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D. Hiden Ramsey Library, University of North Carolina at Asheville

Moodle Teacher Guide: Discussion Forums

This guide offers information, advice and resources on how to create an effective online course.

Discussion Forums

Online discussion forums can be used to get students communicating and interacting.  They can also be used for peer reviews and assessment of student learning.  Well-posed questions and active facilitation is at the heart of meaningful discussion forums. For more information about how to manage a discussion forum, click the following links:

Questions that Promote Critical Thinking

How to Get Students to Participate in Online Discussions

How to Facilitate Robust Online Discussions

To create a Moodle Discussion Forum:

  • On the course homepage > click Turn Editing on
  • In the section where you want the assignment to appear > click Add an activity or resource
  • Click the radio button beside Forum
  • Click Add

Set up the Forum:

  • Add a Forum Name and Description
    • The description should contain instructions for how students can participate in the forum and your netiquette expectations.
  • Select a Forum Type
    • A single simple discussion - Discussion of a single topic
    • Each person posts one discussion - Each participant can post only one new discussion topic. This is a good forum type for peer reviews
    • Q and A forum - Students don't see other replies until after they have posted their own reply
    • Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format - Any participant can start a new discussion topic and topics are displayed on one page with "Discuss this topic" links
    • Standard forum for general use - Open forum in which any participant can start a new discussion topic at any time
  • Attachments and word count section > configure number and size of file attachments per post, and whether to display word counts
  • Subscription and tracking section > configure subscription (who gets notified when new discussion items get posted) and tracking
  • Post threshold for blocking section > set the number of times a participant can post to the forum
  • Grade section > add forum grade to a grade category
  • Ratings section > configure forum grading
  • Common module settings section > set forum visibility to students and groups
  • Restrict access > configure when students can access the forum
  • Click Save and display

Start a New Discussion Topic:

  • Click Add a new discussion topic
  • Add a Subject (the topic of the discussion)
  • Add a Message (the prompt you want participants to respond to)
  • Mail now check box forces Moodle to send subscribed forum participants an email immediately (within 30 minutes) instead of waiting until the end of the day
  • Click Post to forum


Return to Add Activities Menu

Setting up discussion forums

Discussion forums on Moodle are an excellent way to engage students outside the classroom. There are five forum types available on Moodle.

The 5 forum types are:

  1. Single simple discussion - this is the most basic forum type. A single discussion topic is introduced and all members of the course can post to the topic. You cannot use groups with this forum type.
  2. Each person posts one discussion topic - All members of your course can post one discussion topic, available to everyone to read and reply to.
  3. Q and A forum - Students cannot read others' entries until they have posted their own.
  4. Standard forum displayed in blog-like forum - As the name implies, posts can be made by all students. Posts will appear with links; students may then follow the link and reply to the post.
  5. Standard forum for general use - forum is open with students able to begin a new discussion at any time.

To begin adding a forum to your Moodle course,

  • Add an activity or resource
  • Select Forum, Add

Forum name and description are required fields

Attachments and word count - you may give students an opportunity to upload a video or document for others to view. The limit to the number of files is 100. You can also have the word count displayed on the post in the event you require a minimum or maximum number of words.

Subscription and Tracking - These options can be directed by you. If you choose Forced, students will not have any options in whether or not they are notified of new posts. Tracking allows students to see which posts have not been read. In our version of Moodle, this feature is either optional or turned off.

Post threshold for blocking - One way to prevent students from posting excessively is to limit the number of posts during a given time period.

Ratings - Forum discussions can be rated and tied to entries in the gradebook. There are a number of ways to calculate the grade for the grade book. It can be as simple as counting the number of rated entries, an average of all ratings, the highest rating, or the sum of all ratings. The type of grading can be a scale or point system. If points are chosen, the maximum number needs to be entered. You may also restrict the ratings of entries to a particular date range, i.e., all entries from Monday, August 17 - Friday, August 21 will be rated. All other entries will not be graded.

If you choose to use SCALES for forum discussions, you can make your own set of scales in the Advanced Grade section.

Common Module Settings - The group mode can be very useful when dividing the class up into sections for smaller online discussions. The group mode is also used when you teach more than one section of the same course. You may still make separate groups under USERS/GROUPS. This feature is useful when creating and assigning group projects. To learn about making groups, follow this link.

Restrict Access - this toggle allows you to give access of this discussion to any one group. Conditions may be added so that other groups receive access at a later date.

Single simple discussion

The single, simple discussion forum is a basic way to introduce one discussion topic for all students in the class to respond.

Each person posts one discussion topic

Each person can post only ONE discussion topic in the forum, but may reply to other topics posted. This format is excellent to use when getting students to introduce themselves online.

Instructor and students may add one new discussion topic. Once the topic is added, the screen looks like this:

Q and A forum

In the Question and Answer Forum, students may not read other entries until they have posted their own.

This is what the screen looks like once the question has been posted:

Standard forum displayed in blog-like forum

The blog-like forum is a standard discussion forum, but the posts and replies appear blog-like on the screen. Students and instructors may post topics and all may reply. The posts and replies are in blog-like format. See examples below:

This is a forum with 2 topics posted and one of the topics has 2 replies. The instructor and students may click on Discuss this topic to enter the discussion.

One a contributor has entered the discussion, the screen looks like this:

Standard forum for general use

In this forum, the instructor and the students may post topics and reply. Parameters may be set within the forum to limit posting and posting dates, but this forum is the most general and simple to use.

Once a topic has been posted, the screen looks like this:

When the student clicks on the new discussion topic, a screen will open up that allows them to reply.