Set up a Forum in Moodle

Overview

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 advanced forum. View the table Comparison of Forum and Advanced Forum in the Step By Step Instructions below to help you decide which forum activity better suits your needs. 

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 page tells you how to set up a forum and how to assess students' participation in a forum.

Guide

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Step by step instructions


Step by step instructions


 

Comparison of Forum and Advanced Forum

The following table compares the two different types of forum activity - forum and advanced forum.

  Forum Advanced Forum
Feature    
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 susbscribers of a specific discussion in a forum No Yes

*This feature is no longer available as of the upgrade to Moodle 3.1 in November 2016. 

What kind of forum do you need?

The 5 different types of discussion forum are listed in the Forum type drop-down list on the Adding a new Forum page:

Drop-down list of forum types

The following table will help you decide which type of forum suits your students' learning needs.

Forum type Suitable for... Constraints Sample use
A single simple discussion a short focused discussion of a single topic

Students can reply to the posted topic, or to another student’s response, but they cannot start a new topic of discussion. If an instructor attempts to create a further threads, when submitted this new post will be hidden from view, although it will be listed on the course home page as an unread post. For a format allowing multiple threads, select one of the Standard options.

If you set up a single simple discussion, you cannot use separate groups within it; all members of all groups will see all posts. We suggest you use a standard forum, copying and pasting the same discussion topic for each separate group. If you need to, you can set a permissions override to prevent students from starting new discussions.

Set up a single simple discussion for each topic on the course home page, to facilitate the discussion of the week's topic.
Each person posts one discussion a forum that's not as free as a standard discussion, but not as controlled as a single simple discussion Each participant can only post one new discussion topic, but can all reply to each others' topics, as many times as they like.

An introductions forum on the course home page where external students post an introduction and view other students’ introductions.

Each student posts a reflection on the week's topic, to which everyone else responds.

Q and A forum when you have a question and you want all students to contribute to answering it Students are required to post a response to a question before they can view other responses. After their initial posting, students can view and respond to others' postings. Facilitate a group activity during tutorial. Each group must post a response to the tutor's question before seeing other groups' responses.

Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format

same as Standard forum for general use, but displayed differently. Only the first post of a 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. Students can start their own discussion thread at any time and/or reply to other threads. Discussion of an assessment task, general questions about the course.
Standard forum for general use large discussions that you intend to monitor/guide, for social forums that are student led. All topics and their replies display at once, with the user's chosen layout (in nested form, if no layout is chosen). Students can start their own discussion thread at any time and/or reply to other threads. Discussion of an assessment task, general questions about the course.

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.

Set up a forum

  1. On the Moodle course home page, in the relevant section, click Add an activity or resource, from the activity chooser select Forum and click Add.

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  2. 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 expect students to contribute to the forum in video form, include instructions for uploading YouTube videos.
If you are copying text from a Microsoft Word document, follow the instructions on this page, "Copy text from Word to Moodle".
  1. 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.

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  2. 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.)

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  3. 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.

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  4. Under Post threshold for blocking, place any necessary limitations on forum posts:
    • Time period for blocking—Select a period within which users may post to the forum.
    • 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.

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  1. Make other selections as desired in the remaining page sections, and click Save and display.

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  2. On the new forum’s home page, click Add a new discussion topic.

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  3. On the Your new discussion topic page, 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.
Mail now
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.

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  1. Click Post to forum.

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Set up access to all forums and allow users to choose individual forum digest settings

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.

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Set individual forum digest option

Change forum subscription mode

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.

  1. On the course home page or the forums page (to access the forums page, in the Activities block select Forums), click the forum name.

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  2. 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.

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  3. Click the mode you want to change to. A confirmation message displays briefly, then the forum page redisplays.

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  4. Repeat step 2 to check that the forum is now in the correct mode.

Resource for students, about forum use

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 Paste From Word icon, to retain most of the formatting of the original text.

Assess student participation in forums

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:

  1. On the course home page, in the Settings block, click Reports > Logs.

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  2. 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.

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  3. Scroll down to the bottom, and click Download.

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  4. In the File Download window, click Open. Microsoft Excel launches and the report displays as a new workbook.

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  5. 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.

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  6. 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.
     

Print a discussion

To print a discussion thread within a Moodle forum:

  1. Open the thread.
  2. Ensure that Display replies flat, with oldest first is selected in the drop-down box at the top of the page.

Print a discussion, step 2

  1. 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:

  1. Click and drag your mouse pointer to highlight the selection.

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  2. Press Ctrl + P.
  3. 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.

    Print a discussion, step 2

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.

 

View Annonymous users

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.
  

 

 

Additional information