Managing Moodle Groups and Groupings

Why use groups and groupings?

Groups and Groupings can be used to manage student cohorts, facilitate group work and/or restrict access to activities, resources or topics within a Moodle space. Some examples of how you might use them can be seen below:

  1. Managing Cohorts – you can use groups to enable several student cohorts to use the same Moodle space. For example, you may want to keep the student groups separate if you are teaching the same unit twice in the same semester or if you are teaching the same unit in different modes (face to face or at a distance).
  2. Facilitating Group work – groups can be used to create different ‘workspaces’ within a single Moodle activity. If, for example, you are running small group projects in your unit then each project team can be set up as a group. Adding a single forum, wiki or any other activity set to work in groups mode will provide a workspace for each team.
  3. Restricting access to resources or activities – If you want an activity or resource to only be available to certain students then groups can be used to restrict access to resources or activities within a Moodle space. For example, if you set up a forum for students who have requested additional support, you can add those students to a group and apply restrictions so that the forum is only visible to their group. The support forum will not be seen by any other students.
  4. Managing extensions when anonymous/blind marking is enabled – You can create a group to include all those who have an extension and apply the extension details to the group. This avoids the necessity of having to identify users in order to apply anonymity.

Important note on retaining anonymity and maintaining student privacy:  It’s important to avoid naming the group ‘Extensions’ as all students can see Groups and their members from the Participants page. Instead use a generic Group A or Group 1 name.  Also, do not put student names in the name of the groups as this obviously breaks anonymity.

Creating groups

Groups can be found in Moodle by clicking on the Participants tab and then selecting Groups from the drop-down menu:

Participants screen includes a drop down menu from which you can access groups

You can create empty groups either manually or automatically following a specific naming convention (e.g. Workshop Group {1,2,3…}). Students can be allocated to more than one group to accommodate using groups for different purposes within the same Moodle space (if you are using groups for different purposes it is recommended to organise the different groups into groupings).

Populating groups

Once you have created empty groups you will need to allocate students to those groups. There are a number of ways to do this:

Manually add students to groups

  • From the Participants tab in your Moodle space, select Groups from the drop-down menu.
  • Click onto the group you want to populate and press Add/remove users
  • Search for and select relevant users and press the Add button.

Import group members from a .csv file

  • Add the Course group upload block to your Moodle space (via the expandable block drawer located on the right-hand side).
Course group upload block allowing import of group memberships from .csv
  • Click onto the Import file page link in the block and upload your .csv.  After uploading your CSV file, click on Update.  Then the page will display a table with the emails and groups imported from the CSV file. Click on Submit to complete the data upload.

Note:  To prepare your CSV file, you must create a UTF-8 document in Excel. In the spreadsheet, add the following headers in the first row: email, group and grouping. Then, populate all the information within each corresponding column. If you are not using the grouping function in your course, leave this column blank.

Group import CSV file example.

Allow students to self-select their groups via the Group Choice activity

With a large number of students, one way to populate groups is to have students allocate themselves to groups using the Group Choice Activity. The Teacher can specify the group membership (if needed) via a separate document, and ask the students to enrol themselves into these groups (you may wish to review/amend the Group Choices to make sure it is correct).

Note: There is an additional option for grouping students, via a Fair Allocation activity, which allows students to rate choices, and then based on their preferences, Moodle allocates them to a group.

Enabling group activities

Edit the relevant activity, and locate the Groups mode setting (found within the Common module settings section).

Apply the Group mode of your choice:

  • Separate groups – Students can only see and interact with their group’s work.
  • Visible groups – Students can see the contributions of other groups, however they cannot contribute outside of their own group.

Enabling either separate or visible groups on an assignment submission allows staff to filter the student submissions to see only those from a particular tutor group. With visible groups, students can see which other groups are doing the same activities as they are; with separate groups, they do not know that other groups are doing the same activities.

Restricting access to resources, activities or topics

Moodle content can be made available to participants based on selected conditions (such as a grade having been achieved or a date having been reached). Commonly however, content (resources, activities and topics) are restricted to a subset of the cohort using Groups.

  1. Create and populate your group(s)
  2. Edit the relevant resource, activity or topic and locate the Restrict Access setting.
  3. Press the Add Restriction button and select Group
  4. Select the group that needs to access the item
Screenshot showing that a student must be a member of Group 1 in order to access a resource

Note: The eye icon controls whether the item is visible (albeit unavailable) to non-group members. Clicking on the icon will put a line through the eye to indicate that it is entirely hidden from those participants who do not meet the specified criteria.


Whist a Group is a collection of users, a Grouping is simply a collection of Groups. By using Groupings, you can direct tasks at one or more groups in a course so that they can work together. Once you have created a grouping, you will be able to apply it to an activity or use it to apply restrictions to an activity, resource or topic.

Why would you use groupings?

Below are a few scenarios that showcase when groupings would be used.

Your course has 2 or more group assignments (i.e. Assignment 1 and Assignment 2). The students will be in different groups for the different assignments (Groups 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 for the first assignment, and Groups A, B, C, D, and E for the second assignment). So that Moodle knows which groups members to put together for which assignment you will need to allocate the correct groups to a grouping for the assignment.

Assignment 1Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, Group 4, Group 5
Assignment 2Group A, Group B, Group C, Group D, Group E

When creating your assignment under Group submission settings you can now select the correct Grouping for student groups and be assured the right groups are we chosen for the activity.

Your Moodle space has two cohorts enrolled in it (ie. AB12345 and YZ67890). Along with a group assignment you want to restrict access to some of the topics based on cohort. In this situation you will want to create one grouping to house your cohort groups and another grouping to house your assignment groups.

CohortsAB12345, YZ67890
AssignmentGroup 1, Group 2, Group 3, Group 4, Group 5

Your Moodle space has multiple cohorts enrolled in it (ie. AB12345, ZA98765 and YZ67890). You want to create separate discussion forums for the different cohorts, as well as have a group assignment with groups that have mixed the students from the different cohorts. In this scenario you will want to create one grouping to house your discussion forum groups and another grouping to house your assignment groups.

Discussion forumAB12345, ZA98765, YZ67890
AssignmentGroup 1, Group 2, Group 3, Group 4, Group 5

Warning: If you do not put your groups into groupings and students belong to more than one group Moodle will not know which groups to use to allocate marks and feedback.

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