The Moodle Discussion Forum is a versatile tool, the uses of which can range from basic information sharing and individual reading responses, to fostering deep analysis and promoting peer learning. In this particular example, we highlight how the carefully structured use of Moodle forums allowed students to participate in a meaningful and respectful dialog which at the same time allowed for a multiplicity of perspectives. 

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The Moodle Discussion Forum can be used in a few different formats: standard threaded discussions, single simple discussion, or Q & A forum.

Featured Faculty:

Michaela Brangan portrait photo
Michaela Brangan



In the Spring 2019 LJST course Law and Waste, Professor Brangan created a series of weekly discussion forums using an interesting Learning Design1. The class was divided into groups of four students each. Each student was  assigned roles/assignments. 

  • Student 1 was assigned to take the lead by writing a short post highlighting significant areas of that week’s text or topic, and posing a question.
  • Student 2  was assigned to add related observations and analysis of the topic. 
  • Student 3 was asked to synthesize and extrapolate on the posts, and 
  • Student 4 assessed the previous analysis/synthesis and concluded with an extrapolating question of one’s own. 

The forum threads were then discussed in class.  This whole cycle of the 4 step process was then repeated so that students could take turns playing the different roles.

Example Student Posts from the Four-Roles Discussion and Observations about Learning Outcomes:

moodle forum
Letting the first student choose the topic is a simple and pragmatic way to foster self-directed learning2. The student gets to take charge of one’s learning.

moodle forum
Structured dialogue allowed students to know the sequence in participation and how best to build upon perspectives.

moodle forum
Responses were not binary “agree” or “disagree” but added to the multiplicity of perspectives. The post below is especially impressive since it calls out on the lack of causal link between capitalism and nostalgia. The tone of conversation among the students is very respectful and this student’s “P.S.” shows awareness that his point of view may have been different.

The discussions within the small group of four does very well to model the good strategies of a Socratic seminar in a digital setting. 


How to...

Accessibility Bonus

The Moodle forum is an easy-to-use and accessible platform. Students in the classroom could have different types of disabilities that can make in-class discussions challenging, and an asynchronous online forum can help provide an accessible discussion experience for all students. Referring back to the forum posts as part of class discussion is a great way to engage students who otherwise may not get an equal voice during class.


1 Laurillard, D., Charlton, P., Craft, B., Dimakopoulos, D., Ljubojevic, D., Magoulas, G., … Whittlestone, K. (2013). A constructionist learning environment for teachers to model learning designs. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29(1), 15–30.

2 Knowles, M. S. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall/Cambridge.

Published Spring 2020 by Academic Technology Services