6.3. Developing Course Sections

To develop sections in your course, you must first understand the following topics.

6.3.1. What Is a Section?

A section is the topmost category in your course. A section can represent a time period in your course, a chapter, or another organizing principle. A section contains one or more subsections.

6.3.2. Viewing Sections in the Outline

The following example shows four sections, all collapsed, in the course outline.

Four sections in the outline.

6.3.3. The Learner View of a Section

Learners see sections in the Courseware tab. Learners can expand one section at a time to see its contents. In the following example, three sections are circled, and the third one is expanded to show its subsections.

The learner view of the course with two sections circled.

6.3.4. Sections and Visibility to Learners

Learners cannot see any content in the section if the section’s release date is unscheduled or has not passed.

If a section’s release date has passed, learners can see content in the section if:

  • The release date for the subsection that contains that content has passed.
  • The unit has been published.
  • The unit is not hidden from learners.

6.3.5. Release Statuses of Sections

As an course author, you control the release status of sections. For the content of a section to be visible to learners, the section must be released. See the following topics for more information about the possible release statuses of sections.

6.3.5.1. Unscheduled

If you do not change the course start date default value, 1/1/2030 00:00:00 UTC, when you create a new section, its release date will appear as Unscheduled. When the section release date is unscheduled, learners cannot see any content in that section, regardless of the publishing status of that content.

If you have modified the course start date, when you create a new section, the default release date is the course start date.

The following example shows how an unscheduled section displays in the outline, summarized with a gray bar.

An unscheduled section.

To make the content available to learners, you must schedule the release date.

6.3.5.2. Scheduled

A section that is scheduled for release on a future date will not be visible to learners until after the release date. Regardless of the publishing status of content within the section, the entire section will not visible to learners.

The following example shows how a section that is scheduled for release displays in the outline, summarized with a green bar.

A section scheduled to release in the future.

The scheduled date must pass for the section to be visible to learners.

6.3.5.3. Released

A section that is released is visible to learners; however, learners see only subsections within the section that are also released, and units that are published.

The following example shows how a released section displays in the outline, summarized with a blue bar.

A released section.

6.3.5.4. Released with Unpublished Changes

If you change a unit in a released section but do not publish the changes, learners see the last published version of the modified unit.

The following example shows how a released section with unpublished changes displays in the outline, with a yellow bar. The section is expanded to show the unit with unpublished changes.

A section with unpublished changes.

You must publish the unit for learners to see the updates.

6.3.5.5. Staff Only Content

A section can contain a unit that is hidden from learners and available to members of the course team only. That unit is not visible to learners, regardless of the release date of the section or subsection.

The following example shows how a section that contains a unit that is hidden from learners displays in the outline, summarized with a black bar.

A section with a hidden unit.

6.3.6. Create a Section

If you do not change the course start date default value, 1/1/2030, when you create a new section, its release date will be Unscheduled.

If you have modified the course start date, when you create a new section, the default release date is the course start date.

Caution

If the course start date is in the past, newly created sections are immediately visible to learners.

To create a new section, follow these steps.

  1. On the Course Outline page, select New Section. This option appears at both the top of the page and below the current sections in the outline.

    A new section appears at the end of the course content, with the section name selected.

  2. Enter the name for the new section. A descriptive name can help learners locate content in the courseware. It can also help you select content when you analyze performance in edX Insights.

  3. Add subsections to the new section as needed.

It is recommended that you test course content as you create new sections.

6.3.7. Change a Section Name

To edit a section name, move your cursor over the section name to show the Edit icon.

The Edit Section Name icon.

Select the Edit icon next to the section name. The name field becomes editable. Enter the new name, and then tab or click outside of the field to save the name.

6.3.8. Set a Section Release Date

To set the section release date, follow these steps.

  1. Select the Configure icon in the section box.

    The section settings icon circled.

    The Settings dialog box opens.

  2. Enter the release date and time for the section.

Note

The time that you set, and the time that learners see, is in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). You might want to verify that you have specified the time that you intend by using a time zone converter such as Time and Date Time Zone Converter

  1. Select Save.

For more information, see Release Dates.

6.3.9. Publish all Units in a Section

To publish all new and changed units in a section, select the Publish icon in the box for the section.

Publishing icon for a section.

Note

The Publish icon only appears when there is new or changed content within the section.

For more information about statuses and visibility to learners, see Unit Publishing Status.

6.3.10. Hide a Section from Learners

You can hide all content in a section from learners, regardless of the status of subsections and units within the section.

For more information, see Content Hidden from Learners.

To hide a section from learners, follow these steps.

  1. Select the Configure icon in the section box.

    The section settings icon circled.

    The Settings dialog box opens.

  2. In the Student Visibility section, select Hide from students.

  3. Select Save.

Now, none of the content in the section is visible to learners.

To make the section visible to students, repeat these steps and clear the Hide from students check box.

Warning

When you clear the Hide from students check box for a section, not all content in the section is necessarily made visible to learners. If you explicitly set a subsection or unit to be hidden from learners, it remains hidden from learners. Unpublished units remain unpublished, and changes to published units remain unpublished.

6.3.11. Delete a Section

When you delete a section, you delete all subsections and units within the section.

Warning

You cannot restore course content after you delete it. To ensure you do not delete content you may need later, you can move any unused content to a section in your course that you set to never release.

To delete a section, follow these steps.

  1. Select the Delete icon in the section that you want to delete.
The section with Delete icon circled.
  1. When you receive the confirmation prompt, select Yes, delete this section.