Moodle 2 Lesson Activity Showcase

This is part two of a three part series of Convergence blog posts on Moodle 2 Activities.

lessonThe Lesson activity may not be new to the Moodle learning management system, but it is new for most faculty and students at UCSF. The Lesson activity is used infrequently in the UCSF CLE, so why not showcase this valuable activity during the transition to Moodle 2? Like the Workshop activity, the Lesson is not for the Moodle neophyte.

What is a Lesson in Moodle and why would you create one in a CLE course? Lessons allow faculty to deliver content in a new and engaging way. Think of Lessons as a series of web pages that can be used to create a ‘choose your own adventure’ type of learning activity. Students may be prompted with a question and are then directed to another series of questions or content pages depending on their response. This is done through branching and has obvious potential for many types of simulation and other instructional exercises.

Here is the Cliff Notes version of how it works:

  1. Outline the Lesson using pen and paper, including flow and any branching
  2. Create Lesson and set parameters in the CLE (grading, flow control and availability)
  3. Combine Content Pages, Questions, Branches and Clusters to create pages that will make up the Lesson
  4. Make the Lesson available to students

And below is a list of the pros and cons of using Lessons in the UCSF CLE:


  • Self-directed learning opportunities for students
  • Scenario or simulation/decision-making exercises
  • Allows faculty to teach to different learning styles (Example: Give students the choice to read an article, watch video or listen to podcast all covering the same instructional content)
  • Use images, videos and other multimedia in Lessons via HTML or rich-text editor


  • Requires advanced planning and storyboarding
  • Not immediately intuitive to create

Let’s take a closer look at the steps involved in creating a Lesson activity. For this example, I will create a mock Lesson for a UCSF course.

8101280019_66de2cfacf_zStep 1 Plan and Storyboard: Due to the non-linear nature of most Lessons, it is highly recommended that you plan out your Lesson well in advance of creating in the CLE. Sketch out the content pages, questions and general learning path for your Lesson using pen and paper. This will drastically reduce the time spent building Lessons and will also minimize confusion and frustration for users participating in the Lesson activity.

Step 2 Create Lesson Parameters: Lessons are created just like any other Moodle activity; with editing turned on in the CLE course. A list of the more important Lesson settings is included below:

add_activity2Practice Lesson: Set to ‘No’ if you want to report quiz question scores to the gradebook. A practice Lesson does not appear in the gradebook.

Re-Takes Allowed: If enabled, students can attempt the Lesson more than once. This is a good option if you have created a long Lesson that students may complete in a number of attempts.

Progress Bar: If enabled, a bar is displayed at the bottom of Lesson pages showing approximate percentage of completion. By default the Progress Bar is turned off.

Display Ongoing Score: If enabled, each page will display students’ current points earned out of the total possible thus far. By default the ‘Display ongoing score’  is turned off for Lessons.

Dependent On: Allows access to the Lesson to be dependent upon students’ performance in another Lesson in the same CLE course. Any combination of time spent, completed status or ‘grade better than’ may be used as requirements for moving on to the next Lesson.

Step 3 Create Content Pages, Questions: Once a Lesson has been set up in the CLE, you are ready to begin populating with content pages and questions. LTG discourages the use of Microsoft Word when writing the copy for content and question pages. Instead, use a simple text editor and copy and paste into Moodle. Included below are descriptions of the main components for a Lesson activity:

Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 3.48.17 PM

Content Pages: Contains text, multimedia and ‘jump’ buttons that students can use to navigate. Most commonly used page in Lessons.

Questions: Multiple Choice, T/F, matching, and essay-style questions that can assess student learning and are recorded in the gradebook.

The workflow for populating both content and question pages are similar. When designing content pages, use any combination of text, images, links or embedded videos. The use of tables helps with formatting pages and maintaining a clean look and feel. When creating question pages, you will go through the process of assigning correct and incorrect answers, redirecting students and relative scoring. LTG recommends creating all content and question page shells first and then go back and populate the pages with content. This will help set up the navigation for the Lesson and is a more effective workflow for faculty.

Step 4 Set Up Branching and Clusters: Branches consist of a series of content pages. Students will typically “branch” off a Lesson path from a missed question and visit a series of pages for review before they are returned to the main Lesson path.

Clusters: A group of questions that can be offered in a randomized order to students as they work through the Lesson.

Faculty create branches and clusters under the ‘Edit’ tab after all content and question pages have been created. This is also where previously created content and question pages can be edited or deleted.

Step 5 Review: Click the ‘Preview’ tab to review the Lesson before making it available to students.

Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 3.49.51 PM

Step 6 Deploy: Let the non-linear learning commence!

Overall, Lessons have the potential to engage learners more than a traditional, linear PowerPoint presentation. Quizzes and Books created in Moodle 1.9 can also be combined to create a single Lesson in Moodle 2. Expect to spend 8 hours working in the Lesson activity to learn how to incorporate all features. To learn more about Lessons, please visit the resources identified by LTG staff listed below:

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