How Do I Use the Forum Activity

Valid for Moodlel 2.8. Updated on 1/22//2016.

Forums allow your students to discuss various topics relevant to your close. You can determine how much you control the discussions. Information on allowing anonymous postings is also available.

Adding a Forum

  1. From your course page, turn editing on and go to the Topic or Week in which you want to add the forum.
  2. Click on the Add an activity drop-down box and select Forum to get the new forum interface or you can select Forum from the activity chooser. Detailed descriptions of the various fields are provided below the following image of the form, but in most cases the default values are fine.

    Forum creation
  3. The forum name should contain a brief indication of what the forum discussion should be about.  The forum summary can contain a more detailed description of the topic.  Both of these fields are required. You can have the forum description displayed on your main course page or you can just have it displayed with the forum link is clicked.
  4. There are several types of forums.  Click on the question mark icon next to Forum type for a description of the various types.  The standard forum is usually fine.
  5. Attachments and word count: This section lets you control whether students can attach files to their postings, how many attachments are allowed and how large they can be. The default is to allow multiple attachments. The maximum attachment size is determined by system level settings. If the maximum size is too low, talk to the ATS staff.Size should not be a problem unless dealing with media files. The defaults are usually acceptable.
  6. Subscription and tracking: Moodle supports subscriptions to a forum.  If a user subscribes, then they are emailed whenever new entries are added to the forum. As the instructor you can make subscription automatic (with or without the ability of the user to unsubscribe), prohibit subscription or leave it as a user option. Read tracking will show the user which messages are new. This can be processor and memory intensive so shouldn't be used unless you are expecting complex discussions where the student may have trouble finding new submissions.
  7. Post threshold for blocking: If you have a problem with just a few students dominating the discussion, you can use post blocking to restrict their access. With blocking, once the student has posted a specified number of times, they are blocked from further posts for a specified time period. You can also arrange for them to be warned after a given number of posts. 
  8. Grading: If you gradebook has categories, you can specify which category the forum grade belongs to if the forum ratings are graded.
  9. Ratings: Moodle allows for the rating of forum posts. Since it is often possible for several people to rate forum postings, you can specify how the individual ratings are combined.  You can also specify the number of points possible for the posting or whether it shouldn't be rated.  It is possible to specify that only items posted within a certain time period can be rated.
  10. Common module settings and Restrict access are standard activity options. Most of the time the default values will be fine.
  11. When done click one of the two save buttons at the bottom of the page.

Using a Forum

One a forum has been created, it works the same for both students and instructors. 

Forums appear on your Moodle page like this:

forum icon  Forum name goes here

To create a new discussion topic (sometimes referred to as a thread) click the forum link (as shown above) to bring up the forum page. In this example one discussion topic has already been started.


To create a new discussion, click the Add a new discussion topic button at the top of the list of threads to bring up the new message interface.

New discussion

Give the thread a title in the Subject box, and type your post in the Message box. If subscription was setup as optional during the forum creation, the Subscription field on this form determines whether you are subscribed. The default behaviour has been recently (Fall 2015) so that users do NOT subscribe. They will need to check the box to subscribe. If permitted, attachments can be added at the bottom using either the Add button or dragging and dropping.

When you are done writing the posting, check your post for errors and click the Post to forum button at the bottom of the page. After you’ve posted, you will have 30 minutes to edit your post. Normally your posting will not be mailed to forum subscribers. Clicking the Mail now box causes the posting to be sent out immediately.

To reply to someone else's post, go to the forum and click on that title of a discussion topic you want to response to.

Active discussion interface then click the Reply link in the bottom right corner of the post you want to reply to. The fields are the same as they are for starting a new thread.

You can use the pull-down menu you can change how the discussion is presented by reversing the sort order (blog order) or eliminating the indenting.

It is possible to "rate" postings and make the forum a graded activity, but currently we have no experience or documentation on doing this.  If this is something you want to do, contact the ATS staff.

Exporting a Forum

Since Moodle exports forums a discussion at a time, it is difficult and time-consuming to export complex forums. Using the Simple single discussion forum type would appear to offer a work-around, but that forum type doesn't allow any exporting.

  1. Open the forum.

  2. Click on the title of the discussion you want to export.  This will bring up the discussion interface.


  3. Click on the Export whole discussion button at the top of the interface. This brings up the export configuration screen.  Do not use the Export to portfolio buttons unless you want to export only a part of the discussion.


  4. For Available export formats, select HTML with attachments. Next click on the Next button. This brings up the confirmation screen.


  5. Click on the Continue button. You will get a page telling you it's downloading and brings up a pop-up window.


    The forum export function is part of Moodle's portfolio feature which explains why the window talks about the file. You can either save the zip file and expand it when you need to or open it with the archive utility which will expand the zip file into a folder immediately.
At this point you will have completed the export.  When the zip file is expanded the resulting folder will contain a discussion.html file.  When opened in a browser this file will show you the contents of the discussion albeit not in the prettiest format.


Forum Types

There are 5 forum types:

  • A single simple discussion - A single discussion topic which everyone can reply to.
  • 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.