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  7. Forum – what is it?

Forum – what is it?

Forums are used for asynchronous, one-to-many communication. Use them to:

  • Communicate learning and teaching news to students
  • To manage frequently asked questions
  • To support learning discussion activities

Forums should not be relied upon for urgent or time-dependent communication. For such communication, please consider emailing cohorts directly, using a student group email. See Student mailing lists for details (a service provided by DD&T).

Types of Forums

There are a number of forum types:

  • Every Moodle space has an Announcements forum by default. This is a one-way forum for staff announcements to students. All participants are subscribed by default.
  • In the (default) Standard forum for general use provides students with the option to post and reply. For example, you might ask students to post questions they have about a particular topic or lecture. Both you and the other students in the cohort can respond or start new threads.
  • In a Single, simple discussion the tutor posts a question and students are able only to reply. They cannot start a new topic of discussion. This is useful if you wish to keep a discussion focused. Note: This forum type does not work with separate groups. For example, you may ask students to comment on options for a field trip.
  • The Each person posts one discussion forum allows a person to post exactly one new discussion topic although everyone can reply to them. For example, this can be useful when you want each student to start a discussion about, say, their reflections on the week’s topic, and everyone else responds to these.
  • In a Question and Answer forum the tutor posts a question and students respond with possible answers. By default, a Q and A forum requires students to post once before viewing other students’ postings. Students cannot see other posts until they post. This can be useful in avoiding ‘I agree’ answers from students. For example, you might ask students to explain the challenges in a given scenario, and because the students can’t rely on seeing other people’s responses first, you will be able to see how far they have understood the situation.
  • The Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format works like the standard forum for general use, but the first post of each discussion is displayed (as in a blog) so that participants can read it and then choose to respond by clicking the “Discuss this topic” button bottom right of the post.

Using Forums

The video sets out how to set up and use a discussion forum in Moodle.

Note: There is now the option to reply to students privately, so that only that individual student will see your reply.  However, any Teacher or Non-editing teacher enrolled in the space, will also be able to see the ‘private’ posts, and receive email notifications. When replying to a post click the Reply privately check box.

Grading a Forum

It is possible to grade forum contributions.   To enable grading, in the forum activity settings go to the section Whole forum grading, and set the grade type to Point.

You can then choose a grading method; and we recommend the simple direct grading. After saving the forum settings, you’ll find a Grade users button on the forum page. 

In the forum grading screen, you will be able to scroll through the participants and see their posts/discussions.  You can add a grade and save it and choose whether to notify the student.

Read more about Forums for assessment.

Export Forum Contributions

You can export forum contributions.  Select the forum activity and from the More tab select the Export option. You can then choose which format you would like to export. Click the human-readable dates option and Export.

You can also export the details of posts made by individuals, using the summary report. Select the forum activity and from the Reports tab select what you you want to export.

Student Engagement in Forums

Forums are used for asynchronous, one-to-many communication. Use them to communicate learning and teaching news to students, to manage frequently asked questions or to support learning discussion activities.

Tips for effective engagement

Include clear guidance for students about:

  • The purpose of each discussion forum
  • How you expect students to participate (e.g. post queries, respond to others, length of responses)
  • What students should expect from staff (e.g. response times, regular responses to the whole cohort)

Monitor forum activity regularly:

  • Respond to questions, either by replying to individual posts, or by posting a summary for the whole cohort
  • Coordinate with your course teaching team to ensure staff presence in the forum

Encourage students to use the forum instead of emails so all students can see the response.

You can monitor activity using the Course participation report and send a message to students who haven’t contributed.

You can create Groups in Moodle and set your forum to separate or visible groups mode, so students can discuss in smaller peer groups.


To manage forum notification emails, set your Preferences to receive a ‘daily digest’, instead of an email notification for every forum post. Make students aware of how to do this. The forum digest is sent out daily after 5pm, so be aware students may not receive an instant email notification. Follow the links from notification emails to reply to posts in the forum in Moodle.

Subscription settings

Check the forum subscription settings to make sure all students are subscribed to receive updates.

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