The OU workflow system

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Note: You are currently viewing documentation for Moodle 3.3. Up-to-date documentation for the latest stable version of Moodle is probably available here: The OU workflow system.

The Workflow system is used at the OU to manage the production of courses and some activities. It comprises a block and a related admin report.


A workflow (for our purposes) is a linear sequence of steps. A step has

  • a name
  • some instructions;
  • a check-list of actions;
  • a list of roles who are responsible for performing this step;
  • a list of actions that are taken automatically when the step is started/finished, for example assigning roles or changing activity settings.

The system allows the definition of different workflows. Each workflow has

  • a name
  • a description
  • an indication of the type of thing it relates to (e.g. ‘course’, ‘mod_quiz’)

Under Admin -> Plugins -> Blocks -> Workflow, there is an interface for Administrators to define and edit workflows, and to import and export workflow definitions as XML.

To use a workflow to manage the production of, say, a course, you go to the course, and add a workflow block to it. Initially, the block will display a message “There is currently no workflow associated with this course.” with an Add workflow button. Clicking the button allows you to select from any of the workflows that are appropriate for ‘course’.

When the workflow is added to the course, the first step in the workflow becomes active. The workflow block now displays the step instructions for the currently active step; the checklist items as a list of check-boxes; a comments area; a Finish step button; and a link to the workflow overview.

When a step becomes active, all the people responsible for completing the step are sent an email informing them that they should do the step. These people may also get an additional role assigned to them in the context the workflow applies to.

The comments area in the workflow block is a simple editable text area where people working on the step can leave notes for each other.

The Finish step button leads to a confirmation page. If the action is confirmed, then the workflow advances to the next step. When the last step of the workflow is finished, the workflow either stops, or loops back to one of the other steps.

The workflow overview gives an overview of all the steps in this workflow, and the progress through it. The system tracks the timestamp, and the user, each time a step is finished or made active.

The overview page also allows workflow administrators (those with an appropriate capability) to jump the workflow to any particular step.

There is also a report that summarise the workflow across a selection of courses or activities.

Setting up a workflow

Before you can use the workflow system, you have to create a workflow. To set up workflows, you need to go to Admin -> Plugins -> Blocks -> Workflows.

Creating a workflow

To create a workflow, click on the 'Add workflow' icon at the bottom of the 'Manage Workflows' section of the page. This takes you to the Add workflow form.

Like with Roles, you need to give your workflow both an internal 'Short name' and a human-readable name. It is a good idea to use the description to explain what this particular workflow is for.

You need to specify what type of thing the workflow applies to, either a course, or a type of activity.

Finally, you can say whether they workflow is available for use yet. You should probably leave the 'Current status' as 'Disabled' until you have finished building the workflow.

Once you have got this far, click Save changes.

Adding steps to a workflow

Once the workflow is created, you are taken to a page where you can edit this list of steps in the workflow.

The newly created workflow will have one step already. Click the edit icon by that step, to see what you can change.

You can edit the Steps name, and instructions, and you should probably do that.

The 'On step activation' and 'On step completion' boxes let you cause things to happen automatically when a step starts or finishes. This is an advance feature,

Defining the list of tasks for a step

What happens at the end of the workflow

Automatic script actions

Email templates

Managing workflows

On the main manage workflows page, as you might expect, you can edit or delete any workflow.

The system will only let you delete a workflow that it not used anywhere, so instead of deleting a workflow, you may prefer to hide it using the 'eye-con'. If a workflow is hidden, then it will go on working in any place where it is used, but you will not be able to start using it in any new place. In other words, the workflow will be hidden from the list available when you select the workflow to add to a course or activity.

Importing and exporting workflows

On the manage workflows page, you can export any workflow to an XML file, and import a workflow from an XML file. The import/export automatically includes all the necessary email templates.

Using the workflow system

For definiteness, in this section, I will talk about using a workflow on a course. Using a workflow on an activity is very similar, you just add the block in a different place.

Adding a workflow to a course

On the course page, turn editing on. Then do Add a block -> Workflow. That adds the workflow block, but it does not yet add a workflow. The block will be showing

The list of tasks

Using comments

The workflow overview

The workflow report

See also