Forums are sites within an online course that facilitate two-way discussion between you and your students, and among your students.
There are two types of forum activity, forum and Open forum (previously referred to as Advanced forum). View the table Comparison of Forum and Open Forum in the Step By Step Instructions below to help you decide which forum activity better suits your needs.
This page tells you how to set up a forum and how to assess students' participation in a forum.
When to use
A News forum is automatically created for each Moodle course, and displays at the top of the course home page. Place general news and announcements relating to the course in this forum.
You can also create 5 different types of discussion forum within your Moodle course—see Benefits and What kind of forum do you need? below.
To help you decide whether to use a blog, a wiki or a discussion forum, visit the page Blog, wiki or forum—which should you use?
The 5 different types of discussion forum lend themselves to 5 discussion structures you can set up with your students:
- A single simple discussion is useful for short, focused discussions. It allows for a single thread, which displays on a single page. If an instructor attempts to create further threads, when submitted these new posts will be hidden from view, although they will be listed on the course home page as unread posts. For a format allowing multiple threads, select one of the Standard options.
- In a forum where Each person posts one discussion, each participant can only post one new discussion topic, although they can all reply to each others' topics. This is useful when you want each student to, say, reflect on the week's topic, and everyone else to respond to their reflections
- In a Q and A Forum, a question is posed in the initial post of a discussion. Students must reply to this question with their own answer before other students' replies will be visible to them.
- The Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format works like the Standard forum for general use, but displays differently. Only the first post of a new topic displays on the forum page (the most recent topic first, as in a blog); users click Discuss this topic on that post to view and join in the discussion.
- In a Standard forum for general use, any participant can start a new topic at any time. All topics and their replies display at once, with the user's chosen layout (in nested form, if no layout is chosen).
For more information on the different options and their features, see the Step by step instructions section of this page, or visit the moodle.org Using Forum page.
Step by step instructions
Step by step instructions
- Comparison of Forum and Open Forum
- What kind of forum do you need?
- Set up a forum
- Set up access to all forum and individual forum digest settings
- Change forum subscription mode
- Resource for students, about forums
- Assess student participation in forums
- The Search Open Forum block
- Print a discussion
- View anonymous users
- Marking a post as read
The following table compares the two different types of forum activity - forum and Open forum.
|All five forum types are supported||Yes||Yes|
|Users can search for posts in the discussion||No||Yes|
|Users can sort posts in the discussion based on the sorting options||No||Yes|
|Users can change the display of replies in a discussion to either threaded, nested or flat display||Yes||No*|
|Users can anonymously post in a forum||No||Yes|
|Forum posts can be set to be automatically marked as read||Yes||No|
|Forum posts and attachments can be exported||No||Yes|
|Staff can view/edit forum subscribers||Yes||Yes|
|Staff can view/edit subscribers of a specific discussion in a forum||No||Yes|
|Staff can stop users from making new discussions and posting outside of a date range||Yes||No|
*This feature is no longer available as of the upgrade to Moodle 3.1 in November 2016.
The 5 different types of discussion forum are listed in the Forum type drop-down list on the Adding a new Forum page:
The following table will help you decide which type of forum suits your students' learning needs.
With thanks to Macquarie University for permission to adapt their iLearn resources.
For more information on the different options and their features, visit the moodle.org Using Forum page.
- On the Moodle course home page, in the relevant section, click Add an activity or resource, from the activity chooser select Forum.
- On the Adding a new Forum page, click Expand all, then in the General section:
- Enter the Forum name.
- Provide a Description.This should contain: the stimulus material to get your students posting (video, reading, scenario etc.), a description of the forum's task and purpose, your expectations about how much time they should devote to participating and, if the class is inexperienced in forum use, rules of netiquette and a link to their student guide.
If you are copying text from a Microsoft Word document, follow the instructions on this page, "Copy text from Word to Moodle".
- Choose the Forum type (see "What kind of forum do you need?" above).
- Under Attachments and word count, select:
- the Maximum attachment size for attachments to forum posts
- the Maximum number of attachments that can be made to a single forum post
- whether you want to Display word count of each forum post.
- Under Subscription and tracking:
- Select the Subscription mode from the drop-down list:
- With Optional subscription, users must go into the forum and choose to subscribe.
- With Forced subscription, users are automatically subscribed and cannot unsubscribe themselves. You might want to use forced subscription for the News forum, or for forums you create at the beginning of the course, when users may not know that they can subscribe themselves.
- With Auto subscription, all enrolled users are initially auto-subscribed for a short period, after which they can choose to unsubscribe
- With Subscription disabled, subscription is not allowed.
- At Read tracking, select whether you want to enable participants to track read and unread posts in the forum and in discussions. (Forum tracking must also be enabled in the user's profile settings.)
- Select the Subscription mode from the drop-down list:
- Under RSS:
- If you want to enable an RSS feed for this activity, select either Discussions or Posts to be included in the feed.
- Select the Number of RSS recent articles (either discussions or posts) to include in the RSS feed. Between 5 and 20 is generally acceptable.
- Under Discussion locking and Post threshold for blocking, place any necessary limitations on forum posts:
- Lock discussions after period of inactivity—Select a period of inactivity after which discussions cannot be posted to
- Allow discussion postings within this range—Select a date range which users may post to the forum
- Time period for blocking—Select a period within which users can be blocked from posting more than a given number of posts
- Post threshold for blocking—Enter the number of times any individual may post before they are blocked from posting further.
- Post threshold for warning—Enter the number of posts at which system will warn the user of the approaching threshold.
In the example shown below, individuals are warned that they are approaching the threshold when they post 6 times in a week. Once they have posted 8 times in a week they are prevented from posting further.
- Make other selections as desired in the remaining page sections, and click Save and display.
- On the new forum’s home page, click Add a new discussion topic.
- On the "Your new discussion topic" page, click Advanced and enter a Subject and Message as text, audio or video. It's good to specify here whether students are to only reply to the topic you've posted, or are free to add new discussion topics themselves. Add any necessary links, images or text files. If you tick the Mail now check box, the announcement email will be sent to everyone who is subscribed to the forum, without the usual delay to allow for possible editing of your forum post. Selecting the Mail now check box will only result in subscribers being notified immediately if, in editing their student profile, under Email digest type, they have selected No digest (single email per forum post). If they have selected Complete or Subjects, they will be notified of this forum post along with the remainder of their daily digest notifications.
- Click Post to forum.
For easy access to the main forum page, where you can see all the forums listed and subscribe to or unsubscribe from forums, add an Activities block to your course home page.
The options for subscription mode are:
- Optional subscription—Participants can choose whether to subscribe or not.
- Forced subscription—All course participants are subscribed. They cannot unsubscribe.
- Auto subscription—All course participants are subscribed initially, but they can choose to unsubscribe at any time.
- Subscription disabled—Subscription is not allowed.
Changing the setting from Auto to Disabled will not unsubscribe existing users; it will only affect those who enrol in the course after the date of the change. Changing from Disabled to Forced will only subscribe users enrolling later.
- On the course home page or the forums page (to access the forums page, in the Activities block select Forums), click the forum name.
- On the forum page, in the Settings block, click Subscription mode. The list of modes displays, with the current mode highlighted and the three other modes as links.
- Click the mode you want to change to. A confirmation message displays briefly, then the forum page redisplays.
- Repeat step 2 to check that the forum is now in the correct mode.
Resources for students can be found on the Student Website page Your Moodle Student Profile and Manage Forum Subscription
You might want to suggest to students that when posting to a forum, if they wish to submit a lengthy post they should compose it in Word, Notepad or a similar text program and copy and paste it into the Moodle text editing box. This removes the risk of the system timing out and deleting their work if they stop and think while writing.
If they copy from Word, before they paste into the Moodle text editor they should click the Paste From Word button , to retain most of the formatting of the original text.
For some courses, students' participation in forums plays a significant role in determining their final mark. In Moodle, you cannot generate a report on how many times a student has posted to discussion forums in aggregate, for the purposes of creating a baseline for a participation mark. Reading each forum to determine each student's contribution can be prohibitively time-consuming, too.
However, if you have been following the discussions, you should be able to bring to the following procedure an accurate general sense of how sophisticated and relevant each person's discussion posts have been, and combine it with the recorded student forum activity to award an appropriate mark.
To obtain a quick scan of posting activity by students within a course, for the purpose of awarding a participation mark:
- On the course home page, in the Settings block, click Reports > Logs.
- On the Logs page:
- Select All groups, All participants, whether you want to include suspended users, and All days.
- In the All activities drop-down list select the name of the forum.
- In the All actions list, select Add.
- Click Get these logs. The report displays.
- Scroll down to the bottom, and click Download.
- In the File Download window, click Open. Microsoft Excel launches and the report displays as a new workbook.
- In the Excel workbook:
- Select all the rows containing data.
- Sort the worksheet by the Action column.
- Delete unneeded rows for actions unrelated to forums.
- Select the remaining rows and sort them by student name.
- Each student's forum activities are now listed alongside their name; you can see at a glance when and how often they posted to forums and created new discussions, and whether they created or contributed substantially to discussions that you know to have been fruitful.
If you make use of the Open Forum (formerly Moodlerooms forum), you can add the Search Open Forums block to your course to allow students to search forum posts in the course.
To add the Search Open Forums block, locate the "Add a block" dropdown on the left-hand column of the screen, and select "Search open forums".
To use the Search Open Forums block:
- Scroll down to where the new block has been created
- Enter a search term, then press Enter
You can then view the outcome of your search on the resulting page.
To print a discussion thread within a Moodle forum:
- Open the thread.
- Ensure that Display replies flat, with oldest first is selected in the drop-down box at the top of the page.
- Print the page using your usual method. You can obtain a neater-looking print job if you dock all the blocks on the page, then print from your browser's menu.
Print part of a discussion
To print a selection of posts in a thread:
For PC users:
- Click and drag your mouse pointer to highlight the selection.
- Press Ctrl + P.
- In the Print window, under Print range, select Selection, then click OK. The selected posts print, with the forum name and URL in the page header.
For Macintosh users: Press Command + Shift + 4. A selection box will display where you can specify an area to copy, then save it as a file to your desktop.
Go to the advanced forum activity you want to view anonymous posters for and follow these steps:
1. Within "settings" click the "logs" button
2. Create a filter like the one below, specifying activity logs for the advanced forum
3. Find the post you are looking for, these logs will show you who the posted the article or comment.
Staff and students can set their "Automatically mark forum posts as read" in their personal Moodle preferences to 'Yes' or 'No'.
- If yes, just visiting a discussion thread in a forum activity will mark each visible post as being read automatically. As it occurs automatically, the button to mark a post as being read is not visible.
- If no, visiting a discussion thread in a forum activity will have no effect on the read status for each visible post. As a user needs to complete this manually, the button to mark a post as being read is available.
This YouTube video, "Moodle Orientation—Discussion Forums", is recommended, especially for students who are new to online learning. It demonstrates how to use discussion forums, and how to post appropriately to them. You might like to distribute this link to your students before you begin any work in forums.
If you experience technical or other issues, consult the Where to get help page.