List Items from the current list display, with checkboxes.
  2. Select the item you need (there is a 'Select all/none' button that helps speed this process).
  3. Click Save.
  4. Repeat for each instance of Reading List items.

Further help

If you find any inaccurate or missing information you can even update this yourself (it's a communal wiki).

If you have a specific question about the tool please contact the Digital Education team.

Examples and case studies

Questions & Answers

How can I find out how students are using my reading list?

By logging into the ReadingLists@UCL service, going to the reading list in question and clicking on its Dashboard button, you can find statistics about the number of ‘clicks’ each item on your Reading List has had. 

As outlined above, items presented via a 'Reading List items' resource which is set to display embedded inline items are not counted in these statistics, but items set to display on a separate page are counted.

Trying to add the Library Resources Block but the Moodle Portico Identifier doesn't match the reading list code


  • you want to display more than one reading list, but there is only one Portico Identifier set up in the Moodle course settings.
  • the Moodle Portico Identifier for the module is ‘Aesthetics_module_A’ but the reading list has been set up with the 8-character module code AEST1234.
  • a MSc programme with a 12-character code (similar to ‘TMSGEOSAQV04’), that has one Moodle course and one reading list for the whole programme.

Follow these easy steps to manually add a reading list to the block:

  1. In the Moodle course containing the Library Resources Block, toggle Edit mode on. 
  2. Locate the Library Resources Block and click its Settings (cog) icon, and from the menu which displays click 'Configure Library Resources Block'; the block's settings display.
  3. For the 'Default Reading List', untick its 'Display’ checkbox. 
  4. Click on ‘Additional reading list 1’.
  5. Select Type as appropriate - either ‘Module’ or 'Programme'.
  6. In the ‘Code’ box type in the 8-character Portico module code or 12-character programme code.
  7. Select Save Changes
  8. The intended Reading List should display in the block.  If you get an error message that the 'Portico identifier is already used by another course...' this is easily resolved by appending an underscore or dash followed by a number to the code, e.g. ECON7003 becomes ECON7003_2 .
  9. Repeat as needed for other Reading Lists you want to display.

Error message that the 'Portico identifier is already used by another course...'

This is easily resolved. It happens because the contents of the Portico Identifier field need to be unique.

If adding a Portico Identifier to a new course within the Moodle course settings, to make it unique append an underscore or dash followed by a number - or any other characters, e.g. ECON7003 becomes ECON7003_2.

Further information