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Group Communication & Collaboration Spaces in Moodle

Student interaction is a key strength of Moodle.  While instructors can easily use activities in Moodle to deliver content and assess learning, Moodle also supports student-led activities and collaboration, especially in combination with using groups.  This document discusses some strategies and ideas for providing collaborative spaces for groups to work together.


Using groups in Moodle allows you to add an additional dynamic to interactive activities: giving groups of students a private or shared space to discuss and collaborate. Depending on the goals you have for an activity, you can set how public the actions of groups can be.

Moodle has three group modes that you can select when adding a new activity (for more information refer to Group Modes in Moodle):

  • No Groups - all students in the class participate in an activity without any restrictions.
  • Visible Groups - students are sorted into groups and can interact with group members and can read but not interact with other groups.
  • Separate Groups - students are sorted into groups and can interact within their group, but cannot see the activities of other groups.

For the kinds of group projects discussed in the remainder of this handout, Separate Groups will be used to describe how to set up activities.  You can also use Visible Groups when you want student groups to be able to read what other groups are doing. You can always change group modes, so switching from Separate to Visible Groups would be ideal when you have groups working on a project during the semester, then wish to publish their work to the entire class at the end of the term. 

This handout assumes that you already have groups and groupings created for your course. If you need instructions please refer to:


A forum can contribute to successful communication and community building in an online environment. While you can use forums for many innovative purposes in educational settings, it is important to keep in mind that forums for teaching (sharing content) and forums for student interaction (creating content) require different strategies.

Forums are well suited for students to communicate with each other as well as to co-create content.  Students can participate in threaded discussions, share files, collaborate and explore topics, and write together.  There are five built-in forum types, however some are more suited for content sharing and assessment while others work better for collaboration.

Forum types useful for content sharing and assessment:

  • A single simple discussion
  • Each person posts one discussion
  • Q and A forum

Forum types useful for student interaction and collaboration:

  • Standard forum for general use
  • Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format

Use Forums for Group Discussions

A forum is a great setting for groups to collaborate and co-create content by participating in group discussions, posting files, and responding to each other.  Depending on your learning goals, you might want to create a more structured activity (where you set the topic and/or control how people contribute) or leave things more open so that students can take the lead. The most open forum type is Standard forum for general use.  This forum type is useful when you want groups to have a space to plan projects, brainstorm ideas, or provide each other feedback.

To set-up a group discussion forum:

  • Add a forum activity with the following settings:
       Forum Type: Standard forum for general use
       Group Mode: Separate Groups (Suggested to give groups privacy, and prevent confusion)
       Assign to grouping: Optional, but necessary if you plan on using multiple sets of groups in your course

Use a Forum as a Group Blog

Forums can also be adapted to emulate the function of blogs where students can make posts that are listed chronologically.  This format is more conducive to group members contributing on a periodic basis, and having posts commented on by the rest of the group.  This is also a great way for groups to document their learning over the course of the term.

To set up a group blog forum:

  • Add a forum activity to the course with the following settings:
       Forum Type: Standard forum in a blog-like format.
       Group Mode: Visible groups promotes sharing between groups, however Separate groups is also appropriate.
       Assign to grouping: Necessary only if you plan on using multiple sets of groups in your course.

Use Forums for Individual Blogs or Private Journals

While Moodle does not have a traditional journal, you can adapt a forum to function as a journal where posts can be private between the student and instructor.  This would be helpful for when you want to provide students with an online space where they can write reflections about the course and document their learning process. 

To set-up an individual blog/journal:

  1. See Create One-person Groups Named for Individual Students, to create individual groups.
  2. Place these groups into a grouping.
  3. Add a forum activity to the course with the following settings:
        Forum Type: Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format.
        Group Mode: Separate Groups (Required to give students privacy).
        Assign to grouping: Journal grouping (with the auto-created groups of 1).


A wiki page is a web page everyone in your class can create together, right in the browser, without needing to know HTML. A wiki starts with one front page. Each author can add other pages to the wiki by simply creating a link to a page that does not exist yet. It may be useful to think of a wiki's front page as a structured table of contents. Essentially, a wiki is organized by its links.

In Moodle, wikis can be a powerful tool for collaborative work. The entire class can edit a document together, creating a class product. Groups can also have a wiki space to collaborate, or each student can have their own wiki and work on it with you and their classmates.

A wiki is an efficient, easy, and popular method for creating content on the web as a group. There is usually no central editor of a wiki, no single person who has final editorial control. Instead, the group edits and develops its own content. Consensus views emerge from the work of many people on a document.

To set-up and assign a Wiki to groups:

  • Add a wiki activity to the course with the following settings:
       Wiki mode: Collaborative wiki.
       Group Mode: Separate Groups (Suggested to give groups privacy and prevent confusion).
       Assign to grouping: Necessary only if you plan on using multiple sets of groups in your course.

For more on setting up Wikis in Moodle, see Create a Wiki Activity in Moodle.
For more on how to use a Wiki as a brainstorming or group project management, see Suggested Best Practices for Wikis in Moodle.


While a Forum or Wiki activity allows students to make contributions whenever they like, Chat is most useful when you want students to communicate with each other at the same time. When a course member is logged into chat, the Recent activity block will display that the chat room is in use, encouraging other students to join. 

Chats also work in conjunction with group modes, meaning you can create chat rooms for groups to hold online meetings. A final added benefit of chats is that Moodle keeps an online record of what goes on in the chat room, even if students are not there exactly at the same time.  This means that if a group holds a meeting in a chat room, Moodle automatically keeps a transcript.  All students can access records of chats by opening the chat room, and clicking View past chat sessions.

To set up Chat for groups:

  • Add a chat activity to the course with the following settings:
       Save past sessions: Never delete message (default).
       Everyone can view past sessions: Yes.
       Group Mode: Separate Groups (Suggested to give groups privacy).

For more on Chat settings, see Chat in Moodle.


The Moodle Database Activity is a searchable collection of course-specific information that allows students and/or instructors to populate, display, and search a bank of record entries. The format and structure of these entries is virtually unlimited, including images, files, URLs, numbers, and text.

For more on setting up a Database, see Add a Database Activity to Moodle.


The Glossary activity allows users to create a list of definitions, like a dictionary, that course participants can search or browse. Teachers can restrict access to a Glossary so that only they can create entries, or they can allow students to add new entries as well.

For more on setting up a Glossary, see Add a Glossary Activity in Moodle.