Presenting content in Moodle: Files

moodle-logoOne of the problems facing teachers using Moodle is how to present content when there’s a lot of it. Typically they have a set of weekly or topic blocks and start adding links, files and page into the blocks. Pretty soon they have a long list of resources and it becomes off-putting and hard for the student to find anything. The ‘hide block’ buttons can help but for various reasons I won’t go into here they are less than ideal.

My approach is to move as much clutter off the front page as possible. The best way to do this depends on the nature of the content involved. In this post I’ll look at ways to manage content which is based on files: eg PDFs, text documents, etc. These files might be readings or templates for project work. Ideally, the process would be something like this:

  1. If you’re really well organized, you can create a directory structure on your hard disk with all the course content files in a directory structure. All the files should have meaningful names and the directory structure reflect the topic structure of your course. If the files belong in a certain order, start the file names with a number: eg 01-project-plan-template.doc. The directory structure could all be inside a folder called (say) XXX-course-files where XX is the Moodle short name of the course.
  2. Next, create a zip archive of the whole directory structure – in Mac OS, go to the parent directory and right-click on XXX-course-files. Choose Compress “XXX-course-files” which will create a zip archive of the whole directory structure inside that one folder.
  3. Upload this file into the files area of your Moodle course. If you have lots of files inside the directory structure, this may take a while.
  4. When the zip file is uploaded, click the unzip link next to its name in the file list. This will unpack the directory structure.
  5. Now you can create links in the course topic areas to individual files, or better still use Display a Directory in the Add a Resource popup menu to create a link to the subdirectory which matches the topic you’re editing.

Using Display a Directory means you can avoid having long lists of files on the front page of the course. Students are generally familiar with files within directory structures, so provided the files are well-named (see above), they’ll have no problem accessing them. And the front page of your course will look much more user-friendly.

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