Increase student engagement with Moodle conditional activities & badges

[pulledquote]Most of the Moodle courses I have seen are full of extremely useful and meaningful information/activities. It is not always practical to ensure whether students have interacted with an activity or viewed a resource, as it can be very time consuming to check Moodle logs. Come ‘conditional activities’. In this post, I discuss ways to use this great feature to increase students’ engagement in your courses.[/pulledquote]

What are conditional activities?

Since the introduction of Moodle 2, it has been possible for users to track which activities/resources they have completed. This means that resources/activities are ‘aware’ of their completion status for each course user. This completion status awareness allows a teacher to have activities/resources show up only when certain conditions have been met, for example Resource B will only be shown to users who have completed Activity A. There is a comprehensive explanation of how this feature works on the Moodle HQ website, this post is not a ‘how-to’ for conditional activities.


Gamify your Moodle courses – badges

Younger students seem to respond very well to this strategy. I have ‘gamified’ two of my middle-school courses and I have noticed a sharp increase in student engagement in both (i.e. they complete more activities, more often and to better standards). Moodle should soon benefit from an integration with OpenBadges, but until then here is what you could do.

  • The idea is to create a bunch of badges that students can ‘unlock’ by completing activities or viewing resources. 
  • My ‘badges’ are simple images inserted in labels that are completely hidden until specific conditions have been met (see figure 1). 
  • When students complete activities or view resources, those images will appear on their screen, giving them the impression that they have ‘unlocked’ it. 
  • A student will only see the badges that they have unlocked, thus Moodle course pages look different to all students.
  • There seems to be a bit of healthy competition happening between students as they compare the number of badges when they log on to Moodle in the classroom (see figures 2 and 3). 
  • Some badges are harder to get than others and those students who manage to unlock them tend to keep the tricks and locations to themselves. 
  • I will be conducting a study between 21st March and 7th July to measure the impact of gamifying a Moodle course; I will expose one group to the gamified course, and another group to the un-gamified version and compare. Visit in a few months time if you’re interested in the results. 
Figure 1
Teacher view – some possible badges and the conditions to ‘unlock’ them
Click to zoom in
Figure 2
Student view – Each student only sees the badges they have ‘unlocked’
This student has collected 2 badges
Figure 3
Student view – Note that students do not see the conditions to unlock badges. This can be changed in the settings
This student has collected 4 badges

Tips & tricks


School reward system

If your school rewards effort through house points, or other, you could link your ‘badges’ mentioned above with the actual school reward system. For example, with my 11 year old students 2 badges = 1 house point.


Orphaned activities

This actually started out as a bug in Moodle, but now has become a feature. It is possible to have resources/activities hidden from students but still accessible through the URL. Consider the following example:

  • You create a course with 10 sections and you have activities/resources in every section.
  • You want the activities/resources in section 10 to be accessible by URL but invisible on the course page.
  • Cut down your course to 9 sections, but you do not remove the activities/resources in section 10.
  • The activities/resources in section 10 become invisible to students, but can still be accessed through the URL, as they are not hidden as such.
  • This means that you can now add ‘Easter eggs’ to your course by linking directly to the orphaned activities.
Example of an ‘Easter egg’
  • I want my students to spot 10 subject specific words in my course and click on each to read the definitions.
  • Those 10 words can be anywhere in the course e.g. webpage, quiz question, lesson, etc.
  • Each word is linked to a popup webpage, where the definition for that word is available.
  • The webpages are in the section that is invisible to students e.g. orphaned activities
  • When a student finds a word and clicks on it, the linked webpage opens in a popup.
  • That webpage automatically gets marked as ‘completed’ and remains invisible on the course page.
  • When a student has found and seen all words, he/she unlocks the ‘Vocabulary’ badge.

‘Must not be marked complete’

This is slightly difficult to get your head around but the idea is simple,

  • Setup activities/resources
  • They will show up as default e.g. a student new to your course will see it on their course page
  • Some activities will ‘disappear’ when a user has completed specific activities. 


  • Course with 4 activities, A, B, C and D.
  • Activity A (easy activity) – Set to be marked complete if viewed & to show only if Activity B is not marked complete.
  • Activity B  (difficult activity) – Set to be marked complete if viewed & to show only if Activity A is not marked complete.
  • Activity C  (easy activity) – Set to only show if Activity A is marked complete.
  • Activity D (difficult activity) – Set to only show if Activity B is marked complete.
  • If a student clicks on Activity A, then Activity B will ‘disappear’ from their course and Activity C will become available.
  • If a student clicks on Activity B, then Activity A will ‘disappear’ from their course and Activity D will become available.
  • This is great to gamify your courses, or to differentiate your courses.


Conditional sections

Since Moodle 2.3, it has been possible to make entire sections of a course appear when certain conditions have been met. This can greatly reduce your workload as you won’t have to go and set the conditional status of each activity/resource.


Please share your creative uses of conditional activities to increase students engagement in your Moodle course by writing a comment.




  1. Great article, Fred. Don’t forget to include hidden course material – bonus fun facts, secret info, etc.

    I only teach adults and am a bit worried that the gasification might be seen as childish or patronising. Then again, sites like foursquare and fitocracy seem to thrive quite well with grown men and women, so maybe it’s worth a try?

    1. Hi Guido,
      very good point about adult learners. Same applies for older high school students. I am sure there is a way to adapt it, although I haven’t tried it myself (I only teach middle school in my current post)

    1. good idea! I somehow feel as though this isn’t impossible but I’m struggling to think straight these days (work, baby, move to another country, Masters, etc. starting to take its toll :D)
      Will get back to you once I have thought this through properly.

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