Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: online course developer

Roles in Moodle

Do you often feel baffled by the many roles and privileges of your role in Moodle. Are you clear about what the definition of your role is and what it allows you to do? For example, do you know the difference between the ‘Non-Editing Teacher’ and the ‘University Admin Staff’ role? Did you know that there’s a PhD student role titled: ‘Student-Teacher’? Have you ever wondered what the difference is between the ‘Unit Reviewer’ role and the ‘External Examiner’ role?

I hope that this blog will give you answers to some of these questions. Although while the roles themselves shouldn’t change, some of the processes might be different in the summer, due to new systems and upgrading. New features are added and old tools are upgraded to improve functionality of Moodle at the end of August, this is when Moodle is taken down for a couple of days. This year the date for the Moodle upgrade is week commencing 24th August. We try to encourage anyone with an active role in Moodle to attend our training sessions, although our sessions cover more then just Moodle. To see the description of all the sessions we run, go to the Department of Curriculum and Quality Enhancement (DCQE) website and click on the TEL Training Calendar. 

Differences between the roles:

The Lecturer 

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is mainly given to content creators.

  • What are the privileges?

The main privileges of this role is the person can add, edit and delete the content within the site. It allows the person with this role to view hidden and visible content, along with being able to complete activities and view student activity reports on the site. This role can also switch between roles so that they can see the view, of a lesser role or a role that is equal to them.

On most sites in Moodle, the Lecturer’ role is given to the person responsible for the information on the module. This is normally the module co-ordinator, but not always, for instance a Project or Dissertation module may have many lecturers updating key information onto the site as each may be responsible for certain areas, or different groups of students. 

The Non-editing Teacher 

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is given to lecturers, who teach on the module, but do not have to update or upload content onto it.

  • What are the privileges?

This role has four privileges, the person can view hidden and visible content, along with the ability to complete activities on the site and the capability to view student activity reports.

The ‘Non-editing Teacher’ role may be given to lecturers and in some cases PhD students who teach on the module, although a new role has been created titled ‘Student-Teacher’ role so that they are more identifiable. The person with this role may be permanently on the module or acting as a substitute, but there would be no reason for them to touch the content on these sites. The ‘Non-editing Teacher’ role is occasionally given to external examiners, rather than the ‘External Examiner’ role, as this role can see hidden content, which the ‘External Examiner’’ role isn’t able to view. 

The Student-Teacher

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is only given to PhD Students. 

  • What are the privileges?

The privileges of this role are very similar to the ‘Non-editing teacher’ the only difference with this role is they cannot view student information including their activity. 

The ‘Student-Teacher’ role is for PhD students who are assisting with the teaching programme of the module. The main reason for the role was PhD students needed a greater level of access than a student, but couldn’t have a ‘Non-editing teacher’ role as they would then be able to see student information.  The ‘Student-Teacher’ role cannot see any of the students activity reports, emails or details for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) purposes.

The University Admin Staff

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is given to members of the Department of Student and Academic Administration. 

  • What are the privileges?

This role has the same privileges as the ‘Lecturer’ role, they can add, edit and delete the content within the site. They can view hidden and visible content, along with being able to complete activities and view student activity reports on the site. This role can also switch roles whilst on a site so that they can see the view of a lesser role or one that is equal to their role.

The role of the ‘University Admin Staff’ has increased across the university with administrators needing to use Moodle for reporting or analytic purposes as well as inputting some key information.

The Student

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is given to any participant taking the module. 

  • What are the privileges?

This role has two privileges, they’re able to view visible content and able to complete activities.

When students are uploaded onto modules in Moodle through Student Records they are automatically given the ‘Student’ role. The ‘Student’ role is also given to members of staff when they are given access to core training sites in Moodle.

The Student (Interest only)

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is given to participants taking the module who have not been added to the module through Student Records, unless asked otherwise in their request. 

  • What are the privileges?

The privileges are the same as the ‘Student’ role, they’re able to view visible content and to complete activities.

Participants might be given access to this role if they’re taking the module for interest only, or have directly come into the University at a different year and need to view the modules to help understand the content of the course. The ‘Student (Interest only)’ role is used where marks received from these modules are not necessarily going towards their end grades. This role is not linked to the students’ timetable, MyPort etc. 

The Senior Online Course Developer

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is given to the Senior Course Developer 

  • What are the privileges?

As you can imagine this role has all the privileges of the ‘Lecturer’ role and more. They have the ability to change site names and module codes along with adding blocks into categories. This role can enrol some users manually and unenrol non-student enrolled users and add tags which attached cohort of students onto sites. They can also backup and restore existing sites and roll over sites for the new academic year.

The ‘Senior Online Course Developers’ role is a new role, created towards the end of last year. This role has been created to help channel and monitor requests for Moodle accounts, who is assigned what role and why that level of access is needed.  This is carried out in conjunction with eLearn.

   The Online Course Developer

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is given to Online Course Developers.

  • What are the privileges?

This role has the same privileges as the ‘Senior Online Course Developers’ role, the only difference being is they cannot manually add Moodle accounts onto sites.

The Unit Reviewer

  • Who is this given to? 

In the past this role has been given to the Associate Deans (Students) and members of the staff leading on the Blended and Online Development Team. In addition, this role is given to auditors, externally and internally to the University.

  • What are the privileges?

This role can view visible and hidden content.

The External Examiner

  • Who is this given to? 

This role is given to external examiners that are not based at the University. 

  • What are the privileges?

This role can view visible content, completed activities and view activity reports.

External examiners don’t normally need to see hidden content, so it was requested that we create a Moodle role that has the ‘Non-editing teacher’ role benefits without seeing material that they do not need to see.

The Guest

  • Who is this given to? 

The role is given to people who just want to view a module.

  • What are the privileges?

This role only has one privilege and that is to be able to view visible content. 


Roles and Responsibilities in Moodle

Moodle – Roles and Responsibilities Table

Please Note: The privileges shown on this grid are for Moodle version: 3.7.1


Lecturers, do you know you can change the role description in a module?  

If you wanted to change the name of the ‘Student’ role to read ‘Participant’ or the ‘Lecturer’ role to read ‘Facilitator’ or ‘Author’ or even ‘Non-editing Teacher’ role to read ‘Tutor’, it’s easy to do. However, be aware that when you change the role description that everyone with that role will have the new title.  

How to rename the roles:

Click on the module that you wish to make the changes in, then:

  • Click on the Action menu cog (top right hand side)
  • Click on Edit Settings
  • Scroll down
  • Click on Role renaming
  • Find the role and type in the name that you want the role to change to
  • Click on Save and display 

This will change everyone on the module with that role to the new name.

Disclaimer: The privileges of these roles were correct at time of publication. 

which role(s) apply to you?

Image Credit: Photo by Roel Dierckens on Unsplash

Image Credit: Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Becoming an Online Course Developer

Given various constraints experienced by both learners and training providers, online learning appears to be a growth opportunity. I have lost count of how many ‘online course developer’ (OCD) positions have been advertised over the years within the University and similar vacancies regularly appear elsewhere. Each vacancy is hotly contested, so what does it take to get into online learning as a developer? How can you give yourself the best chance of being offered the position? And is it really the dream job that many applicants claim it to be?

Firstly, I should say the various ‘online course developer’ positions are not all the same. Tasks and responsibilities can be very varied, depending on the team/department/faculty/institution you are in as well as the types of courses you support. So it is worth finding out more about this beforehand. Strictly speaking, the role is to create courses which are studied (either wholly online, or partially as blended learning delivery) via the internet. You are not expected to be a subject expert writing the materials, although an enthusiasm or understanding for a particular subject will make your role a lot easier and more enjoyable. Your expertise should lie within learning technologies – beyond that you will need to read the job specification…

Factually, that’s about all I can say. However, this post would be a little on the short side if I were to stop there – so I’d like to offer some insight drawn from my own work experience. Note: I make no promises and bear no responsibility for your application (especially if I am on the interview panel)! Still, what have you got to lose?

Firstly, why do I feel I can offer advice on this topic and why should you listen? After all, throughout my working life I have written fewer application forms and attended fewer job interviews than statistics suggest that I should have (reference ‘dream job’ from paragraph 1). What this does mean is that I have experience in the role, as I have worked for the University of Portsmouth for over a decade starting in an administrative position that gave me a great basic understanding of University operations. This is something that is reflected in how often I refer OCDs back to their course administration teams to follow procedure, rather than agreeing to apply what might appear to be a quick fix – if a shortcut was the way a task was supposed to be done then it would already be the way to do it.

In July 2008 I became the University’s first ‘eLearning System Support Officer’ taking responsibility for the day-to-day operations of our first virtual learning environment (VLE) – WebCT. Since then our VLE’s have changed (from WebCT, to Blackboard, and then to Moodle) and so have my job titles (eLearning System Support Officer, Online Course Developer, Educational Technologist and Senior Educational Technologist). I have witnessed first-hand the growth of online learning and the increased requirement for the online course developer role. When the University switched from Blackboard (which we branded Victory) to Moodle for the 2012 academic year, we recruited 20 online course developers and the number of posts has continued to grow since then.

Candidates for those original positions had to endure an Excel numeracy/spreadsheet test, a paper-based proofreading task and an online assessment before their formal interview. The selection process has changed since then and usually now requires candidates to give a presentation before a formal interview. That said, do not underestimate the importance of proofreading and attention to detail as mistakes in your application form and/or presentation will be noted – so be warned! The spreadsheet test has also been removed, although interviewers will be expecting to see evidence of digital literacy and organisational skills, so if these are not evident in your presentation make sure you bring examples of each into your interview answers. Another topic that often comes up at interview is ‘communication’ – chances are you already have some answers prepared for this, do they involve communicating online via forums and web conferencing tools such as Webex, Skype or Google Hangouts?

Moving away from ‘transferable’ skills, what specific knowledge or skills do you require for online course development? I would be very surprised indeed if you had never encountered issues with access to online material. This statement from Tim Berners-Lee, W3C (look this up!) Director and inventor of the World Wide Web, describes the ambition of accessibility “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”. For a ‘development’ role you should familiarise yourself with ways to negate visual, hearing or other sensory impairments, limitations of mobile devices e.g. screen sizes (if these are your intended audiences), bandwidth limitations and requirements for internet connectivity. There may also be other geographic or political limitations placed upon accessibility. If you are required to give a presentation at your interview make sure it is accessible to you, or you will have to give a very good interview to get the job!

Another consideration that should always be at the forefront of your mind is copyright. This is a large subject, and one in which I don’t pretend to be an expert, so if in doubt – look it up. There are various helpful sources online, and the University Library also has some friendly staff who can advise on copyright. You would not be silly enough to include anything in your presentation without copyright clearance, would you?

Creativity is an attractive quality in a developer – however don’t lose sight of functionality. A lack of creativity and design flair may leave materials dry and unengaging, whilst a lack of functionality will not just lead to a lack of engagement but complaints and demands for refunds! Why not check out H5P and let your creativity run wild on HTML5-compliant browsers.

Many appointable candidates show an independent drive for self-enhancement and as a result many skills are ‘self-taught’ – the University’s site-wide licence for may help with this! However, if you cannot evidence particular skills or experience in answer to an interview question the panel will not know that you possess such a skill. Utilise your application form to display evidence of skills by attending training sessions. The Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team offer a diverse range of training to staff on all of the technologies we use at the University – much of it aimed at development of materials that would be  particularly useful if you do not already work in that area. Evidence of undertaking ‘online learning’ via a massive open online course (MOOC) could also differentiate you from other candidates. Check out Coursera or Futurelearn for a list of courses from a range of providers.

For some OCD posts you will be required to give training sessions. Presentation skills are a transferable skill and are receiving great emphasis within many of the courses offered at the University these days. Based on requests over the last couple of years, I have had a need to develop a system and workflow to facilitate the recording and assessment of student presentations in a simple and timely manner, so that lecturers may provide written feedback to students enabling them to review their own performance. Check out Assessed Video.

Many years ago I was a participant on a course to develop skills in training others. What I took away from that training was that the key to presenting is confidence. You acquire confidence by having faith in yourself and what you are saying – so do your homework. Preparation is everything. If you work through the job specification and can answer ‘yes’ or ‘I have that’ to everything, then you have a right to not only be in that room but to be confident that you deserve to be there auditioning for the role. Run through your presentation beforehand at home, you may find it helpful to record yourself – phones make wonderful video cameras these days (you might even try the TechSmith Fuse app). The first time you watch it back you will probably be horrified by the number of times you ‘um’ and ‘er’, so try the presentation again and speak more slowly. Do not be afraid of silence, as natural pauses help your audience follow what you are saying. If you need a little help why not try one of the ‘presentation speaking’ workshops run by the Academic Skills Unit.

You must be aware of delivery methods for the materials you produce. This may be via a SCORM package, but will most likely be delivered via the University’s VLE. We use Moodle, which is an open-source package so there is no excuse for not being familiar with it. You can download a copy ( and play with it yourself on your personal computer or play around with a demo site from

Finally – technology moves fast! I hope you have found what I have written to be a good starting point, but that you are already thinking about what the latest developments are. After all, you want to be a developer, don’t you? Good Luck.



Tim Berners-Lee. Retrieved from 25th July 2017

Faculty vs Central: Perspectives of an Online Course Developer

What’s this about?

I joined the University as an OCD about five years ago, and have worked since then in the central TEL section to provide first-line support for the University’s VLE. Having recently taken a 4-month secondment to the Faculty of Technology as a Senior Online Course Developer (OCD), I thought I’d take a moment to share the experience.


An OCD’s job here in the TEL section is quite varied and ‘bitty’, with a little less focus on big projects (Educational Technologists fulfill that role here). Skill-wise I’ve been using a variety of languages and tools (PHP, Javascript, MySQL etc) and various Office/content creation apps (Flash/Captivate/Articulate and the like).


Where are my units!?

The first thing that struck me was that I’d lost access to all units University wide. Whilst I had no mandate to work on units outside of the Technology faculty, I instantly missed being able to quickly find a given unit and check something out. I found myself having call TEL each and every time I ‘quickly’ needed to jump to a given unit to get something. This probably affected me in particular because I’ve worked on various non-standard Moodle sites across all faculties – but it does make me wonder whether all OCDs should have read access for all units? Wouldn’t it be a good thing if OCDs could see what their counterparts in other faculties are doing? It might help spread best practice (and perhaps even spur some friendly competition).

Hands tied

As a centrally based OCD I’m used to having various problems come my way, typically discover that a systemic problem is affecting other instances across whichever system, and then investigate and resolve. As a faculty OCD the process is simply to report it to central and then sit and wait. Most ironic was that it would have been myself picking these tasks to investigate in TEL. So I found myself being more cautious than I’d hoped with the suggestions and advice I gave to academics.

Missed opportunity

As the secondment was primarily out of necessity more than opportunity due to an expectedly reduced team, we didn’t really get the chance to work on anything major. We also had main exams on which had to take priority. I could see we were critically just one or two people short of a proper OCD team capable of looking after and running what is actually a surprisingly large department’s worth of units. Ultimately we had no real scope for proper project work and due to the focus on exams, we ended up as little more than curious extension to the CAM Office admin team! But this was more a product of the circumstances than the department itself.

Senior role differences

Whilst the actual increase of responsibility of the Senior role was relatively minor, it did entail a different way of thinking – I had always to try and think of the larger picture. It’s certainly a different style of working than writing code – and, with a small team under me, I found I was too frequently flipping between development and managerial work. As a result, this made me worse at both. Ideally, I’d have liked to delegate jobs and allow myself to better focus my time, but circumstances made this difficult.

Job perks

The Tech Admins apparently make the best cakes! I was fortunate enough to be able to not just witness, but both experience and actively participate in ‘Cake Day’:


Overall I appreciated my brief time as a faculty OCD, offering me a fresh perspective on things I’d seen differently from central. It certainly gave me a much better understanding of where Academics are coming from when they’re trying to build various activities in their units. Just because they’ve managed to put a given tool on a site, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily actually what they want!

It’s also made me question whether faculty OCDs should have read-only access across Moodle, so that everyone is aware of what’s going on around the University. To give just one example: our team was shocked when librarians came over and let us know that Technology was woefully, and exclusively, behind on managing our reading lists. This was news to us – no system had been set up to manage reading lists and so none of us had done it.

I’m grateful to have had this opportunity, as I’ve often pondered moving toward a more managerial role but never really wanted to commit to it. So a 4-month secondment was the perfect option.  In the end I’ve found I prefer the nature of the OCD role in central, as it best lends me the variety and flexibility of work that personally I find most rewarding.


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