What is it?
- The Announcements (or News) forum enables tutors and course administrators to send one-way messages to students (they can't post or reply).
- Learning forums can also be added to a Moodle course to allow students (as well as staff) to post questions and reply to other posts.
If you would like to enable anonymous posting, or be able to mark posts as substantive and view aggregated reports of how many posts, replies and substantive posts students have made consider using instead the Advanced Forum, instead of the general Forum.
Why use it?
The Announcements forum it allows simple one-way communication with enrolled students. Many staff use the News forum to announce exam dates and times; changes to exams, lectures or seminars; important information about coursework; and special announcements relating to events. The "Latest news" block if used will display recent discussions from the news forum. All students and staff on a Moodle course are forced to be 'subscribed' to the News forum. This means that when you post a message in the News Forum it will be emailed to their UCL email.
Learning forums enable both staff and students to post and reply to posts and are usually are set to allow students and staff to choose whether or not to become or remain subscribed to a forum. Question and Answer forums are often set up for students to ask questions about the course work or assessment processes.
Who can use it?
Announcements (or News) forum
- Only tutors and course administrators can post in the Announcements forum.
- Students can read these messages in Moodle and in their email alerts.
Learning forums is the name for any forum that is added to Moodle by a course editor, e.g. not the Announcements (or News) forum.
- Any participant can post and reply to messages in a Moodle Learning forum, including students and staff.
Before I start...
Establish whether you want to set up a standard Forum, or an Advanced Forum, which allows anonymous forum posts and advanced reporting of student posts, replies and substantive posts (determined by you). They both contain very similar functionality.
Meet the Baseline
- Make the purpose of every discussion forum clear, including how students are expected to engage with it and how often staff will reply to posts (if at all).
- Include a Q&A forum for tutors and or students to pose questions and receive answers, which students can choose to unsubscribe from (if automatic subscription is selected).
- Use learning forum(s) for moderated discussions related to specific course activities. These might be discrete forums or topics within a forum. Automatic subscription then allows students to choose which forums or topics they wish to unsubscribe from.
- Track student participation and send reminders to those who have yet to contribute to activities or submit assessments.
How do I...?
Edit the Announcements (or News) forum that already exists on the course
The Announcements (or News) forum is a special forum for one-way communication to students, that is automatically created when a course is created. A course should have only one News forum.
If you are using a course that has a News Forum, the name can be changed to something more appropriate, such as Announcements or the like. New courses will automatically have a news forum called 'Announcements'.
- To start using your News forum click the Turn editing on button in the top-right of your page.
- Click on the edit dropdown and then 'Edit settings' and change the Forum name and add a Description, to explain to students what the forum is for.
- Tick Display description on course page to make the description show on the course page.
- Leave the other default settings, then Save and return to course.
Add Learning Forum for students to contribute
You may now wish to add other forums in which the students can ask questions and reply to messages.
- To add a new forum, Turn editing on, then click the Add an activity or resource… drop-down menu in the topic where you want the forum to go and choose Forum or Forum (Advanced)*.
- The Advanced Forum provides additional features such as anonymous posting (optional - see 'Caution' below), the ability for tutors to mark posts as substantive and a 1 page report that shows a list of students alongside how many posts, replies and substantive posts they have made. Select Forum (Advanced) for the sake of this exercise.
- Give the forum a name that will be meaningful to your students e.g. Module Q&A
- Indicate in the Description what the forum is for; how often you or your colleagues will look at it; and how you expect your students to use it. For social forums like Student Café you might want to emphasise that you may never look at it!
- Keep the forum type as: Standard forum for general use.
- In Post Options you can 'Allow anonymous posting' if you would like to allow students to have the option of posting anonymously.
- In Subscription, you can set Subscription Mode to
- Forced Subscription if you want to enforce subscription.
- *Auto Subscription if you want everyone initially subscribed (they can unsubscribe later). *Recommended!
- Optional Subscription if you want everyone initially unsubscribed (they can subscribe later).
- Subscription Disabled if you want no email messages sent out.
- You can also set a forum to use groups. Under 'Common module settings' in Group Mode choose your grouping.
- Separate groups will only enable students in the same group to see each other's posts. Posts will be hidden from students that are not in the group.
- Visible groups allow everyone to see each group's posts, but only those in the group can post and reply within their own group/s.
- Click the Save and return to course button.
- It is essential to add a welcome message to any new forum explaining its purpose and how often students can expect a response from their tutors. This may only be once a week, but it is important this is stated up front.
Add a discussion post
- Moodle forums are organised into topics which may have one or more messages. To start a new topic, click on the News forum.
- Click on the Add a new topic button.
- Give your forum topic a Subject, then write and format your Message. You can also add an attachment.
- Click the Submit button. Unless you check 'Email notifications without editing time delay' (which sends the email immediately) Moodle waits 30 minutes before sending your message, so you can make changes.
- Click on the News forum to see how the message is displayed.
- Click on the name of the Discussion topic to open it (e.g. Lecture on Tuesday 17th -- CANCELLED).
- You can Reply to this message (keeping the message within the same topic) or you can Add a new topic by using the breadcrumb to go back to the News forum
If you find any inaccurate or missing information you can even update this yourself (it's a communal wiki).
If you have a specific question about the tool please contact the Digital Education team.
If you hide a forum the email alerts won't be sent, regardless of the subscription mode.
There is a known issue with anonymity in Advanced forums whereby emails sent out to forum subscribers allow the recipients to discern the identity of 'anonymous' posters. Where advanced forums have been set to allow anonymous postings anonymity can be maintained by setting 'Subscription disabled' in the forum's settings.
Examples and case studies
- You may want to submit an announcement that a lecture is cancelled.
- If a service i.e. Turnitin is not working, then you may want to announce this and when it's also resolved!
Questions & Answers
Q. How do I avoid a deluge of forum emails?
- In the Settings tab click on Profile.
- Go to Email digest type and choose Complete (daily email with full posts). You will now get just one email per day, at about 5pm, UK time.
Q. Why are students and staff not receiving my forum posts as email alerts?
A. There could be a number of reasons email alerts are not being sent:
- Usually, the forum has been hidden, which means students cannot see it and no emails will be sent for any posts added.
- The subscription mode is not set to 'forced' (no one can unsubscribe - this is default for new forums) or 'automatic' (initial subscription, with unsubscribe option).
Q. How do I remove or add the Announcements (or News) Forum?
A. On some courses the news forum may not be appropriate/useful. To remove the news forum, go into the course settings and under Appearance set News items to show to zero. Save settings, go back to the course and delete the news forum. Set it to any number above zero to show it again.