Moodle: History Teaching using Chats, Books and Plugins


History Teaching with Moodle 2

History Teaching with Moodle 2

Create a History course in Moodle packed with lessons and activities to make learning and teaching History interactive and fun

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(For more resources on Moodle, see here.)

The Chat Module

Students naturally gravitate towards the Chat module in Moodle. It is one of the modules that they effortlessly use whilst working on another task. I often find that they have logged in and are discussing work related tasks in a way that enables them to move forward on a particular task. Another use for the Chat module is to conduct a discussion outside the classroom timetabled lesson when students know that you are available to help them with issues. This is especially relevant to students who embark on study leave in preparation for examinations. It can be a lonely and stressful period. Knowing that they can log in to a chat that has been planned in advance means that they can prepare issues that they wish to discuss about their workload and find out how their peers are tackling the same issues. The teacher can ensure that the chat stays on message and provide useful input at the same time.

Setting up a Chatroom

We want to set up a chat with students who are on holiday but have some examination preparation to do for a lesson that will take place straight after their return to school. Ideally we would have informed the students prior to starting their holiday that this session would be available to anyone who wished to take part.

  1. Log in to the Year 7 History course and turn on editing
  2. In the Introduction section, click the Add an activity dropdown
  3. Select Chat
  4. Enter an appropriate name for the chat
  5. Enter some relevant information in the Introduction text
  6. Select the date and time for the chat to begin
  7. Beside Repeat sessions select No repeats – publish the specified time only
  8. Leave other elements at their default settings
  9. Click Save changes

The following screenshot is the result of clicking Add an activity from the drop-down menu:

History Teaching with Moodle 2

If we wanted to set up the chatroom so that the chat took place at the same time each day or each week then it is possible to select the appropriate option from the Repeat sessions dropdown. The remaining options make it possible for students to go back and view sessions that they have taken part in.

Entering the chatroom

When a student or teacher logs in to the course for the appointed chat they will see the chat symbol in the Introduction section.

History Teaching with Moodle 2

Clicking on the symbol enables them to enter the chatroom via a simple chat window or a more accessible version where checking the box ensures that only new messages appear on the screen as shown in the following screenshot:

History Teaching with Moodle 2

As long as another student or teacher has entered the chatroom, a chat can begin when users type a message and await a response.

The Chat module is a useful way for students to collaborate with each other and with their teacher if they need to. It comes into its own when students are logging in to discuss how to make progress with their collaborative wiki story about a murder in the monastery or when students preparing for an examination share tips and advice to help each other through the experience. Collaboration is the key to effective use of the chat module and teachers need not fear its potential for timewasting if this point is emphasized in the activities that they are working on.



A brief visit to and a search for ‘plugins’ reveals an extensive list of modules that are available for use with Moodle but stand outside the standard installation.

History Teaching with Moodle 2

If you have used a blogging tool such as Wordpress you will be familiar with the concept of plugins. Over the last few years, developers have built up a library of plugins which can be used to enhance your Moodle experience. Every teacher has different ways of doing things and it is well worth exploring the plugins database and related forums to find out what teachers are using and how they are using it. There is for example a plugin for writing individual learning plans for students and another plugin called Quickmail which enables you to send an email to everyone on your course even more quickly than the conventional way.

Installing plugins

Plugins need to be installed and they need administrator rights to run at all. The Book module for example, requires a zip file to be downloaded from the plugins database onto your computer and the files then need to be extracted to a folder in the Mod folder of your Moodle’s software directory. Once it is in the correct folder, the administrator then needs to run the installation.

Installation has been successful if you are able to log in to the course and see the Book module as an option in the Add a resource dropdown.

History Teaching with Moodle 2



        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on Moodle, see here.)

The Book Module

As the name suggests this module involves the creation of books. It is not however, set up for students to create their own books. It is designed for teachers to create their own short multi page materials which students can print as and when they require them. It allows for the creation of chapters and subchapters. Some teachers use it to create a complete collection of the materials covered in the course with chapter headings matching the headings for their topics. The Book module’s maintainer, Petr Škoda, recommends using the pdf format for longer documents. Books are easy to create and adding content is quite straightforward. Navigation is easy and students have the option to print required sections of the book.

History Teaching with Moodle 2

Setting up a book

In the following example we are going to create a book based on our Year 7 History course.

History Teaching with Moodle 2

We do not intend to use each course question as a chapter heading in our book since the chapter headings would be too long. Instead the chapter headings will be based upon the keywords from each question. We shall also look at how to include subchapters.

  1. Log in to the Year 7 History course and turn on editing
  2. In the Introduction Topic click on the Add a resource dropdown
  3. Select Book
  4. In Name enter a suitable title for the book
  5. In Summary enter a suitable summary of the book’s contents
  6. Select a style for numbering chapters
  7. Choose default settings for other elements
  8. Click the Save button.

The Book should now be visible in the Introduction topic area.

History Teaching with Moodle 2

Adding chapters

Adding the first chapter makes it possible to click on a large red + symbol to add further chapters and subchapters..

  1. Log in to the Year 7 History course and turn on editing
  2. Click on the Book symbol in the Introduction topic
  3. Complete the details for the first chapter as in the following screenshot:

    History Teaching with Moodle 2

  4. Click the Save button

Adding sub chapters

We may want to break down the contents of a chapter into sub chapters. For the third chapter about Castles we may want a subchapter about defending castles and a subchapter about attacking castles.

  1. In the Table of Contents click the red plus sign beside the usual editing symbols
  2. In Chapter title enter Defending a castle
  3. Check the Subchapter tickbox
  4. Click Save changes

Exercise: adding chapters and subchapters

Add chapters and subchapters for each of the remaining key questions in our Year 7 History course. Use keywords in each chapter rather than the complete question. Your Table of contents should resemble the following screenshot:

History Teaching with Moodle 2

Changing the order of chapters

We may want to change the order of particular chapters and subchapters within our book.

History Teaching with Moodle 2

This is a simple process of using the black up and down arrows beside each title in the Table of Contents. You also have the option to hide a chapter using the eye symbol, delete a chapter and edit a chapter.

Adding content

To add content, click the editing symbol beside any chapter or subchapter and using the HTML editor enter the content as required. Remember to click Save changes to view the results.


The option to print a chapter, subchapter or the whole book is available in the Settings section and Book administration.


In this article we have looked at the Chat module as a useful means of communicating between teacher and student or student and student. The chatroom is an ideal format for your students to discuss ideas and collaborate on projects away from the classroom. It is an entirely safe medium given that only members of the school’s Moodle community can take part.

We have also touched upon the significance of plugins as a way to develop your Moodle site. There are hundreds of plugins available and it is a valuable exercise to trawl the plugins database at and to look at the related forums there for ideas to play with on your own site. The Book plugin is an example of a plugin that has stood the test of time and provided a reliable service to teachers who wish to create short multi page documents related to a course.

Further resources on this subject:

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History Teaching with Moodle 2

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