Last month I wrote about the Sharing Cart, which allows teachers to carry their own personal library with them from course to course. However, the Sharing Cart plugin only works if your administrator has installed and enabled it.
How, then, can you easily access and reuse previous courses and materials if the plugin is not available?
There are two possibilities, both similar in use and functionality: import and backup/restore.
Import allows you to copy content from one course to another, as long as you are assigned a teacher role (or higher) in both courses. The original source could be a template you have set up as a resource course and that you keep improving, or any course you have been teaching. You find the import function in the course administration menu. The process is quite uncomplicated, and you are guided through it step by step. You can choose the entire course content or select specific sections, activities, and resources to be imported into your new course.
However, there is one crucial condition to be met: Import only works if the “mother course” – the one you copy from – still exists. That means that both courses – the source of origin and the recipient course – have to be accessible in your Moodle installation. Once your administrator has deleted the older course, your content is lost unless you have made sure you have a copy of it somewhere.
This leads me to the next option, the backup/restore of course content. I usually recommend teachers to make backups of their favourite courses at regular intervals and download them to their pc or an external hard disc as an extra safety precaution. Externally stored copies of courses allow you to restore your favourite courses even across Moodle sites as long as Moodle versions do not diverge too much in age and are still compatible. In my eyes, the aspect of portability across Moodle installations and the possibility of keeping downloaded copies of courses make the backup function superior to the import function. (By the way, downloaded course backups can easily be shared with colleagues, just like any other file.)
Apart from that, both functions work pretty much the same way. The way you are guided through the process of selecting items is more or less the same – you can make backups of entire courses, sections, or just a single activity or resource.
One more thing that is useful to know when importing or restoring items into an existing course is that Moodle will place them according to their position in the original course. That means if your original activity or resource was in Section 2, Moodle will automatically place the copy in Section 2 in the destination course, whether it makes sense or not. Not knowing this, you might have to manually move items around inside your course afterwards, which can be quite time-consuming. I have heard more than one teacher curse and swear while first trying to figure out where their imported items have gone, and clearing up the mess afterwards… 🙂