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Student empowerment through progress monitoring tools in Moodle

Most teachers want students to take responsibility for their learning. As a teacher, you can support your students by offering adequate tools for progress monitoring. LMS Moodle contributes to empowerment by offering an array of possibilities for students to track their own progression through the course program. This article is a presentation of some standard Moodle tools I consider valuable and useful from a student perspective.

The “progress circle” in the course overview on the dashboard

From Moodle version 3.3 onwards, the Moodle dashboard features a progression circle or percentage activity completion display.

To make this feature available for your students, activity completion has to be enabled in your course. The percentage displayed in the circle will gradually increase whenever the student completes an activity. The circle provides a quick and simple overview already when viewing the dashboard.

Course completion

To make progress tracking work, course completion must be enabled both at site and course level (read more here). The course settings allow you to define conditions for how and when a course counts as completed, e.g. when:

  • all activities are marked complete (read more about activity completion below)
  • another course has been completed
  • a passing grade defined by the teacher has been achieved
  • a student has been enrolled in the course for a certain period of time
  • a certain date expires
  • the student marks the course complete from the self completion block (read more below)

If you choose activity completion as a condition, you will have to define whether your students have to complete all or just some of the activities included in the course. This is easy – simply tick the boxes of the activities you want to set as completion criteria for the course, or select all or none of the activities listed in the settings:

Note that activities do not appear in the list unless activity completion has been defined in the settings for each specific activity.

Activity completion

Activity completion is a really helpful tool for students to track their progress in a Moodle course. In the course, activity completion will be displayed as a checkbox to the right of each activity. In other words, activity completion functions like a checklist showing the student’s progress towards course completion:

As a teacher, you will have to define completion criteria for every specific activity in a course if you want the activity to be included in the list. For instance, a student may have to view the activity, hand in an assignment, achieve a passing grade for an assignment or a certain score to pass a quiz, or you might want students to mark the activity as complete themselves. Depending on the criteria, the completion icons look different, thus indicating the conditions for completion (source: docs.moodle.org):

(Automatic completion is displayed as a checkbox with dotted borders, whereas manual completion icons have solid borders.)

If students forget to tick off an activity checkbox, teachers can do it on their behalf.

Course completion status block

In order to make students benefit fully from progress tracking, I recommend adding the course completion status block to your course. (This requires, of course, that you have enabled completion tracking in your course and defined completion criteria accordingly.)

You can add the course completion status block to your course just like any other block (read more here). When added, this block will allow the student to view the number of required activities he/she has already completed, as well as the number of activities still waiting for completion:

When clicking on More details, the student will be able to see a report including the title of each activity, the requirements, the status, and the completion date:

(In this example, all activities must be completed according to the settings; students are allowed to mark some of the activities as complete themselves.)

Self completion block

In some cases, you might want your students to assess for themselves whether they are ready to complete the course. You can provide a tool for doing so by adding the self completion block to your course:Self completion is a powerful tool, especially when combined with other requirements, such as the completion of activities, or certain scores and grades. In this case, both sets of requirements have to be met in order to change the course status from in progress to complete.

If the student declares self-completion before all compulsory activities are done, the course status will remain unchanged (“in progress”). However, when all the formal requirements are satisfied, it is up to the student to take the final step towards course completion by marking the course as completed.


Making it easier for students to track their own progress is important if you want students to take responsibility for their own learning. Fortunately, Moodle supports this through the provision of intuitive, easy-to-use tools for progress monitoring: the progress circle on the dashboard, activity completion displayed as checklists, the course completion status block, and the self completion block. Of course, additional plugins are available in the Moodle plugin directory, such as the completion progress block and the checklist activity module. However, since the number and type of plugins available to teachers will differ from site to site, I have chosen to focus on standard tools that probably will be available in most Moodle installations.

Ruth Horak

Ruth Horak

Based in Denmark since 1998, Ruth is an Innovation & Educational Technology Consultant and has been a teacher of Danish as a 2nd Language at Københavns Sprogcenter (although she is a native German speaker, and also proficient in English and Norwegian). Her specialties and areas of interest include alternative pathways of learning, method development, adult education, ICT, Moodle (of course!), gamification, teaching, design & development of teaching material, project development & management.

One thought on “Student empowerment through progress monitoring tools in Moodle

  • That’s a great post Ruth!
    You mention using plugins to extend Moodle in this area, but what I like is that all the things you mention here are standard Moodle functionality, and that means any teacher can use these ideas in their Moodle site or course 🙂


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