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Glossary can be used in many ways. The entries can be searched or browsed in different formats. A glossary can be collaborative or entries only made by the trainer. Entries can be put in categories. The autolinking feature will highlight any word in the course which is located in the glossary. Autolinking can be turned off in the quiz module. It is possible to import and export entries from one glossary to another. Site wide (global) glossaries can be created that work in all courses. An entry can be linked to more than one key phrase.

Glossary features:

  • Allows participants to create and maintain a list of definitions, like a dictionary.
  • Learner entries can be previewed by instructors before publishing.
  • Entries can be searched or browsed using alphabet, category, date, and author.
  • A glossary of terms can be easily referenced by learners.
  • Almost any module of Totara can be set to hyperlink automatically to any word or phrase that is stored in or added to the glossary.
  • Glossary items can be grouped into categories.
  • Participants can comment on glossary entries.
  • Entries can be rated using trainer-defined scales.
  • Glossaries can be easily exported and imported via xml.
  • Glossaries can be fully searched.
  • Glossaries can be viewed with different display formats.

Glossary Capabilities

The glossary module has a number of capabilities available to create roles. With capability overrides, you can enable your trainees to have a high degree of control over their glossaries.

Glossary capabilities are:

Create new entries: This allows a user to add new entries. If you want a glossary in which only trainers can add entries, you can use a role override to prevent trainees from adding entries.

Manage entries: A user with this capability can edit and delete other users’ entries.

Manage categories: This allows a user to edit and delete glossary categories for organising the terms.

Create comments: This allows a user to add comments, if commenting is enabled in the glossary. By default, both trainers and trainees are allowed to add comments. If you want only trainers to be able to add comments, you can use a role override to prevent trainees from doing so.

Manage comments: This allows a user to edit and delete other users’ comments.

Import entries: This allows a user to import glossary entries. When importing glossary entries, embedded images and attached files will also be included.

Export entries: This allows a user to export glossary entries.

Approve unapproved entries: If the glossary is set to hide entries until they are approved, a user with this capability can approve new entries. This is a capability to consider giving trusted trainee moderators.

Rate entries: This allows a user to rate entries, if rating is enabled in the glossary.

View ratings: This allows a user to view all glossary ratings.

Adding a Glossary

Each Totara course has its own set of glossaries. Only trainers can edit the main glossary. Secondary glossaries may be configured to allow trainee entries and comments.

Your Totara course may contain one main glossary and as many secondary glossaries as you want. You can export entries from any secondary glossary into the main glossary.

You can create the link to your glossaries anywhere in your course sections. We suggest that you add a main glossary to the general section at the top of your course page, then add secondary glossaries to the topic or weekly section where they are relevant.

To create a glossary:

  1. Click Turn editing on.
  2. Select Glossary from the Add an activity... dropdown menu.
  3. Enter the glossary name, this appears on the course page for learners.
  4. Customise the available settings as required, see Glossary Settings to learn more.
  5. Click Save and display (or Save and return to course).
The autolinking feature only works if your system administrator has enabled it. Autolinking can be very processor-intensive, so if it doesn’t seem to be working for you, your system administrator may have turned it off to speed up the system.

Glossary Settings


Entries shown per page: This sets the number of words and definitions your trainees will see when they view the glossary list.

Is this glossary global?: Administrators can make a global glossary, with entries linking throughout the whole site. Any course may contain a global glossary, though usually they are only included on the site front page.

Glossary type: The glossary can be either main or secondary. As mentioned, you can export entries from any secondary glossary into the main glossary.

Duplicated entries allowed: This allows the entry of more than one definition for a given word.

Allow comments on entries: Allows comments on glossary definitions. The comments are available via a link at the bottom of the definition.

Allow print view: This provides a printer-friendly-version link for trainees. If you’ve set Allow print view to Yes, then you’ll see a little printer icon at the top right of the main glossary page. If you click the icon, Totara opens a new browser window and presents all the words and definitions in a printer-friendly format.

Automatically link glossary entries: Totara has a text-filter feature that automatically creates a link from a word in the course to its glossary definition. Linked words are highlighted.

Approved by default: If trainees are allowed to add entries, you can allow entries to be automatically approved and added to the glossary, or they can require your approval before other trainees are able to see them.

Display format: You can select how the glossary appears when trainees list the entries. There are a number of styles for you to explore. Other options include:

  • Continuous without author: This shows the entries one after another without any kind of separation, apart from the editing icons.
  • Encyclopedia: This is similar to the Full with author format apart from attached images being displayed in line.
  • Entry list: This lists the concepts as links.
  • FAQ: This is useful for displaying a list of Frequently Asked Questions. It automatically appends the words QUESTION and ANSWER in the concept and definition respectively.
  • Full with author: This is a forum-like display format with attachments shown as links.
  • Full without author: This is a forum-like display format that does not show author’s data with attachments shown as links.

Show 'Special' link: When users browse the glossary, they can select the first character of a word from a list. The Special link displays special characters such as @, #, $, etc.

Show alphabet: You can use this option to display the alphabet for easier glossary browsing.

Show 'ALL' link: If you want trainees to see all of the glossary entries at once, set this to Yes.

Edit always: If you want entries to be always editable, set this to Yes.


Allow entries to be rated: You can grade entries yourself or allow learners to grade entries as well. Select Only trainers or Everyone from the users menu. Then select a grading scale. You can also restrict when entries can be graded to a specific date range.

Common module settings

See Common Module Settings to learn more.

Activity completion

See Activity Completion to learn more.

Restrict access

See Restrict Access to learn more.

Adding an Entry

Clicking the Add a new entry button gives you access to the definition entry page.

To add a glossary entry:

  1. From the Glossary page, click Add a new entry.
  2. Enter the word you want to define in the Concept text field.
  3. Add the definition of the word or concept.
  4. If you’ve defined categories in the Browse by category tab, you can categorise your entry here.
  5. If there are synonyms you want to include with the entry, add them to the Keyword(s) text area. Enter one word per line.
  6. If you want to add an attachment, such as a picture or an article, you can attach it below the Keyword(s) text area.
  7. If you want this particular entry to be linked automatically within the course, check the This entry should be automatically linked checkbox. If you select automatic linking, the checkboxes below determine whether the links are case sensitive and whether only whole words are linked.
  8. Click Save changes to add your word to the glossary.

Glossary Categories

Categories can help organise your glossary entries. If you’ve enabled auto linking, the category names can be linked along with individual entries.

To create a glossary category:

  1. Click the Browse by category tab in the main page of the glossary.
  2. Click Edit categories on the left side of the page.
  3. Click Add category on the resulting Categories page.
  4. Give the category a name.
  5. Choose whether you want the category name auto linked as well.
  6. Click Save changes.
If you autolink the category name, any occurrence of those words will be linked. When a learner clicks on the link, they will be taken to the Browse by category page of the glossary.

Importing and Exporting Glossary Entries

As you build your glossaries, you may want to share them between courses or with other trainers. Fortunately, there’s a way to export and import glossary entries without needing to share your entire course structure.

To export glossary entries:

  1. Click the Export entries link at the top right of the main glossary page.
  2. Click Export entries to file.
  3. Save the automatically generated XML file on your computer.

To import glossary entries via an XML file:

  1. Click the Import entries link at the top right of the main glossary page.
  2. Browse for the exported entries XML file on your computer.
  3. Select the destination for the new entries, either the current glossary or a new one.
  4. If you want to import category information, click the checkbox.
  5. Click Save changes.

You then see a report of the entries and categories added to the glossary. If you enabled duplicate entries when you created the glossary, the import process adds all of the new definitions. Otherwise, it does not allow you to import any duplicate entries.

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