M01a - Moodle course formats

Keywords: course format, structure, topics, tabs, tabbed, collapsible, collapse, drop-down sections, accordion, grid, one, single, chunk content.

What is it?

The course format changes the layout of the main content area of a Moodle course. The blocks then appear alongside. You can choose from the following formats:

  • Topics format - the default option. Topics appear one under the other and can be collapsed.
  • Onetopic (Tabs) format - topics appear one at a time with a tabbed menu at the top of the course page. 
  • Grid format - topics appear one at a time with a 'grid' style graphical navigation of the course page.
  • Weekly format - you set the course start date and the sections are then automatically named with dates. This format is rarely used, as it doesn't allow you to use sections without a date, e.g. for general information, or assessment.
  • Flexible format -  topics appear one at a time with a 'grid' style graphical navigation of the course page, with short titles, and an optional progress bar. Clicking on the graphic brings up the content from the corresponding topic in a “one topic per page" style display, allowing linear navigation to the previous and next topic.  

Why use it?

Depending on your mode of delivery and the structural approach employed, the use of alternative course formats can create more logical or engaging layouts. Courses with a large amount of content and learning activities may benefit from the Onetopic (tabs) format, reducing the amount of material that is visible on the page at any one time.

Who can use it?

  • Tutors
  • Course Administrators

Before I start...

Check with your department whether there is a standard departmental Moodle template that you should use, which will determine the course format as well as common section headings. If a departmental template DOES exist, it is a good idea to use the course format defined in this template, since it provides students with consistency across their Moodle courses. This helps both students and staff to find information for each module, as they are familiar with the sections used in other modules. For example, a Moodle template will help students understand where to submit assessments and where to ask for help. If you would like a Moodle template developed your department, please contact Digital Education.

Meeting the baseline

The  UCL Connected Learning Baseline  suggests the following for  Structure : 

  • 1.4 Use a Faculty or Departmental template to provide a consistent layout and experience for students and staff. These provide a starting point to help staff meet this baseline but may be modified to suit the course being delivered. 
    See Before I start for further information.

How do I set one up?

Change course format quick guide

  • Go to the Moodle course, select the Settings menu 
  • Expand Course format and choose your preferred format (for accessibility reasons the Topics format  is now recommended for Connected Learning Baseline (CLB) compliance):

    • Topics format  -  Topics is the most commonly used format. The course is organised into topic sections that a teacher can give titles to. Each topic section consists of activities, resources and media and text areas.
    • Onetopic format (Tabs)  - Tabs show one section at a time with an optional tabbed navigation at the top of the page. Tabs work particularly well when you have fewer than 8 sections, and/or you keep the titles short. If there are many tabs, or they have long titles, they tend to push down onto 3 lines on a computer screen and it becomes difficult to navigate, especially for students with dyslexia. Unfortunately, Tabs are not ideal for screen reader users and sub-tabs are completely inaccessible. 
    • Grid format  -  Grid displays a grid of clickable images that link to each of your course sections. The format comes with a set of default colours, icons, and blank placeholders for the images. Their style and behaviour can be edited in the course settings. More information can be found at the Grid format Moodle plugin page.
    • Weekly format  -  The course is organised week by week, with a clear start date and a finish date. Moodle will create a section for each week of your course. You can add content, forums, quizzes, and so on in the section for each week.  TIP: If you want all your students to work on the same materials at the same time, this would be a good format to choose.  NOTE: Make sure your course's Start Date is correct. If it is not your Weeks will display the wrong dates.  This is especially important if you are restoring a course to use with a new section of students.  If you change to Weekly format from another course format, only newly added sections will show the week date headings.
    • Flexible format   -  This format hides all topics and creates a grid of graphics (one for each topic) with short titles, and an optional progress bar. Clicking on a graphic brings up the content from the corresponding topic in a 'one topic per page' style display, allowing linear navigation to previous and next topic.  
  • Select your Formatting options :
    • Show all sections on one page: all topics are displayed on the page, one after another.
    • Show one section per page: one topic is displayed per page, with topic headings visible and acting as a link to each preceding and subsequent topic.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save and display

Further help

Further guidance on Course formats is available from Moodle Docs.

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.


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Examples and case studies

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Questions & Answers

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Further information

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