Moodle: Using Forums in teaching, creating effective discussions and moderating online participation

In this guide:

Tips for using Forums in Teaching

  • Setting Expectations: It is important to establish clear social and academic expectations around forum participation. Here are some areas that may require clarification:
  • Your Role: How will you be moderating discussions? What form will feedback take? We suggest using a summary post to close a discussion and highlight interesting ideas.
  • Style: What voice should students write in? Is formal or informal language appropriate? Do you expect proper grammar and syntax?
  • Length: What is the minimum length of a forum post? A reply?
  • Content: Consider how you want students to ‘add value’ to discussions. Should they contribute original ideas or is it alright to ask new questions? Do they need to justify or support their arguments with references and examples? Is it enough to write ‘I agree’ or ‘disagree’ when replying to others? Should posts include a works cited?
  • Frequency: Is it acceptable to publish one’s posts all at once or do they need to be spread out over the term, for example, on a week-to-week basis?
  • Etiquette: How can students challenge and engage each other in respectful and positive ways?

Creating Effective Discussions

An effective forum discussion:

  • Outlines its purpose and what is expected
  • Asks a provocative, open-ended question that requires supporting a position 
  • Relates directly to other course events, for example, lectures, readings, projects, or assessments
  • Encourages students to draw on personal experience and relatable examples
  • Fosters relationships by encouraging students to reference each other’s ideas in a positive and constructive way
  • Asks students to reply to at least one other post
  • Gives students some agency over the questions and topics they focus on

Moderating Online Participation

Here are some suggestions for moderating forum discussions

  • Set the tone for forum participation with your own posts.
  • Model the kind of participation you want to see.
  • Use personal storytelling to help students relate to the content and yourself. Providing some insight into your values and personal experience can help students feel more comfortable about sharing and participating online.
  • Start your course by sending a brief private message to each student introducing yourself and welcoming them to the unit. This is particularly effective after students complete an icebreaker forum activity.
  • Close all forum discussions with a summary post recognizing the interesting ideas students have shared and providing positive reinforcement.
  • Ensure students understand why they are participating in forums and how it might feed into assessment, for example, in the form of a portfolio submission.
  • Provide regular opportunities for learners to participate in non-threatening forum discussions to help them feel comfortable.
  • Alternate online activities by including blogs, wikis. Try not rely solely on forums.
  • Don’t jump into a discussion too early. This may stifle discussion and bias student perspectives against alternative viewpoints.

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