Problem – I’ve just started using Moodle, and I’m finding it a bit tiresome to backup and restore a course everytime I want to setup a new course for learners to participate in. Not only is it time-consuming, but sometimes, the backup of the course doesn’t work because the files (e.g. course files including video and audio) are so big that the backup operation times out. What can I do to skip the backup and restore process?

Solution – Use Separate Groups feature in Moodle so that every class you teach is taught within ONE course with multiple groups.

For example, I have a course on Blogging:

The course only appears once in the online listing of courses available. However, this course will be offered multiple times. To accomplish enrollment that happens in different groups, participants register via our online professional learning tracking system (e.g. Alchemy Systems’ Avatar or whatever).

Once registered, participants are emailed instructions on how to login and where to go to register for the course. Here is a sample email; note the emails in bold red letter since we’ll need that information later:

Welcome to the second course in the Virtual Learner Series: Blogging!

ePath Course: Virtual Learner Series (VLS) – Blogging (2998.5041)

Howdy! I am excited about beginning our online journey together! Thank you for registering for this 100% online, 6-hour course. Please reply to this message so I can verify that you received it and that the email address I have for you is valid.

On Monday, May 4, 2009, we will officially begin the Blogging Course, the second in the Virtual Learner Series. This course will end at midnight on Sunday, May 10, 2009 using what we call scheduled asynchronous communication. This means that you can log on and do your work at your convenience, within the limits of the week’s schedule AND the course’s overall expectations.

This course is 100% online. Please do not show up at the [removed] or anywhere else looking for someone (smile). Just go to your computer and follow the instructions below by Tuesday of next week. Please note that it is up to you to check your email. Make sure to login before Tuesday, May 5, 2009 or you will be dropped.

When you login, you will see a FORUM: INTRODUCE YOURSELF. Go on in and join the conversation!

Note that starting Monday, May 4, 2009, there will be a series of daily assignments and discussions related to topics, so it will be necessary for you to:

* Log in several times during the week (aim for once a day during the week)
* Add your comments
* Respond to others in the class.

This is a highly interactive online experience — You will have a share in making the class successful. Your timely participation is a basic expectation for this course. If you login now, you will see the syllabus, assessment rubrics, and the news and social forums.

What if I get stuck?
If you find that you have trouble with your browser or with logging in, please contact me:

Miguel Guhlin
Phone: [removed]

I’ll be happy to help answer your questions.


You will login here: [removed]. Be sure to login with your email account name (for example if you email is [removed] login with “mguhlin”) and your email password.

You will be asked for an enrollment key.

The enrollment key for your course:


You will need these to enroll in the course and the group. If you encounter problems, don’t hesitate to email me at [removed] or call [removed] during normal business hours.

I look forward to seeing you in our course starting May 4, 2009. Best wishes for a successful and positive online experience!


Miguel Guhlin
Course facilitator

As you can see, there are 2 items in bold red letters. Those include 1) a course catalog number assigned by our professional learning tracking system where participants registered and 2) the enrollment key for that particular course in the catalog.

This information is reflected when I create a group that will represent a class, as shown below:

After you create the new group, you will see a list of your groups. At the end of your professional development cycle, you might have several groups representing courses below:

Once the groups are created, you’ll be able to sort assignments, forum discussions according to group name, as shown below:

Here is how I’ve explained this to others as an alternative, perhaps better, system than backing up and restoring courses:

On our Professional Learning Center (PLC) Moodle–where we handle online professional learning–we have active and inactive courses. Active courses, while being periodically backed up (MySQL and Moodle data), remain online for access. I’ve setup mandatory separate groups with their own enrollment keys–as opposed to course enrollment keys–and so deal with new groups as courses fill up.
As such, there’s no need to backup and restore courses anymore since I only use one course over and over making periodic backups when major improvements are made.
If there’s a flaw in that system that I’m unaware of, I welcome your feedback!
What do you think of this suggestion? My appreciation to Amanda Hefner (Northside ISD) for sharing this tip in a TxDLA April, 2009 workshop!

Be sure to read the following Moodle articles…

  1. Moodle Tips Roundup – a list of tips I’ve picked up in my Moodle journey.
  2. Doing the Moodle Mambo
  3. Moodle Habitudes: Constructing Online Learning Environments
  4. Book Review – Moodle 1.9: E-Learning Course Development by William Rice
  5. Why Moodle? A few reasons culled from around the Web using Google
  6. Moodle-izing Education (due for publication in Education World…find it here in mid-March, 2009)
  7. Moodle Questions during My Guest Spot on Classroom 2.0 LIVE
  8. Moodle in the Classroom – My Notes from Tomaz Lasic’s Preso on Classroom 2.0 LIVE
  9. How to Manage Your District’s Online Learning Opportunities (Education World)
  10. 5 Essential Technology Tools for Administrators (Education World)
  11. Why Moodle? A few reasons culled from around the Web using Google
  12. Moodle-izing Your Education Enterprise (Education World)

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