Reverse detail from Kakelbont MS 1, a fifteenth-century French Psalter. This image is in the public domain. Daniel Paul O'Donnell

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How to grade quizzes anonymously in Moodle

Posted: May 02, 2015 16:05;
Last Modified: May 02, 2015 16:05


For years I’ve wanted to grade quizzes anonymously, but I could never figure out how to do so. Finally I have, within the Uleth setup.


What the documentation says

First my sources for this. There isn’t a lot of discussion about this in the manuals that I can see. But by searching for “viewidnumber” (the setting you need to find) I found two posts.

Both of these seemed opaque to be because I couldn’t figure out what the setting quiz/grading:viewstudentnames meant. Where was quiz? The reference to “non-editing teacher” seemed some how useful, however. But it took a while to find it.

How to set up anonymous grading

Go to the setting for the quiz you want to mark anonymously

The first step is to go to the settings page for the quiz you want grad anonymously. This means clicking on the quiz you want to grade anonymously (figure 1).

Then go to the Permissions page.

In the “Settings” menu box box, select “Permissions” under “Results” (the formal path for this is “Quiz Administration”>“Results”>“Permissions,” though I can usually go directly to “permissions”; See figure 2).

Scroll down to “Manual grading”

On the permissions page, scroll down to the very bottom until you see “Manual Grading Report” (figure 3).

Delete “Non-editing teacher” from the “See student names while grading” list.

Once here, you need to delete “Non-editing teacher” from the “see student names while grading” list. You do this by clicking on the little garbage can beside “Non-editing teacher” (Figure 4).

Confirm your choice and then after the permissions page comes back go back to the test you want to grade (there are many ways of doing this, including scrolling to the top and clicking on the name of the quiz in the breadcrumb at the top (figure 5).

Change your role to “non-editing teacher”

Once you are at the quiz again, scroll down to “Quiz settings” again. This time, click on “Switch role to…” which will then expand to give you a list of options (figure 6 6). Select “Non-editing teacher.”

Grade as normal: You won’t be able to see the students names

You can now grade as before. The difference is, this time you won’t be able to see the students’ names beside their answers (figure 7). If you wish, I believe you can also turn off the student number as well, though I haven’t bothered since I have got those memorised.

When you are finished grading or wish to see names, switch role back to normal

When you are finished grading or wish to see the student names, you can always use the settings block from figure 7 to switch your role back to normal.


Blogging in Moodle

Posted: Sep 04, 2014 16:09;
Last Modified: Sep 04, 2014 17:09


In many of my classes, I ask students to blog within Moodle. Blogs within Moodle are visible to the whole community. It is also possible, using an RSS feed, to broadcast your blog outside Moodle.

There are two parts to using blogs in Moodle: composing blogs and reading the entries of others.


Composing a blog and associating it with a class

Ensuring your blog is associated with the class

There are two types of blog postings in Moodle: blogs that are associated with classes and those that are not. When you are being asked to blog for a specific class, it is important that you associate the blog with the relevant class. If you don’t, your instructor and classmates will have no way of seeing your blog unless they search your profile looking for it. In my classes, I don’t count blog entries that I have to go looking for.

Edited screenshot showing link to add blog entry in Moodle The best way of associating your blog with a class is to use the link found within the class space in Moodle. If blogging has been enabled by your class instructor, you should see a menu block somewhere on the page that looks something like the one illustrated here (in my classes this menu is usually in the top right corner).

On this menu, there are two links that take you to the blog composition interface: “Add an entry about this class” and “Add a new entry.” Of these, the one you should use is the top one, “Add an entry about this class” (highlighted in red in the above image). If you use this, a tag is added automatically to the blog, which groups it with the entries from the other students.

Using the blog interface.

You can write your blog in the provided interface or write it offline and paste it in the text box. I usually use the interface, but it is always possible if you do that that you will make a mistake or there will be a system error and you lose some or all of your work. For that reason it is smart in Moodle to save your work periodically.

The blog interface looks more or less like a wordprocessor. There are also options for working directly with the HTML code (useful for complicated pages, if you know what you are doing) or using various wiki-style markups (e.g. as in the Wikipedia, or using Markdown

Reading your classmates’ blogs

If you use the correct link, your blog will be associated with the class. This means that your fellow students (and I) can find it easily. You navigate to the class blogs using the same menu you used to associate your blog with class (i.e. as in the image above). This time choose “View all entries for this course.”


Managing class webpages and mailing lists at the University of Lethbridge

Posted: Aug 26, 2014 11:08;
Last Modified: Sep 16, 2015 12:09


For years, every class at the University of Lethbridge has been given webspace and a mailing list. The now also get a Moodle space. While the mailing list and Moodle space is well-known to instructors (it is the list “” that you use to make announcements to the class as a whole), the webspace is far less well known. This document (mostly a reminder to myself) shows you how you can use online tools to manage these resources.


If you do nothing

First thing is to realise what happens if you do nothing. A student you has found your course online through the registrar’s office and wants to know more about your section goes through the following depressing sequence:

Default Sequence of Class Websites

The thing to realise is that this is bad for everybody. It tells the student nothing, meaning they might decide not to take your course (and even if they do, poor websites leave a bad impression). But if they persist, it is going to mean more work for you: the only thing they can do to find out what they were looking for is back up one page, then following the links for the instructor until they find your email address and send you an email asking about something you could have easily posted online.

So it is a good idea to get in the habit of fixing this space… even (and perhaps especially if) you have a class webspace elsewhere on the internet. This is a first port of call for many students. You can easily make it a helpful one.


To manage your classes, you first need to login to the admin page:

There you will see the following login page:

Class Administration Portal

A successful login will take you to a splash page which, apparently, shows you the current (or most recent) and upcoming semesters:

Class Administration Splash

It is from this page that you will manage your mailing lists and class webpages.

Managing your class webpage

First thing to do is manage your class webpage.

You have three options here:

  1. delegate it to somebody else on campus (a student, the department administrator, etc.)
  2. redirect it to some other URL (e.g. an off campus blog, your on-campus personal space ($USERNAME)
  3. default to the current page (in which case you will add something to the current space)

Class Administration Web Page Management

Upload pages to your default webspace

The most difficult if the third option. This will require you to upload individual HTML pages to the space for this one class—and do it again year after year. If you want to post a PDF there, then you have to upload at least two pages (and maintain them by hand): an HTML page explaining something about the site and containing a link to the PDF page, and the PDF. This is very 1995 and so not something you want to get started on.

You so don’t want to do this, that I’m not even going to say how. If you really want to, call 2490 and ask IT for help. But seriously, you don’t want to do this.

Delegate to somebody else

This is really easy: you simply enter the username of the person you want to maintain the site (i.e. the bit before the @ in a email address). When you click save, this person now can manage your site for you.

This is just punting the problem, of course: the big difference is that now you delegate has to decide whether to upload a single page (which they probably still shouldn’t do, even if that is no longer your problem) or redirect somewhere else.

Redirect to another webspace

This is probably the best option: point the class space to somewhere else where it is easier to manage things. This could be an external blog that you use to manage your teaching (e.g. at or some other blog site), your personal uleth webspace (i.e. at$USERNAME), or even your class Moodle or Turnitin site.

Mailing list management

You can also manage your mailing list from here. You can change the posting permissions and the membership.

Class Administration Mailing List Page

Posting permissions

Your options here are

  1. Anybody on the entire internet can post to your class mailing list
  2. Anybody who subscribes to your class mailing list (normally the instructor(s), T.A.s, and all registered students) can post to the list
  3. Only Instructors can post to the list

The first option is an invitation to spammers and should only be used under very special circumstances—so special in fact that I can’t think of any.

The second option is the default option and it works well for most.

The third option makes sense if you have trouble with students misbehaving on the list (e.g. sending spam or unauthorised messages) or if you want to deemphasise the list in favour of some other communication platform (e.g. the blog and forum capabilities in Moodle). If you select this, then the list becomes a one-way channel, useful for announcements for which you don’t want any feedback.

Subscription options

This is the important set of options. You can use this to add people to the default subscription list for your class (i.e. the teacher(s), T.A.(s), and registered students.

You have two options here:

  1. add additional teachers
  2. add additional students

The first option adds subscribers to the list who will have “teacher” privileges. This is only meaningful if you have set the posting privileges above to “teachers only.” Under those circumstances, any email addresses you add here still will be able to post. You might want to use this to add additional T.A.s (perhaps unofficial ones) or guest speakers to the list.

The second option is the one you are likely to use more often. This is where you can add additional, unregistered students (e.g. friends, members of the community, etc.).

If you keep the default permissions (i.e. that anybody subscribed to the list can post), then it actually doesn’t matter to which category you add people. The important thing is that you can add people to this important tool.

Adding TAs to Moodle

Another task you may need to do early on in the semester is adding TAs to Moodle. The instructions for doing that are here.

In short, however, the method is as follows:

  1. Go to the Moodle space for the class you want to add a TA to (i.e. log in to Moodle and select the class you want for your TA).
  2. Once you are inside the class, click on “Users” in the “Settings” block. On the University of Lethbridge’s default installation, this block is on the left hand side, bottom (in the default view) or second from the bottom (if editing is on).
  3. Clicking on “Users” expands the menu item. Under “Users” you will see “Enrolled Users.” Choose that.
  4. On the “Enrolled Users” dialogue screen, you will see a small button, “Enroll User” at the top of the form on the right hand side. Click that.
  5. In the dialogue that appears, select the type of user you are trying to enrol (in this case, that means Basic TA or Advanced TA) then using the search form, look for your TA’s name (they must be in the U of L’s system).
  6. After you click “search,” all users matching your search term will show up in the window. Find your TA and click on the “Enroll” button to the right of their name.
  7. Repeat the previous two steps for each TA you want to add.

When should you do this?

The best time to do this is just before the registration period opens for next semester. This is when students are going through the registrar site, looking for classes and the time when an appropriate redirect will have the maximum benefit.


Dangerous bug in Moodle

Posted: Apr 19, 2014 12:04;
Last Modified: Mar 04, 2015 05:03


Just discovered a dangerous bug in the Moodle essay question template.

About the essay question edit screen

When you write an essay question in Moodle, there are a couple of different boxes on the form:

The question goes in the top. Then you have the “General response” (something the student usually can see when the results are released). Then the “Response Template,” which can be used for including text you want to appear in the answer box as soon as the question loads for the student (e.g. text like “Type your essay here”). And finally a grader box, where you can include tips for the grader (this shows up on the grading screen right above the student’s answer.

The problem

The bug involves the Response Template box: text entered there is difficult to delete. In particular, the fact that this box is empty on the “edit question” screen ‘’‘doesn’t mean the previous content is not being shown to the student’‘’.

I discovered this by accident: I had accidentally entered the grader tips into the response template box. When I realised my mistake, I went back and deleted the content of all the template boxes (by either “cutting”—i.e. <ctl>+x—or copying—<ctl>-c and then back spacing the text away).

But when I previewed the questions, the response template content was still showing up in the answer box, ‘’‘even though it was not visible in the template form box on the edit screen’‘’.

The solution

To solve this you need to do the following:

  1. go to the top left corner of the response box (that is probably where your cursor will start if the box has no visible content)
  2. holding down <shift>, move your cursor to the right, the way you would if you wanted to highlight existing content.
  3. delete the “highlighted text” (in fact, you won’t see any and your cursor won’t travel because there is no text visible in the box) by hitting the <bacspace> key.
  4. type in a few spaces to provide new, meaningless, content for the response template.
  5. save the question.

When you preview the question, the content of the answer box should just be the spaces you entered. I assume (but haven’t checked) that you can then go in and remove the spaces.

Discovered this ust before an exam went live. Whew!


How to add a twitter feed to Moodle

Posted: Sep 12, 2012 15:09;
Last Modified: Sep 12, 2012 15:09


Like many Digital Humanists, I use twitter a lot: for communicating with colleagues, the general public, and my students. Like most users of twitter (certainly most academics, I suspect), my most common type of tweet is probably one in which I share a resource I have come across—a book, article, website, project, etc. Since I use our university’s Moodle installation to store resources for my students, it would be quite useful to be able to capture a Twitter feed inside our Moodle class space. This post shows how to do it.

Although Twitter appears intent on destroying its main raison d’etre and selling point—the fact it is easy to use and embed in third party applications—it has not quite succeeded yet. Until recently, sharing a Twitter feed was quite easy, since your user page was itself a feed. In the last year or so, as Twitter has worked at making their service less useful, they have gradually removed all direct access to postings as an RSS or ATOM feed. They have attempted to replicate this functionality through a custom widget they have created. Since this widget appears to want to gather information about the page it is on, however, it appears unable to accept password-protected URLs such as universities typically use for their LMS installations (at any rate, it would not accept the U of L’s Moodle URL).

Although it is apparently not advertised, it still is possible to grab Twitter feeds as ATOM or RSS through the URL. Using the URL. The URL and syntax for an RSS feed is where q= is followed by an appropriate term (see below). For ATOM the URL and syntax is

Here are some standard types of searchers you might want to do, from the excellent posting at The Sociable

Find tweets containing a word:
Find tweets from a user:
Find tweets to a user:
Find tweets referencing a user:
Find tweets containing a hashtag:
Combine any of the operators together:

It is also possible to go far beyond this: The sociable also has ways of combining these with geographic locations and regions!

Getting this feed into Moodle is quite simple:

  1. While in your course, turn on editing
  2. Scroll down to the “Add a block” control
  3. Select “Remote RSS Feed”
  4. Fill in the necessary fields and click on “Add feed” to point at custom search you want to use.
  5. Save everything.

Eventually, you should see your feed show up in the Remote Feed box you added to your course (I say eventually, because the default refresh time in Moodle is 30 minutes).


How to "clone" a test in Moodle 2.0

Posted: Mar 27, 2011 21:03;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 19:05


Here’s how to clone a test in Moodle 2.0 (i.e. make an exact copy so that both appear in the course; this is useful for making practice tests or copying a basic test format so that it can be reused later in the course):

  1. Backup the test. Exclude all user data but include activities, blocks, and filters.
  2. Select “Restore.” Your backup should be listed under user private backups. Simply restore the file to create a second instance.
  3. Treat one of the instances as your clone: move it, edit it, change its titles and questions. It is a completely independent version of the original file.

Organising Quizzes in Moodle 2.0

Posted: Mar 27, 2011 21:03;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 19:05


Moodle 2.0 allows designers to divide questions into pages. But while this introduces great flexibility, it can be quite a cumbersome system to use at first. Here’s a method for making it more efficient:

  1. When you first build a test, put all questions on one page.
  2. Once you have the questions in the order you want, divide the test into different pages by selecting the last question for each page and selecting the “Begin new page after selected question.

This will cut down on your server calls (and hence time) immensely.


Differences between Moodle and Blackboard/WebCT short answer questions

Posted: Mar 27, 2011 20:03;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 19:05


There is an important difference between Moodle and Blackboard (WebCT) short answer questions that instructors should be aware of, namely that Moodle short answer questions allow only one answer field.

This means, for example, that you can’t easily import blackboard questions of the type “Supply the part of speech, person, tense, and number for the following form.” In Blackboard, you can present the student with four blanks for them to fill in, each with a different answer. When these are imported into Moodle, the question is converted into a form in which there is a single blank that has four possible correct answers.

There are various ways of asking the same kinds of questions in Moodle. The easiest when you are dealing with imported questions is to ask for a single quality in each answer. So instead of one question asking for part of speech, person, tense, and number, you might have four different questions, one for part of speech, another, for person, a third for tense, and a fourth for number.

A second way of asking this kind of question in Moodle is to use the embedded answer type. These are harder to write, but are arguably closer to the paper equivalent of the same type of question:

For the following Old English word supply the requested information:


Part of Speech: ____________
Tense: ____________
Number: ____________


Multiple Choice Questions in Moodle

Posted: Mar 27, 2011 18:03;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 19:05


Here are some tips for the composition of Multiple Choice Questions in Moodle.

  1. If students are allowed to mark more than one option correct and you intend to include at least one question where none of the offered options are correct, include as a possible answer “None of the listed options.”
    1. Do not call it “none of the above” since if (as you normally should) you have selected “shuffle answers,” you have no guarantee that it will be the final answer in the sequence.
    2. You should include this option in all questions in the set (including those for which some of the options are correct) to avoid giving the answer away when it appears.
    3. When “none of the listed options” is not the right answer, it should be scored at -100%, to avoid a student hedging his or her bets by selecting it and all the other answers.
  2. If you anticipate having a question for which all the answers are correct, you do not need a “All of the listed answers,” since selecting all will give students 100%.
  3. The correct options should be scored so they add up to 100%, of course!
  4. Incorrect options (exclusive of other than “None of the listed forms”) can be scored in a number of different ways:
    1. So that the total for all incorrect options (except “none of the listed forms”) is -100% (this stops a student hedging his or her bets by selecting all options); if you do not have a “none of the listed options” answer, you almost certainly should score this way.
    2. So that each negative is the reciprocal of a correct answer, regardless of whether all the incorrect answers add up to -100%. Use this if you don’t mind that a student selecting everything except a “None of the listed options” might end up with part marks.

How to build a randomised essay/translation question in Moodle 2.0

Posted: Mar 20, 2011 16:03;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 19:05


In my courses I often use a question of the following format:

  1. Common introduction
  2. Two or more sample passages or questions requiring an essay response
  3. A common form field for the answer to the student’s choice from #2.

Here is an example:

Write a modern English translation of one of the following passages in Old English in the space provided below.

1. Hæfst þū ǣnige ġefēran?
2. Hwæt māre dēst þū? Hæfst þū ġīet māre tō dōnne?

[Essay answer box for translation].

The point of this format is to provide the student with a choice of topics. If students all write their essays or translations at the same time, you can build your choice of topics by hand and write them into a single question. The challenge comes if you want to be able to allow your students to write the test asynchronously, as is common with Learning Management Software. In such cases you want to be able to draw your essay topics or translation passages randomly from a test bank.

All the basic elements you would need to do this are available in Moodle, both 1.x and 2.0+. You can use the “description” question type to put in the general instructions at the beginning; you can use the essay format question to provide the answer box. And you can use Moodle’s ability to assign random questions to draw your topics or translation passage from your test bank.

But there are also some problems:

  1. Description questions are unnumbered, meaning your introduction will not start with the question number
  2. Although there was some discussion before the release of Moodle 2.0 about allowing description questions to be randomised, this appears not to have been implemented. All questions that can be randomised must have an action associated with them. This means that every topic or translation passage must ask the student to do something. And also that each topic or translation will have a number.

What I do is the following:

  1. I write the introduction as a description question (and just accept that it has no number assigned).
  2. I write my translation passage or topics as “true / false” questions. Each consists of the topic or passage, followed by the question “I am writing on this topic/passage…” as the prompt for a true/false answer.
  3. I use the essay topic question to provide the common answer box. Since you need to have some text in an essay question, I use an anodyne instruction like “Write your essay/translation in the following space” to fill out the question.
  4. I assign a grade value of 0 to the two random topic/passages and assign the full grade value of the question to the essay answer box. The result is not elegant, but it works.

Manual Grading of All Questions in Moodle 2.0

Posted: Mar 20, 2011 11:03;
Last Modified: Mar 04, 2015 05:03

  1. From the main course page, select the quiz.
  2. From the quiz page, scroll down until you see the number of attempts made this should be a hyperlink.
  3. Select the hyperlink; you will now see a table of results. In the navigation block in the left hand frame select My home > My courses > [course name] > [Week or topic in which quiz is found] > Results > Manual Grading
  4. When you select this you are presented with the questions for manual grading. New in Moodle 2.0 is the option of hiding names and pictures; unfortunately this doesn’t affect the actual presentation of names under the “mark all instances” page.

How to setup a signup sheet in Moodle

Posted: Mar 15, 2011 14:03;
Last Modified: May 23, 2012 19:05


You can create a signup sheet for Moodle using the “Choice” activity.

A video showing how to do this can be found here:

In brief, however, here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to the section of your course in which you want the signup sheet to appear.
  2. With editing on, select the “Choice” activity.
  3. Fill in the title and description information.
  4. If you are restricting attendance, set the “Limit the number of responses allowed” option under “Limit” to “enabled.” Setting this allowed you to set how many people are allowed to choice any one option. If it is disabled, any number of participants may sign up for any particular session.
  5. Each “Option” represents an entry on the signup sheet. Write in the date and time (or anything else you require) in the “Option” field and, if you have enabled limits, the maximum number of participants for the entry in the “limit” field. If you need more than the standard five options, select “Add three more options” after you’ve filled in the first five.

How to do stuff in Moodle

Posted: Mar 15, 2011 12:03;
Last Modified: Mar 04, 2015 05:03


Here’s a very good site at Furman University for common, specific tasks in Moodle:


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