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Moodle LMS Email Deliverability in 2024: Best Practices, Authentication Standards and Troubleshooting

In the digital landscape of 2024, email continues to be an important method of communication for businesses and educational institutions. Ensuring the deliverability of messages has become more important than ever for learner engagement. By adapting best practices and authentication standards, Moodle LMS websites can mitigate cyber threats, establish trust and authenticity and reduce instances of those dreaded words “I didn’t get the email”.

Email deliverability refers to the ability of an email message to successfully reach its intended recipient’s inbox, avoiding spam folders or being blocked by email servers. These days, inboxes are flooded with messages vying for attention so achieving optimal deliverability ensures that important communications are not lost in the noise. Fortunately, there are best practices authentication standards and tools available to help.

Overview of Authentication Standards (SPF, DKIM, DMARC, BIMI)

Authentication standards such as SPF, DKIM, DMARC, and BIMI play a crucial role in enhancing email deliverability. By implementing these standards, you can increase the deliverability of email messages sent by your Moodle LMS website:

  1. SPF (Sender Policy Framework): SPF is an email authentication protocol that helps verify the authenticity of the sender’s domain. SPF enables domain owners to specify which IP addresses are authorized to send emails on behalf of their domain. By publishing SPF records in their DNS settings, domain owners can help email servers verify the legitimacy of incoming emails and prevent unauthorized senders from spoofing their domain. For more information, see How to Set Up Sender Policy Framework (SPF): The complete guide.
  2. DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail): DKIM is an email authentication technique that adds a digital signature to outgoing emails, allowing recipients to verify that the messages were sent by the legitimate owner of the sending domain and have not been altered in transit. DKIM signatures are generated using cryptographic keys stored in the DNS records of the sending domain. Moodle LMS has supported DKIM email signing since version 3.10 providing a robust way to enhance authenticity. You can learn more about how to set this up in the DKIM Email Signing documentation for Moodle.
  3. DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance): DMARC builds upon SPF and DKIM by providing a framework for email senders to specify how receivers should handle messages that fail SPF and/or DKIM authentication checks. DMARC policies allow domain owners to instruct email servers to quarantine or reject suspicious messages, providing greater control over email delivery and enhancing security. It also enables domain owners to receive reports on email authentication activity, providing insights into unauthorized use of their domain and potential phishing attacks. A DMARC policy is published in the DNS to specify how receivers should handle failed authentication. For more information, see How to Implement DMARC/DKIM/SPF to Stop Email Spoofing/Phishing: The Definitive Guide.
  4. BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification): BIMI is an emerging standard that enables brands to display their logos next to authenticated email messages in the recipient’s inbox. By implementing BIMI, organizations can enhance brand visibility, improve trust, and differentiate their emails from phishing attempts. BIMI also requires DMARC compliance. For more information, see the BIMI implementation guide.

Implementing these robust authentication standards, correctly configuring Moodle LMS messaging settings and configuring your DNS and email server can have a direct impact on your Moodle LMS’ email reputation and deliverability, and reduce frustration for teachers and learners when emails don’t arrive. Proper settings can lead to higher deliverability rates, as email servers are more likely to deliver authenticated emails to recipients’ intended inboxes rather than routing them to spam or junk folders.

Troubleshooting Email Delivery Issues

Moodle LMS includes basic functionality to test whether a test email can be sent. You can access it by going to Site Administration > Server (tab) > Outgoing Mail Configuration (section) > SMTP. Scroll down to the section called Test Outgoing Mail Configuration and then click on the Test Outgoing Mail Configuration link.

For more comprehensive testing and troubleshooting, the eMail Test plugin is a powerful tool. This free and open-source plugin, available on moodle.org, makes it easy to test and diagnose email configuration issues specific to your LMS environment. Developed and maintained by Michael Milette and sponsored by TNG Consulting Inc., this popular plugin is installed on over 11,072 Moodle LMS sites around the world, translated into over a dozen languages and is compatible with most versions of Moodle LMS-based sites like Moodle Workplace, Totara, IOMAD and more.

With the eMail Test plugin installed, site administrators can simply navigate to Site Administration > Server (tab), Email (section) and click eMail Test to start the process of verifying, identifying and resolving common email delivery issues like:

  • Cron/task scheduling issues.
  • Email send method issues.
  • Sending from various email addresses including your email address, the support email address, the no-reply email address and the primary site administrator’s email address.
  • Sending to a specific email address.
  • SMTP credential issues.
  • SMTP server connection failure/timeout issues.
  • SMTP server rejection issues.
  • Connection timeout issues.
  • DNS resolution failure issues.
  • Missing port or SSL/TLS protocol/port mismatch issues.
  • Closed port issues.
  • Email diverting issues.
  • Detect if email/messaging is disabled by way of $CFG->noemailever.

The plugin will provide you with insights as well as show you the communications between Moodle LMS and SMTP mail servers to aid in your troubleshooting efforts.

The most recent eMail Test Release 3.1.0 includes some additional basic verification of:

  • Required SFP tags in the DNS of the sender’s domain.
  • Required DKIM tags in the DNS of the sender’s domain.
  • Required DMARC tags in the DNS of the sender’s domain.
  • Required BIMI tags and validation of the URL for the required brand indicator – your logo as an SVG file.

It doesn’t just end with automated testing. The FAQ section of the documentation in the README.md file includes more help and tips to get your email delivery working. This FAQ is also included with each copy of the plugin.

Quick Tip –  Does it seem like some emails are delivered and not others for the same user? Depending on your website’s and user’s settings, some site messages may be delivered via Moodle notifications instead of by email if the site detects that the user is likely on the site at the time. This could be incorrectly interpreted as an inconsistent email delivery issue by those who are unaware. To verify the default notification preferences for your Moodle LMS site, navigate to Site Administration > General (tab), Messaging (section) > Notification settings. On this page, the Web column refers to notifications within Moodle LMS, Email is for notifications via email, and Mobile is for notifications that will arrive in the Moodle mobile app. For more information, see the Messaging settings page in the Moodle documentation. Note that these settings, as well as the user notification preference page, have changed as of Moodle 4.0 so ensure that you are referencing the version of this documentation page for your release of Moodle LMS.

If you are experiencing email delivery issues for messages sent from your Moodle LMS-based website, contact your email service provider and help them out by letting them know what issues eMail Test has identified.

The Future of Email Deliverability

Looking to the future of email deliverability, it is essential to keep an eye on emerging trends in email authentication. Existing standards such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC continue to evolve and refine existing standards to address new challenges and improve their effectiveness in combating phishing, spoofing, and other email-based threats. There is a growing emphasis on the adoption of more advanced authentication technologies, such as BIMI and integrating other emerging trends like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms into email authentication systems to combat email fraud and detect spam and help ensure that you receive those important emails.


In the ever-evolving landscape of email communication, ensuring deliverability remains crucial for businesses, educational institutions and individuals. Implementing standards such as SPF, DKIM, DMARC, and BIMI are instrumental in safeguarding the integrity of email communications while bolstering delivery reliability and engagement among recipients. A few months ago, Google and Yahoo both announced that they are starting to require senders of bulk emails to authenticate emails using BIMI as of February 2024. Using tools like the eMail Test plugin can help diagnose and resolve Moodle LMS email delivery issues.

Hope you found this information helpful.

See you all next month!

Michael Milette

Michael Milette
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Michael Milette

Michael Milette is the owner and an independent consultant with TNG Consulting Inc. in Canada. He works with government, non-profit organizations, businesses and educational institutions on Moodle-related projects. Michael writes about implementing Moodle LMS, developing in Moodle, Moodle administration, using the FilterCodes plugin (his own project), creating multi-language Moodle implementations and courses, and WCAG 2.1 accessibility.

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