Create the User Experience (UX): Site Settings

This article focuses on some of the site settings that impact your Lambda Learn LMS user experience (UX): theme, authentication/login, user landing page, and overall site policy.


Site Look-and-Feel: Theme & Brand Identity

You will want to make a lasting impression on your learners - something that makes their experience on the LMS meaningful & enjoyable, not tedious & painful. While it may not seem as important, the desirable component of UX is of  great importance. The look-and-feel and the overall visual design impacts a user's opinion of your LMS at first sight! It takes about 50 milliseconds (ms) (that’s 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your site and what they think their experience will be. This first impression depends on many factors: structure, colours, spacing, symmetry, amount of text, fonts, and more. 

A study examined the effects of visual appeal and usability on user performance and satisfaction with a website.

Users completed different tasks on websites which varied in visual appeal (high and low) and usability (high and low). Results showed that first impressions are most influenced by the visual appeal of the site.

Users gave high “usability and interest ratings” to sites with high appeal and low “usability and interest ratings” to sites with low appeal. User perceptions of a low-appeal website were not significantly influenced by the site’s usability, even after a successful experience with the site.

There are many ways to customize the appearance of your Lambda Learn (Moodle) site so that it blends in with your organization's brand or identity. When theming your site the following are things you will want to consider when "personalizing" the appearance of your LMS.

To see more on fundamental considerations to improve your site user experience (UX) see: User Experience (UX) Basics.

theme Your Site Identity: Theme Settings

The site theme is "skin," look-and-feel, or the brand identity of your LMS in whole or just parts.

An administrator can change theme settings in Administration > Site administration > Appearance > Themes > Theme settings.

There are several things you will want to consider when theming your site. The table below is a list of theme settings you can configure.

The underlying version of your Lambda Learn (Moodle or Totara) will determine the available settings for configuration.


Theme Setting

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Theme list.

This enables you to limit the themes available for course or user themes. Leave this blank to allow any valid theme to be used. If you want to shorten the theme menu, you may specify a comma-separated list of names, though don't use spaces (e.g. standard,orangewhite).

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Theme designer mode.

Switch this on if you are designing and testing themes as it will stop the themes being cached and enable you to see theme changes quickly. (You can also do this with the Clear theme cache button on the theme selector page).

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Allow user themes.

When enabled, users will be allowed to set their own themes. User themes override site themes (but not course themes).

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Allow course themes.

When enabled, courses will be allowed to set their own themes. Course themes override all other theme choices (site, user, or session themes).

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Allow category themes.

When enabled, then themes can be set at the category level. This will affect all child categories and courses unless they have specifically set their own theme. WARNING: Enabling category themes may affect performance.

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Custom menu items

The custommenuitems setting allows you to create a drop down menu that can be displayed by themes that support it.

For more details on how to create custom menu items see:

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Allow cohort themes.

When enabled, themes can be set at the cohort level. This will affect all users with only one cohort or more than one but with the same theme.

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Allow theme changes in the URL

If enabled, the theme can be changed by adding either: 

  • ?theme=themename to any Lambda Learn URL (eg: ).
  • &theme=themename to any internal Lambda Learn URL (eg: ).
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Allow users to hide blocks

Enable this option if you want to allow users to Hide/Show blocks (,)  throughout the site.  This feature uses Javascript and cookies to remember the state of each collapsible block and only affects the user's own view.

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Allow blocks to use the docks

If enabled and supported by the selected theme, users can choose to move blocks to the side Dock.

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User menu items

You can configure the contents of the logged in User Menu (with the exception of the logout link, which is automatically added).

Each line is separated by | characters and consists of:

  • A string in "langstringname, componentname" form or as plain text.
  • An URL.
  • An icon either as a pix icon or as a URL.

Dividers can be used by adding a line of one or more # characters where desired.  For example the default user menu is:

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Enable device detection

Enables detection of individuals using mobiles, smartphones, tablets or default devices (desktop PCs, laptops, etc) to access Totara Learn, to determine the application of themes and other features.

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Device detection regular expressions

By default, Totara can detect devices of the type default (desktop PCs, laptops, etc), mobile (phones and small handheld devices), tablet (iPads, Android tablets) and legacy (Internet Explorer 6 users). The theme selector can be used to apply separate themes to all of these. This setting allows regular expressions that allow the detection of extra device types (these take precedence over the default types).

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Front page icon  Your Site Front Page: "HOME"

Your Lambda Learn (Moodle) front page is known as site "Home".  Typically the front page is where learners will see courses, some blocks of information, displayed in a theme. The Front Page contains settings on how best to display the entry page to your Lambda Learn site before and after login . 

Making changes to the Front Page

    1. Log in with your administrator account
    2. From the left panel (the Navigation drawer) click Site administration
    3. Scroll down to the Front page section and click Front page settings.

Things to change on the site Front Page

id  Full site name and short name 

The Full site name appears at the top of every page of the navigation bar. The short name appears at the beginning of the navigation bar as a link back to your site front page.

Site full name and short names settings

Front Page  Front page and Front page items when logged in

The centre of the front page can display any combination of the following: news items, a list of courses, a list of enrolled courses, a list of course categories, a list of categories and courses, a course search box or none. The order is determined by a combination box.

There are two combination boxes to make it is possible to create one setting for:

  • anyone who gets to the front page without logging in to the site,
front page items BEFORE login
  • and another look for only those who have logged into the site. 

Front page items AFTER login



A more user-friendly and personalized option for logged-in users than a generic Home page is to use the Dashboard .

See CUSTOM USER LANDING PAGE: DASHBOARD below for more information.



To see more on fundamental considerations to improve your site user experience (UX) see: User Experience (UX) Basics.

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How Users Log In: Site Authentication

Now that you've got the first impression with theming started (or maybe even complete!), it's time to think about how users log in.

Authentication is the process of allowing a user to log into your site with a username and password. Lambda Learn (Moodle) provides a number of ways of managing authentication, called authentication plugins.  An authentication plugin is a method of handling user authentication to the LMS when users log into your site. This means, in the most usual practice, matching a user's username with their password.

authentication icon  Commonly Used Authentication Methods

Manual Accounts

These types of accounts are typically created by the administrator. The method for logging in manually is like the traditional username and password, but you can also allow the email to be used if necessary.

Email-based Registration

In the case where you will not be manually creating users' accounts, they can do this themselves through the Email-based Registration. Typical field requirements include Username, First and Last names, and an email address. 

You can include additional Profile Fields for them to complete, and make these custom Profile Fields required, as well. 

Single Sign-on (SSO)

Single Sign-on (or SSO) is a way for your users to login using credentials that they have with another system. This might include SAML2 or OAuth

    • SAML2 is by far the most robust and supported protocol across the internet. SAML 2.0 enables identity propagation of an authenticated user between a company’s identity provider and a third-party service. It is needed for integrating an enterprise’s existing SSO with third-party (cloud based) service providers. Thus authentication can be performed with the company’s own identity provider. Employees/partners (or authenticated users) are required to authenticate only once to a web site but can subsequently log-in to many services without having to re-type their passwords again.
    • OAuth is an open-standard authorization protocol or framework that provides applications the ability for “secure designated access” and allows you to approve one application interacting with another on your behalf without giving away your password. OAuth doesn’t share password data but instead uses authorization tokens to prove an identity between consumers and service providers.

      For example, you can tell Facebook that it’s OK for to access your profile or post updates to your timeline without having to give Amazon your Facebook password. This minimizes risk in a major way: In the event Amazon suffers a breach, your Facebook password remains safe.

Guest Access  Guest Access

Guest access is enabled by default, but you can remove the option for users to login anonymously. 

A scenario where you may want to keep Guest Access enabled is if you've got a catalog of courses for users to browse, or if there is a course you would like users to be able to audit before enrolling.

other authentication methods icon  Using More Than One Authentication Method

You can have one or more methods as the same time enabled on your site, but each user can only use one method of authentication at a time. So, you may have manual authentication for some users, OAuth for others, but each user authenticates with only one of those.

you can enable and configure as many methods as you need for your users in Site administration > Plugins > Authentication > Manage authentication. 


The order of processing on the Login page does matter and after Manual and No Login, you should next put the method that most users will have.

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Help Learners Find Their Course: Site Usability

In web design, usability refers to how easy a website is for visitors to interact with. For example, some sites are visually stunning but difficult to navigate, which makes it hard for users to find what they need. Such websites are on the low end of the usability scale. Usability is about functionality.

User Experience (UX), on the other hand, is all about the way visitors feel about interacting with your website, while UX is (as the name suggests) about experience.

In UX design, usable and findable are important for the following reasons:

  • If users can’t find the information they need, they’ll often become frustrated.

  • A poor experience can mean  a decrease in effectiveness.

When using a web environment, users typically want to know three things: ‘Where am I?’, ‘Where have I been?’ and ‘Where else can I go?’ By visibly demonstrating these answers within your navigational structure, users will feel at ease about the environment thereby, reinforcing another core UX principle: value.

To see more on fundamental considerations to improve your site user experience (UX), see: User Experience (UX) Basics.

general navigation icon  General Navigation Features

Lambda Learn offers several navigational features to help users find their way around the learning environment easily. 

  • Navigation Bar
    • The Navigation bar, sometimes referred to as breadcrumbs, is the row of links you will find at the top left of your site. The navigation bar shows a user their current context path, with links to the higher contexts. 
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  • Navigation Block
    • The Navigation block provide easy access to view various sections of the LMS. This block is a default block in the Dashboard.
    • If enabled, the navigation block will appear on every page of the site. It contains an expanding tree menu which includes DashboardSite Pages and Courses. What appears in the navigation block depends on the role of the user, where they are in the site, and any settings that have been applied globally.
    • The administrator can change settings (such as the default home page) from Navigation in Site Administration.
    • If the Dashboard is forced and the navigation block hidden, learners will find it harder to see courses they are not enrolled in.

For more information on Block configuration and management, see Managing Blocks.

  • Administration Block
    • The Administration block provides you with easy access to contextual settings to change various settings for anything you have permissions for. This block is a default block in the Dashboard
    • What appears in the administration block depends upon where the user is and what role they have in that location. For example, a site administrator on the front page will have Front page settings while a teacher in a course will have more options in Course administration than a student.

For more information on Block configuration and management, see Managing Blocks.

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Dashboard icon  Custom User Landing Page: The Dashboard

The Dashboard allows content to be displayed on selected user's Home page. It is a customizable page for providing users with details of their progress and upcoming deadlines, as well as adding, removing blocks and changing block positions.

The Dashboard is the default home page for logged in users. An administrator can change the default home page in Administration > Site administration > Appearance > Navigation.

The default blocks on the dashboard are:

Dashboard Blocks

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The Navigation block is used to provide navigation links.

If enabled, the navigation block will appear on every page of the site. It contains an expanding tree menu which includes Dashboard, Site Pages and Courses. What appears in the navigation block depends on the role of the user, where they are in the Moodle site, and any settings that have been applied globally.

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The Administration block is used to provide context-sensitive links.

Note that Grades and Competencies are shown in the Navigation block instead of the administration block.

What appears in the administration block depends upon where the user is and what role they have in that location. For example, a site administrator on the front page will have Front page settings while a teacher in a course will have more options in Course administration than a student.

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Course overview

This block enables learners to check their course progress,  track required activities and filter courses.

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Private files

Each user has a Private files area for uploading and managing a set of files.

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Latest badges

This block displays the badges earned the user has earned.

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The Calendar can display site, course, group, user and category events in addition to assignment and quiz deadlines, chat times and other course events.

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Upcoming events

This block displays events from the calendar in a summarized list.
Online users. block shows a list of users who have been logged into the current course.

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Current learning

This block is a really useful way for learners to see their progress and any outstanding learning.

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An administrator or manager can set the default blocks for all users from Administration > Site administration > Appearance > Default Dashboard page.


customize  Customizing the Dashboard

By default, all authenticated users can manage blocks (edit, add, delete, etc.) on their Dashboard.

The site Admin and Manager can control which blocks may be added to a Dashboard for all users  in Administration> Site administration > Appearance > Default Dashboard page. All blocks have a myaddinstance capability for controlling whether a user with a particular role can add the block.

Custom User-based Dashboards moodle totara icon

Set up multiple dashboards to suit your requirements and provide different users with different navigation options.

For example, you may want to create separate dashboards for the important roles in your system (such as Learners, Trainers and Site Administrators), providing easy access to important information and features. 

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The site admin can also prevent users from altogether adding blocks to their Dashboard.

    1. Go to Administration > Site administration > Users > Permissions > Define roles.
    2. Edit the authenticated user role and untick the Manage Dashboard blocks capability.

For more information on Dashboard configuration and management, click on the appropriate article link below: 

Check out this Master Class about designing meaningful dashboards in Lambda Analytics (Zoola) to get the best out of your LMS experience: The Season for Reason - The Principles of Dashboard Design.

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blocks icon Additional Usability Features: Blocks

A great way to create a supportive and usable learning environment for your learners is to use blocks. Blocks allow you to provide additional information to help your learners stay on track with their learning. These functional tools may be added to the left or right or centre column of the dashboard, or any page on the site or in a course. 

An administrator can manage the blocks for the site in Administration > Site administration > Plugins > Blocks > Manage blocks.

Blocks Management


For more information on Block configuration and management, see Managing Blocks.

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How Secure is Your Data: Site Security & Policies

All web application software is highly complex, and every application has security issues that are found from time to time, usually involving some combination of input that the programmers did not anticipate.


Lambda Solutions takes security seriously, and is continuously improving Lambda Learn (Moodle) to close such holes. As such we encourage our customers to update their LMS installations regularly.

Site Security Site Security

You'll likely want to know that your site is safe, inside and out. In the Site security settings, you can enable (or disable) settings like forcing users to login before they access anything, allowing (or preventing) indexing of your site by search engines, and account lockouts for multiple failed login attempts.

Here are some basic security recommendations you can do to ensure your learning environment remains secure:

  • Use https to secure all pages (not just the login page). Protect all traffic from your Lambda Learn (Moodle) instance and your users by making all pages accessible via https only. This not only protects passwords on login but also ensures the privacy of your users so that all user data cannot be intercepted or manipulated ("ad injections") from third parties like WLAN providers for example. Free https certificates are available from In addition, set httpslogin=yes in your Lambda Learn (Moodle) config to add an extra layer of protection for submitting login credentials.
  • Use a Password policy.  It is highly recommended that a password policy is set to force users to use stronger passwords that are less susceptible to being cracked by an intruder. Enforcing password complexity along with requiring users to change their initial password go a long way in helping ensure that users choose and are in fact using "good passwords". A password policy may be set up in Settings > Site administration > Security > Site policies.

    There is a check box to determine if password complexity should be enforced or not, the option to set the minimum length of the password, the minimum number of digits, the minimum number of lowercase characters, the minimum number of uppercase characters and the minimum number of non alphanumeric characters.  If a user enters a password that does not meet those requirements, they are given an error message indicating the nature of the problem with the entered password.

  • Enable Account lockout. Account lockout threshold: After a specified number of failed login attempts, a user's account is locked and they are sent an email containing an URL to unlock the account. 
  • Set a Maximum upload file size. Upload file sizes are restricted in a number of ways:
    • The site-wide maximum uploaded file size setting: Settings > Site administration > Security > Site policies > Maximum uploaded file size.

    • The course maximum uploaded file size setting in the course default settings: Settings > Site administration > Courses > Course default settings

    • The file size settings in each individual course in Course Administration>Settings.

    • Certain course activity module settings (for example, Assignment)

  • Log out after password change. By default, users can change their password and remain logged in. Enabling this setting will log them out of existing sessions except the one in which they specify their new password. This setting only applies to users manually changing their password, not to bulk password changes.

  • Only give teacher accounts to trusted users. Avoid creating public sandboxes with free teacher accounts on production servers.Teacher accounts have much freer permissions and it is easier to create situations where data can be abused or stolen.

Site Policies - privacy icon  Site Policies: Privacy

With the introduction of GDPR, users that are citizens of the EU can now request more transparency for the data you collect on your LMS.  GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and refers to the European Union regulation for data protection for all individuals within the European Union. 

What kind of information comprises personal data?

It is all information that can be associated with a natural person. Each user account and all the activity associated with that user account is classified as personal information. This also extends to associated information such as web server log files.

What can I do now to make my Lambda Learn ready for GDPR?

There are two functionality that together comprise the GDPR features:

  • Policies provides a new user sign on process, with ability to define multiple policies (site, privacy, third party), track user consents, and manage updates and versioning of the policies.

To enable the policies tool:

  1. Go to 'Policy settings' in the Site administration.
  2. Set the Site policy handler to 'Policies (tool_policy)'.
  3. Save changes.
  • The Data privacy  functionality provides the workflow for users to submit a data request (also known as a subject access request or SAR) and for the site administrator or privacy officer to process these requests. It also includes the data registry to define a purpose and retention period for the data stored in your Lambda Learn (Moodle) site. 

Data registry set-up

To add purposes (why your organization is processing data) and categories:

    1. Go to 'Data registry' in the Site administration.
    2. In the Edit menu select Categories.
    3. On the 'Edit categories' page, click the + button to add a new category.
    4. Enter a category name and description then click the Save button.
    5. Go to 'Data registry' again and in the Edit menu select Purposes.
    6. On the 'Edit purposes' page, click the + button to add a new purpose.
    7. Enter a purpose namedescription and retention period then click the Save button.

To set default categories and purposes:

    1. In 'Data registry' in the Site administration click the 'Set defaults' button.
    2. Select a default category and purpose for the site, and for users, course categories, courses, activity modules and blocks as required.
    3. Save changes.

Sample categories

    • Administrative: Civil status, identity, identification data, images …
    • Personal life (lifestyle, family situation, etc.)
    • Economic and financial information (income, financial situation, tax situation, etc.)
    • Connection data (IP address, logs, etc.)
    • Educational Data (Assessed Coursework, exam scripts etc)
    • Records of Education Attainment (Results of exams, assessments, qualifications awarded etc)
    • Location data (travel, GPS data, GSM, etc.)



Even if you do not have any users that are citizens of the EU, it may be worthwhile to identify what kind of data you would  like to collect from your users, such as login frequency, location, grades, and so on.


There are many more settings you can adjust on your LMS based on your UX needs. We  wanted to provide you with a quick guide and highlight the key settings you should focus on to get you started quickly and efficiently. 

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