How to use Moodle resources and activities to present difficult concepts and new vocabulary

Part of becoming a new student in HE requires learning new concepts and vocabulary quickly. Often experts in a field can talk and write in acronyms, abbreviations and shorthand and sometimes forget that some concepts are completely alien to students new to a subject or discipline. In the past it is likely that new vocabulary and concepts were introduced via lectures, seminars or just plain Word documents. However, within Moodle, there is a great opportunity to introduce new vocabulary and concepts using its inbuilt resources and activities so that students can learn these new skills in a variety of ways, be it audio, visual, quizzes, glossaries, discussions etc. and anytime, anywhere. Here are some ideas of how to use Moodle’s resources and activities to present difficult concepts and new vocabulary to your students. Please note that you will find guides on how to set up each one of these activities and resources in the Staff Resource Area on Moodle.


The glossary is much more than just a fancy word list. It is in fact a powerful tool for learning. The glossary module has a number of features that make it easy for you and your class to develop shared vocabulary lists, add comments to definitions, and even link every appearance of a word in a course to its glossary entry. Some more ideas for using the glossary:

  • Unit vocabulary list – help students learn new vocabulary
  • List of abbreviations
  • Collaborative glossaries – each student can be assigned a word or definition to research and contribute to the glossary
  • Small projects – students create an encyclopaedia-style entry in the glossary, including pictures and other resources

A Moodle area can have one Main glossary and as many Secondary glossaries as you like. You could create a Secondary glossary for each new topic and then combine them into the main glossary so by the end of the year you will have a fantastic resource that students can use for revision. If you Automatically link glossary entries, then each time that entry appears in Moodle, you can click on it and the definition or concept will appear. If you want to give credit to student entries, you can also Allow entries to be rated.


The quiz is another Moodle activity that springs to mind to test students’ growing knowledge on new vocabulary and concepts. A lot of staff have already successfully been using quizzes for summative assessment. However, there is a lot of scope for using quizzes formatively within a Moodle area. For example, you can set the quiz to run in Adaptive mode. This means that students can answer a question until they get it right. If you provide feedback for each correct and incorrect answer and let students take the test as many times as they want, they will be able to start answering the questions correctly. This is especially effective if the answers to the questions are common misconceptions and mistakes that are easily made by students when they are introduced to a new topic or subject. You can also see whether it is individual students who are having these problems or the cohort and address the problems accordingly before the summative assessments. Some more ideas for using quizzes:

  • Flash cards – recreate flash cards in an online quiz so that students can continually test their knowledge
  • Abbreviation multiple choice questions – have the right answer along with common misconceptions as possible answers to avoid easy guessing. Remember to leave feedback so that students know where they went wrong
  • Short quiz after each new topic – test students’ understanding of a new concept with a short quiz after the lecture to easily identify individual or class misconceptions

The great thing about creating the questions for the quiz is that you can re-use them and use them across units.


A forum is an asynchronous discussion area. A perfect tool to explore difficult concepts and vocabulary with peers and tutors.

  • Define and use the words – each student can define a concept or use new words in a sentence to make sense of them. You can change the forum settings to allow students to see each other’s posts only after they themselves have posted to the forum
  • Grade posts – you can grade how well students used new words in their forum posts
  • Researching a concept – get students to research a unique concept and post their findings to the forum. Other students will benefit from the class’ work. You can also get students to work in small groups to research a concept, agree on a definition and then amalgamate all students’ work into one big forum for the whole class to benefit from the exercise.

Insert a label / Compose a web page

Remember, you don’t always have to create everything yourself from scratch. There may be a great video on YouTube or a Podcast that explains a concept perfectly. There might be a website that already has a great list of vocabulary that your students would benefit from. Luckily, it is easy to link external media into Moodle using Insert a label or Compose a web page.

These are just a few suggestions on using Moodle resources and activities to present difficult concepts and new vocabulary. Please feel free to comment with your suggestions below.


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