Instructions for using a Moodle Discussion Forum

Discussion Terminology

Discussion forums (sometimes known as discussion boards) are a great way to keep the conversation going after class, engage shy students, or provide an alternative to an in-class discussion.

First let's define the various online discussion terms:

Discussion Forum: The Moodle tool that let's you start an online discussion.

Discussion Post: Once you have added the Forum tool, you will need to write at least one Post to get the conversation going.  The post can be a question, probe, or short writing assignment.

Discussion Thread: The conversation or series of responses to your initial Post.  The thread can consist of mutiple posts from students and the instructor, and all relate back to the initial Post or subsequent responses.

How to create an online Discussion

1. Add a Forum to your Moodle page

  • Login to Moodle
  • Navigate to your Course Page
  • Make sure editing is turned ON
  • Locate the folder/area you wish to add the discussion
  • To the right of the specified folder/area, click the Edit button
  • Choose Add Resource from the dropdown menu
  • Under the Activities section, select Forum

2. Set up the Forum

  • Give the Forum a Name (i.e. Discussion Week 1)
  • If you are posting a question/probe, enter it into the Description section.  In addition, use this space to spell out all of the details including response expectations and deadlines.  
  • Choose your Forum Type. There are 5 forum types:
    • (Most Common) A single simple discussion - A single discussion topic posted by you which everyone can reply to.  Students must reply to the intial prompt and can then reply to one another, but cannot start their own separate threads.
    • Each person posts one discussion - Each student can post exactly one new discussion topic, which everyone can then reply to.
    • Q and A forum - Students must first post their perspectives before viewing other students' posts.
    • Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format - An open forum where anyone can start a new discussion at any time, and in which discussion topics are displayed on one page with "Discuss this topic" links.
    • Standard forum for general use - An open forum where anyone can start a new discussion at any time.
  • Fill in additional settings as needed.
  • Click Save and Display to see it, or Save and Return to course if you're done.

3. View the Forum

Once people have participated in the forum, use the pull down menu at the top of each forum discussion to select a display type:

  • Display replies flat, with oldest first
  • Display replies flat, with newest first - The discussion will be displayed in one line and the chronological order from the newest to the oldest. This is the same as the above, just a different sort order.
  • Display replies in threaded form - Only the post starting the discussion will be displayed in its full form; replies will be reduced to the headlines (including information about its author and date of release) and organized chronologically; moreover, replies will be shifted towards the right so that only replies to the same post were in the same line.
  • Display replies in nested form - All posts are displayed in their full forms; replies will be reduced to the headlines (including information about its author and date of release) and organized chronologically; moreover, replies will be shifted towards the right so that only replies to the same post were in the same line.

Best Practices:

  • Use a forum as a digital version of a class disuccion to expand on topics, draw from the lecture, readings, and deepen an understanding of the course concepts.
  • Instructor should post 1-3 questions (or probes) for which the students must reply to the initial question as well as at least 2 of their peer's responses.
  • Set clear deadlines for participation.  We recommend:
    • Set a deadline for initial response to your prompt (24 hours for a replacment class due to school closure, 2-3 days for an online course with weekly modules)
    • Set a deadline for students' response to peers posts (2-4 days)
  • Require substantive responses.
    • Student opinions should be backed up by facts.  Citing sources from inside and out of class can strengthen a student's argument. Do not just agree or disagree but rather show that you have the ability to expand the conversation.  Reference material or, when appropriate, relate it to your own experience.
  • As the instructor, make sure you are present in the discussion.  While you do not need to respond to every post, it's important that your presense is known.  Your job is to help move the discussion forward, point out areas of agreement or disagreement, ask students to ellaborate, think critically, etc...
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