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Add a Forum Activity in Moodle

Instructors and students can communicate and collaborate using Moodle Forums. Instructors can create discussion topics or, depending on the forum type, allow students to originate topics. Course members can then "post" replies, and "subscribe" if they want to receive an email copy of each post made to a particular forum.

Forum Types

There are multiple forum types in Moodle. Some forum types allow only the instructor to start a new topic, and others allow students to start new topics. 

Choose the type(s) of forums that make sense for the activities you are asking your students to do:

  • Standard forum for general use allows for the “standard” usage of a discussion forum with multiple topics arranged in a threaded conversation. Students may start new topics in this format.
  • Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format allows for the “standard” usage of a discussion forum with multiple topics arranged in a “blog" style format with the first post prominent and comments behind a link. Students may start new topics in this format.
  • Single simple discussion allows for only one topic started by the instructor. This is best suited for short-term, focused conversations.
  • Each person posts one discussion allows each student to only start one new topic or conversation within the forum. Students are not limited in the number of replies they can post within those topics.
  • Q and A forum allows an instructor to pose a question to students. Students must post their response or answer before they can view other students’ responses.
  • The News Forum is a unique forum, automatically created with the course for instructors to post announcements. Comments are not allowed, only instructors and TAs can post to the forum, and all course participants receive an email copy of each post by default.
  • Individual student journals: Moodle does not come with a preset option for student journals, but you can set one up using a forum to create either a private journal where only instructors can read student posts, or blog-like individual journals that everyone on the course can read. See Create Student Journals in Moodle.

Add a New Forum to Your Course

  1. On your Moodle course page, click Turn editing on (top right). Editing icons and links will appear.
  2. Locate the Topic or Weekly Section where you will add the forum. (If you are using the Collapsed topics format, open the Section.)
  3. At the bottom-right of the Section, click + Add an activity or resource. The Activity chooser will open.
  4. In the Activity chooser, select Forum and then click Add. The Adding a new Forum screen will open.
  5. On the Adding a new Forum screen, in the Forum name field, enter a name for the forum (required). The name you enter will display as the link to the forum on your course page.
  6. For Forum type, select a forum type from the drop-down menu. The default is Standard forum for general use. See descriptions of Forum Types above.
  7. In the Description field (required), explain the purpose of the forum to your students. For example, you might describe how often students should post, how many posts and replies they should make, and/or the expectations about post content. 
  8. Optional: To display the Description on the course page below the link to the forum, check Display description on course page. (We recommend selecting this option only if your forum description is very brief.)
  9. Subscription mode is set to Optional by default (recommended). This allows students to choose to subscribe to the forum and receive an email copy of each post made. Other choices are:
    • Forced subscription - Everyone is subscribed and cannot unsubscribe (not recommended in most cases)
    • Auto subscription - Everyone is subscribed initially but can choose to unsubscribe at any time
    • Subscription disabled - Subscriptions are not allowed
  10. When Read tracking is enabled in the Read tracking for this forum? drop-down menu, Moodle will indicate when there are unread messages in a forum.  By default, this is set to Optional, and forum tracking is controlled by individual users in their Personal Profile.
  11. There are several additional forum settings you may choose to configure. The most commonly used settings include:
    • Post threshold for blocking
      Limits the number of posts students can make in a period of time. You can also automatically send students a warning before they reach the posting limit.
    • Grade
      If you have created categories in your Moodle gradebook, you can select one from the Grade category drop-down menu. Then set up ratings (below) to assign a grade to the forum.
    • Ratings
      You can grade your students' posts using Ratings. Instructors and TAs can rate each post a student makes, and the ratings are aggregated into a single grade in the gradebook.  To enable rating for the forum, choose an Aggregate type and Scale.
      Average of ratings - The mean of all ratings becomes the final grade
      Count of ratings - The number of rated items becomes the final grade. Note that the total cannot exceed the maximum grade for the activity.
      Maximum - The highest rating becomes the final grade
      Minimum - The lowest rating becomes the final grade
      Sum - All of a student's ratings are added together. Note that the total cannot exceed the maximum grade for the activity.
      You can also set a specific date range during which a post must be made in order to receive a grade.
      For more on grading see An Overview of the Moodle Gradebook.
    • Common module settings
      To assign groups of students to a forum, under Common module settings, choose a Group mode (separate or visible) and Grouping.  The grouping must already exist. See An Overview of Managing Groups in Moodle.
    • Restrict Access
      Restrict access can be used to set the date range during which the forum will be available, or to set conditions for completing other activities before the forum will be available to each student.
      Important! Using Restrict access settings to end student access to a forum will prevent students from reviewing posts or, if graded, from seeing their grades for the activity.  If you want to end posting while still allowing students to see the forum and their grade, see Close a Forum and Prevent Further Student Posts (below).
  12. Click Save and return to course or Save and display.

Add a New Topic to a Forum

Depending on the type of forum, students may be able to add topics as soon as the activity is available, or the instructor may need to initiate the discussion by posting a topic. For example, instructors must post a question to a Q & A forum before students can post.

To add a new topic to a forum:

  1. Click the link to the forum activity (not the edit icon, but the link to open the forum). The Forum page will open, showing the description you provided when you set up the activity. If no topics or posts have been added, you see "There are no discussion topics yet in this forum."
  2. Click Add a new discussion topic (for a Q & A forum, click Add a new question). The Your new discussion topic page will open.
  3. Enter a subject and a message (both required).
  4. If subscription is set to Optional in the forum's settings, you can use the Subscription drop-down menu to choose whether or not to receive email copies of posts made to this forum. (This will affect you, not your students.)
  5. You may choose to add an attachment.
  6. Select the Mail now checkbox if you do not want the standard 30-minute delay before subscribers receive an email.
  7. Click Post to forum to post your message.
  8. Click Continue to return to the Forum page. Your discussion topic will be listed, and course members will now be able to reply.
  9. Once replies have been made, click the link to the topic to view replies or add additional replies to the thread. (If read tracking is enabled, the number of unread posts will be indicated and links highlighted.)

Close a Forum and Prevent Further Student Posts

To prevent further student contributions to a forum, change the Permissions for the activity to make it "read-only."
Note: Unlike Restrict access settings, this method of closing a forum does not hide the grade for the activity from students, and allows them to read posts made before the forum closed.

  1. On your course page, click the link to the Forum. The forum page will open.
  2. With the forum page open, go to the Settings block and click Permissions (not Check Permissions). The Permissions in Forum screen will open.
  3. In the Advanced role override drop-down menu, choose Student.
  4. Under the bold heading Activity: Forum, click Prevent for the following:
          •  Reply to posts
          •  Start new discussions
    Do not change any other permissions.
  5. Scroll to the bottom of the list of permissions and click Save changes. Students will immediately lose their ability to post, but will still be able to read what has been posted on the forum.