The glossary is a way to collect and organise content that is searchable and browsable. A glossary can be collaborative or entries only made by the trainer. To help with organisation, entries can be put in categories. 

(The video above is taken from the Glossary and wiki course in the Totara Academy). 

Adding a glossary

To create a glossary:

  1. Click Turn editing on.
  2. Select Glossary from the Add an activity or resource menu.
  3. Configure the settings to your preferences.
  4. Click Save and display (or Save and return to course).

An empty glossary.

Glossary settings 

There are a number of configurable settings for a glossary activity.

NameThe name of the glossary. This appears on the course page.-
DescriptionAdd a description, this might include instructions for using the glossary.-
Display description on course pageTick to display the description on the course page.-
Is this glossary global?

Site 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 glossary: Only trainers can edit the main glossary
  • Secondary glossary: Can be configured to allow learner entries and comments

You can export entries from any secondary glossary into the main glossary. There can only be one main glossary in a course.

If glossary entry import is not required, all glossaries in the course can be secondary glossaries.
Approved by defaultIf 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.-
Always allow editing

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

Duplicated entries allowedThis allows the entry of more than one definition for a given word.-
Allow comments on entriesAllows comments on glossary definitions. The comments are available via a link at the bottom of the definition.-
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.

The auto-linking feature only works if your Site Administrator has enabled it. Auto-linking can be very processor intensive, so if it doesn’t seem to be working for you, your Site Administrator may have turned it off to speed up the system.

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
Approval display format

When approving glossary items you may wish to use a different display format.

Entries shown per page

This sets the number of words and definitions your trainees will see when they view the glossary list.

Show alphabet links

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.

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.

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.

Grade category

This setting controls the category in which this activity's grades are placed in the gradebook.

Grade to passThis setting determines the minimum grade required to pass. The value is used in activity and course completion, and in the gradebook, where pass grades are highlighted in green and fail grades in red.-
Roles with permission to rate

You can grade entries yourself or allow students 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.

Aggregate type

The aggregate type defines how ratings are combined to form the final grade in the gradebook.

  • Average of ratings: The mean of all ratings.
  • Count of ratings: The number of rated items becomes the final grade. The total cannot exceed the maximum grade for the activity.
  • Maximum: The highest rating becomes the final grade.
  • Minimum: The smallest rating becomes the final grade.
  • Sum: All ratings are added together. The total cannot exceed the maximum grade for the activity.
 If No ratings is selected, then the activity will not appear in the gradebook.
ScaleSelect the type of grading used for this activity. If scale is chosen, you can then choose the scale from the scale dropdown. If using point grading, you can then enter the maximum grade available for this activity.-
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.

TagSee Tags to learn.-

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, he 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.

Exporting 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.

Importing 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.

Plugin settings

As a Site Administrator from within the Site administration menu you can go to Plugins > Activity modules > Glossary to configure the site-wide settings for the glossary activity. 

Entries shown per page

Entries shown per page.

Duplicate entries allowed

Define if a glossary will allow duplicated entries by default.

Allow comments on entries

Define if a glossary will accept comments on entries by default.

Automatically link glossary entries

Define if a glossary should be automatically linked by default.

Approved by default

Define the approval status by default of an entry posted by a learner.

Enable RSS feeds

This switch will enable the possibility of RSS feeds for all glossaries. You will still need to turn feeds on manually in the settings for each glossary.

Automatically link glossary entries

Define if an entry should be automatically linked by default.

This entry is case sensitive

Define if an entry, when linked, is case sensitive by default.

Match whole words only

Define if an entry, when linked, should match the case in the target text by default.

Display formats setup

You can decide which display options will be available for glossary activities by using the show/hide icon (/). You can also configure the settings for each display option using the edit icon ().


The Totara Academy has a whole course dedicated to using using the Glossary and wiki in Totara Learn.  Here you can learn more on how to use these tools, see best practice, and give it a go yourself.