Using Glossary

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This page explains how students and teachers can use the Glossary activity and explores ways to make the most of it in your Moodle course.

Adding a glossary entry

To add a glossary entry click the "Add a new entry" button in the centre of the screen or the Administration block.

  • Concept - Enter the word you want to define in the Concept text field.
  • Definition - Add the definition of the word or concept.
  • Keywords - Each glossary entry can have an associated list of keywords (or aliases). If the entry is auto-linked (see below), then any keywords will also be auto-linked. Enter each keyword on a new line (not separated by commas).
  • Attachment - If you want to add an attachment, such as a picture or an article, you can either drag/drop it or click the "Add" button to upload via the File picker.
Adding a new entry (2)

This entry should be automatically linked

If the Glossary auto-linking filter is enabled, and 'This entry should be automatically linked' is set to "yes", the entry will be automatically linked wherever the concept or keyword(s) appear within the same Moodle course, such as in forum postings, labels, web pages, books and so on. Files and external websites will not be linked.

You can choose to disable this filter for a particular activity (such as a quiz) as explained below.

Turning off links to glossary terms

In places such as forum posts and quizzes, terms will be automatically highlighted and linked if they are in the glossary. Sometimes, this may be unwanted. To prevent this for individual activities, click into the activity (for the Boost theme) and from the More link click Filters. There you will be able to turn off the glossary auto-linking feature for that particular activity while keeping it enabled elsewhere on the course. For Classic and similar themes, click the Filters link from the activity's administration block.


This entry is case sensitive

This setting specifies whether matching exact upper and lower case is necessary when performing automatic linking to these entries. For example, if this is turned on, then a word like "html" in a forum posting will NOT be linked to a glossary entry called "HTML".

Match whole words only

If automatic linking is enabled, then turning this setting on will force only whole words to be linked. For example, a glossary entry named "construct" will not create a link inside the word "constructivism".

Click Save changes to save your entry.


Glossary entries may be tagged.

Tags can be managed by a site administrator in Manage tags in the Site administration. Glossary entry tags may be added to a specified tag collection and standard tags may be suggested or forced. If desired, glossary entries tagging may be disabled completely.

Editing the glossary

To edit a whole glossary, for example to change its name or description, turn editing on and click on the Edit icon next to its name, then choose 'edit settings'.

Editing glossary entries

To edit a glossary item click on the glossary name, navigate to the glossary entry you want, and then click on the Edit icon, to the bottom-right of the glossary item. You can also delete the item entirely by clicking (X).

Linking to glossary entries

A chain icon to the right of a glossary entry provides a permalink to reference this entry, if required.

Adding categories

Categories may be created to help organize your glossary entries. If you've enabled autolinking, the category names can be linked along with individual entries.Make sure your chosen display format has categories as a visible tab in Site administration>Plugins>Activity modules>Glossary

Browse by category tab

To create a glossary category:

  1. Click the "Browse by category" tab in the main page of the glossary.
  2. Click the "Edit categories" button on the left side of the page.
  3. Click the "Add category" button on the resulting Categories page.
  4. Give the category a name.
  5. Choose whether you want the category name autolinked as well.
  6. Click the "Save changes" button.

If you autolink the category name, any occurrence of those words will be linked. When a student clicks on the link, they will be taken to the "Browse by category" page of the glossary.

Browse options

You can browse glossaries according to the following options:

  • Browse by alphabet
  • Browse by category (if there are any categories added)
  • Browse by date (you can sort entries by last update or by creation date)
  • Browse by author

Search options

You can also search for a given word using the Search field. Checking the 'Search full text' option (on the right side of the Search box) allows searching for a given word in any position in the text. This can take longer and return more entries than you might wish, but it is thorough. If you do not check the "Search full text" box, the search only looks for the term names. The index below lets you browse the glossary according to a given letter.

Waiting approval

If entries require teacher approval before being publicly posted, the number of entries will appear in a link: 26waitingapproval.png

To approve the teacher clicks the link and then the 'approve' tick/checkmark icon.

If an entry is approved by mistake, it can be undone by clicking the 'undo approval' circle with a line through it icon.

Approving an entry

Printing a glossary

To get a printer-friendly view of the glossary:

  • Click into the glossay and click the dropdown on the right (next to Import entries) and click Printer friendly version:

Printer friendly version

  • Use your browsers' print feature (for example, click the print icon top right) to print a PDF or offline version of the glossary.
  • Once the word list has printed, close the printer-friendly format window.

Note: Teachers are always provided with a printer-friendly format link. To enable students to print a glossary, set "Allow print view" to Yes from Glossary navigation > Settings.

Glossary comments

If you enabled comments on the glossary entries, users can annotate the definitions in the word list. When you look at a word in the glossary list, you'll see a blue "Comments" link in the lower left-hand corner:


When you click the link, a comments box opens up. Add your comment then click the "Save changes" button.

Once you've saved your comment, Moodle will display all of the comments for the entry. When you return to the main glossary page, you'll see a new message next to the speech balloon telling you how many comments there are for the entry.

Exporting a set of glossary entries to another glossary

Glossary entries can be exported and then imported into another glossary.

  • Click into the glossary
  • From the dropdown on the right, select Export

Export glossary entries

  • Save the automatically generated XML file on your computer.

When the entries are imported into another glossary, the user performing the import will be listed as author of all the entries.

A copy of a glossary may also be made by backing up the activity. To include glossary entries in the backup, 'Include enrolled users' must be ticked in the initial backup settings. When the glossary is restored, the authors of the entries will be the same as in the original glossary.

Exporting selected glossary entries to the main glossary

Glossary action icons

If one glossary in the course has the type set as 'Main glossary' then entries from any other (secondary) glossaries in the course may be exported to the main glossary via the 'Export to main glossary' icon (arrow with line under it) next to each glossary entry.

Exporting glossary entries to a portfolio

Users with permissions to export glossary entries to a portfolio can do this via the export icon next to each glossary entry.

Importing glossary entries

Glossary entries can be imported via XML file in Administration > Glossary administration > Import entries. See Import glossary entries for details.

Ideas for using a Glossary

While a basic glossary is important, creatively applying the glossary can really make an impact on your class.

Collaborative glossaries

Instead of creating a glossary on your own, why not have the students create them as they encounter unfamiliar terms? A collaborative glossary can serve as a focal point for collaboration in a course. Each member of the class could be assigned to contribute a term, a definition, or comments on submitted definitions. Multiple definitions can be rated by you and by the students, with the highest-rated definitions accepted for the final class glossary.

When students are responsible for creating the definitions, they are much more likely to remember the word and the correct definition. Engaging in the process of learning, debating, and refining a glossary can go a long way toward helping students begin using new terms.

You can also structure multiple glossaries over the course of a semester. Break them up by unit, chapter, week, or any other organizational structure.

If you have a large class, assign student teams to come up with definitions and answers. One strategy for managing large courses is to make each team responsible for one week's worth of definitions, while all the other teams must rate and comment. Alternatively, each team could be responsible for one definition per chapter and then rate and comment on the other teams’ work.

Credit for word use

This is a combination strategy using the forum and the auto-linking feature of the glossary. After you and your students have defined the glossary terms, it's important for students to begin practising using the words in realistic contexts. Students, however, are usually reluctant to experiment with new terms. With the auto-linking feature, it's easy to spot when a glossary word has been used in a forum or in a posting on the web site. To encourage word use, assign a portion of the credit students receive for their forum postings for correct use of glossary terms. As you or other students rate posts, you can quickly scan for highlighted glossary words and award points for usage. You may even want to break the score down further. Perhaps award one point for using the word and two points for using it correctly.

"Getting to know you"

Make a glossary into which new students add their photo and personal details. Add this glossary to the Random glossary block on the side of your course page and - at intervals you choose- details about a different new student are highlighted.

Thought for the Day

In addition to adding vocabulary and key terms glossaries to the Random glossary block why not add a glossary containing pertinent "thoughts for the day", ethical, spiritual, motivational -you decide!

Simple peer assessment

Have students add pieces of work with descriptions to a glossary and allow their classmates to comment on each other's entries to create a basic framework for peer assessment. While this can be done in a Forum or more thoroughly in a Workshop, a glossary is a fast and effective solution.

Basic plagiarism prevention in essays

The Essay (auto-grade) question type additional plugin can use a locally-made glossary of common errors to detect phrases that students sometimes copy from common sources (e.g. Wikipedia) when they are not supposed to, and deal with these cases. Please note that this free method may not be a replacement for a full plagiarism prevention system, but it can be very useful for small schools with small budgets.

See also