Differentiate your Moodle courses

Differentiation using colour code

[pulledquote]Working in a non selective school is rewarding but brings its fair share of interesting challenges. Catering for the individual learner needs is at the heart of most educational institutions.[/pulledquote] I am lucky enough to have assistants to help me cater for all needs in my classroom, but I see no reason why Moodle should not also receive the differentiation treatment. Luckily there are a few simple strategies that can be used to offer differentiated courses with little effort (and subsequently time). This post presents you with three easy to implement Moodle differentiation strategies.

1. Use a (colour) code

As explained in one of my previous posts, you can use labels and colours to offer differentiated materials/activities. In short, place all of your activities in the same course, and then divide it up using coloured labels, or simply place a prefix before your activities/resources names. You could easily spice things up by using relevant symbols (warning signs, traffic lights, etc.). – Click on the pictures to enlarge.


Differentiation using groups

Differentiation using groups


Differentiation using colour code

Differentiation using colour code

  • Pros

    • This allows students to choose the most suitable task/activities by themselves and can be especially useful for homework activities.
    • Students who decide to go for the easier option can then move on and try the harder tasks.
    • When I used to offer printed differentiated homework, some ‘weaker’ students would feel embarrassed to pick up the ‘easy’ sheet; this problem no longer exists.
  • Cons

    • All students can see all tasks and it could lead to confusion.
    • Some students might decide not to ‘push’ themselves, it might be a good idea to set expectations for each student (can be done informally)

2. Use separate courses

Although this one is easy to achieve, I would recommend you against using this strategy – for most basic uses at least. The idea is to have as many courses as you have abilities in your physical courses. Have students enroll in the courses matching their ability and only place the required resources/activities in the appropriate courses.

  • Pros

    • Students are only presented with the material they should view/take part in.
    • Easy to manage if course content/activities never changes.
  • Cons

    • File management can quickly become a nightmare. 1 change might need to be mirrored to rest of your courses.
    • Students cannot be in charge of their own learning.
    • A student may struggle with some activities, but may feel very comfortable with others – no flexibility.

3. Use groups/groupings

This is my personal favourite. Say you teach a year 7 MFL French class. In that class, you teach students who have studied French at KS2, students who have never learnt French, and students with EAL, or a combination of the above. Overall, you have a group with a wide range of abilities, but limited time to use Moodle. Groups/groupings might well be your savior.

The idea is that you have one course with all of your activities/resources, and then manage access to those on a granular basis. The screenshot below depicts groups in action.

Differentiation using groups

Differentiation using groups

  • Resource A is available to all participants.
  • Resource B is only available to EAL students.
  • Resource C is only available to students who have learnt French before.

Students part of the EAL group won’t be able to even see Resource C, as it won’t show on their screen. As a teacher, you are able to view all activities/resources and the group name (in brackets) lets you know which group can view/engage in the activity.

  • Pros

    • Easy file management.
    • Very granular access management, down to labels.
    • Set it up once, use it every year. All you have to do is to change the participants in your groups at the beginning of each academic year.
    • Students can ‘move up’ a group. It is easy to miscalculate
    • Students can be part of more than one group
    • Course looks less cluttered to students
  • Cons

    • Students are not in charge of their own learning
    • Can be a little confusing to setup

Let me know your thoughts on this issue. Just so you know, I do not differentiate every course (exam groups for example). Do you have any other strategies to share? Please drop a comment if you do.


  1. This is a great article- I’d never thought to differentiate here before, it’s usually just done in class although I need to work on it more anyway! The issue for me is that my leathers are part-time adults on the whole and if they have trouble accessing from home it’s difficult for me to help. As a result I haven’t been able to make it as interactive as I’d like. Traffic lights would be great for my students as currently they rate themselves yellow/ green/ red on each of the learning outcomes and there could be something on moodle to support this and push them. Hmmm… Food for thought as I set up my course sites for September. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for your comment. I went to visit your website and found it very interesting indeed. I hope you don’t mind, but I have altered the URL you posted as there was a typo 😉


  2. Not a bad idea, but please be careful of solely using colors to differentiate things. There will likely be students in the class who are visually impaired or color blind. Using the prefixes like you have should resolve this.

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