Now that we have covered the basics of setting up a course and adding content, we need to take a look at some of Moodle’s underlying capabilities. At first glance, this may seem like administrivia, but understanding roles and groups is one of the keys to unlocking Moodle’s full potential as a learning environment. A person’s role in a course determines what he can do—in other words, what capabilities he has. It’s a very powerful system, but it does have a bit of underlying complexity. You can use groups to create student workgroups, recitation sections, or any other arbitrary grouping you need to realize your learning design.
We will start by discussing roles, since anyone who wants to do something in your course needs to be assigned a role.
Understanding and Using Roles
This section covers the following MTC skills: 7.1 Enrolling participants; 7.5 Roles
The new roles and permissions system in Moodle provides you with a huge amount of flexibility for managing how students and other people interact with your course. In older versions of Moodle (prior to 1.7), there were only six roles possible: guest, student, non-editing teacher, editing teacher, course creator, and administrator. Whilst the new system supports these roles out of the box, it also allows you to create and customize roles, and to change what a given role can do in each activity. For example, you can now create permissions in individual forums, which allows you to let students act as moderators in one forum while you retain the moderator role in all of the other forums in your course.
If it seems a bit daunting, don’t worry. Using roles and permissions is something you can take slowly. You can start the usual way, assigning people as students, teachers, and other roles specified by your institution. Later, when your course design grows more elaborate, you can begin to experiment with overrides and assigning specific roles in specific contexts.
We’ll start simply, by assigning users to predefined roles in your course. Then we’ll take a look at the roles and capabilities system and later discuss how to use the advanced features.
Assigning Roles in Your Course
Most of the time, students will enroll themselves or be added automatically by your university’s enrollment system, so there shouldn’t be much need for you to manually enroll students. However, if you need to add a teaching assistant, an outside guest, or a student who is having a problem with financial aid, you must manually enroll them, i.e., assign them a role in your Moodle course.
By default, teachers are only allowed to assign the roles of non-editing teacher, student, and guest. If you want to assign the role of teacher, you will need to ask your system administrator for this to be allowed.
To assign a user the role of student:
Click “Assign roles” in the Administration block.
Choose the type of role you wish to assign, e.g., student
On the “Assign roles” page, there are two columns, as shown in Figure 4-1. The left column lists users who currently have that role, and the right column lists users who don’t.
Users must have an account on your Moodle site before you can assign them a role in your course. If they don’t appear in either the existing or potential users list, they will need to create an account before they can be assigned a role.
Between the two columns is a hidden assignment checkbox next to an eye icon, for hiding which role a user is assigned to so that the user doesn’t appear in the list of course participants. Click the checkbox before assigning a role if required.
Role assignments are not hidden from admins or teachers. They can always see who is assigned a role in a course.
Hidden assignments are also useful if you don’t want everyone with teacher rights to be listed in the course description on the front page of your Moodle site.
Figure 4-1. Assigning a role
Find the student you want to add to your course in the righthand column. You can limit the list by searching for the student’s name or email in the Search box below the righthand column.
Select the student’s name from the list and use the left-facing arrow button to add the student to the list in the lefthand column.
You can add multiple students by holding down the Shift key to select a number of students in a row. If you want to select multiple students who aren’t listed next to each other, hold down the Ctrl key (or Apple key on a Mac) and click each name you want to add.
Students will have access to your course as soon as you assign them a role. They won’t need to have an enrollment key or to confirm the enrollment.