Using Moodle External Tool

A Moodle external tool can be added by a teaching assistant or instructor from the page of their moodle course provided by an administrator to all the on-site teachers. A new Moodle plug-in which was added to Moodle is known as external tool. If you are the type of teacher who uses lots of technology in educating your students which does not fit in your Moodle course then this little plug-in can help you a lot.

These external tools allow for integrating online e-learning tools with the specifications of IMS LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability). In this way it allows the Moodle users to move seamlessly out of and into the learning tool out of Moodle. Moreover the performance data produced by the external learning tool on the Moodle learners will be passed straight into the gradebook of the Moodle to pose like another Moodle activity.

Reasons to use Moodle External Tool in a Moodle Course

Moodle external tools are normally used for two main reasons including:

Learning materials and interactive exercises are provided by many websites which can be complementary or different from the activities and resources of the Moodle itself. An external tool helps the teachers who want to link these activities from within the course page of moodle which are available to send the grades back to the Moodle. Instead of connecting to the site second time students will have to log-in to the Moodle only.

The LTI complaint sites which allow this type of connection to the moodle are termed as providers of the tools which include materials and exercises which can be connected to the Moodle.

How to Add New Moodle External Tool to a Moodle Course

You will have to turn-on editing in the section in which you want to add external tool by choosing the external tool and clicking on the link of ‘Add an activity or resource’ on the drop down menu of ‘Add an activity’. You will be taken to the settings page named as ‘Adding a new external tool’.

You will be required to have a correct URL, consumer key and secret in advance if the external tool chosen by you can not be configured by the administrator. The managers of the LTI compliant website should have provided you these tools through which you are going to be connected. In order to access the secret fields and consumer key you will have to click on ‘show advanced’.

Setting the New Moodle External Tool

A new external tool can be set into the Moodle course by making various settings as given here under:

General Settings

Name the activity

Giving a title to the activity will allow your students recognize it on your course page

Type of external tool

It allows Moodle to communicate with the providers of the tools. If the administrator has provided the tools on the site by default then you can select from them.

Launching of URL It will help you in connecting to the site Launching of container: It will help you in displaying your external tool

Embed tool

External tools of this type will be embedded in the blocks and navigation bar of the Moodle course page.

Embed tool without blocks

These external tools will be embedded in the course page in Moodle with no blocks.

New Window

A new window will be provided to the external tools to open in. If New window is chosen by you for setting an external tool on your moodle course page then you should add a note on the course page to remind your students for unblocking popups as they can stop them to get the link.

Privacy settings

Share the name of the launcher with the tool: It allows students to display their name on the site connected by them. Share the email of the launcher with the tool: It will allow the students to display their email on the connected site. Acceptance of grades provided by the tool: The grades sent back to the gradebook of the Moodle by the connected site can be checked.

Advanced settings

You will have to click on ‘show advanced’ button for advance settings of the external tool.

Description of the activity

You will have to give a short description about your activity

Display of description of the page of course

It allows you to show the description of the activity alongwith its name on the course page.

Display the name of activity at the time of launch

It appears when student clicks on the link Display the description of activity at the time of launch: It also appears when student clicks on the link Secure launch URL

Consumer key

It informs the connected LTI complaint site about the permission of getting connected with your Moodle. The manager or the tool provider of this site will issue this key to you. You do not need this key if you are sharing gradebook only or linking to a tool with no safe access.

Shared secret

It is used by the LTI compliant site as a password to get connected to the tool.

Customary parameters

It can be used by the tool provider for allowing you to display a particular resource.

Icon URL

A different icon from the default External Tool icon can be displayed by entering its URL.

Secure the Icon URL

If your students are accessing Moodle safely through SSL then you will have to enter the URL of your different icon.

Setting of Common Module

Along with external tool the common module setting section appears in a number of other modules. It helps in setting the interaction levels of the Groups and their ID numbers.

Setting of restricted access

If conditional Activities have been enabled in the Moodle activities and resource settings then Restrict access area appears in the Moodle.

Setting for Site Administration

It helps in adding a tool sitwide. The site administrator uses Setings, Site Administration, Plug-ins, Activity Module and External Tool buttons to configure an external tool so that it can be used across the site. Tabs can also be used to add pending or rejected external tools to a Moodle course page. Thus a Moodle external tool can be used on a course page.


Nicole Lewis is the Lead Author & Editor of MyLMStips. MyLMStips is dedicated to providing the most engaging topics, information, tips and tricks surrounding Moodle®. It's a place where Moodle® users can receive guidance on how to get the most out of it and increase their productivity and progress.