- Moodle documentation on forums
- Video tutorial on forums, from mylearningspace
- Video tutorial on adding forums, from EducationPublic
Uses of forums
Forums are the main tool in Moodle for asynchronous group interaction. That is, if you want your students to interact as a group (as in a class discussion), without requiring them all to be online at the same time, the forum is probably the way to go.
Forums come in five flavors:
- News forum. Only the instructor can post to this kind. It's useful for class announcements. (Of course, you can also do those in email, which gives students a more direct way to respond to your announcement if they want.) By default, there is a news forum at the top of every course.
- Standard forum for general use. Anyone can post to it, and anyone can reply to any post. If you don't have a reason for using a different kind of forum, this one is probably your best bet.
- Q & A forum. The instructor makes one or more initial posts. Students must first post their own thoughts before they can read other students' posts—which is the reason for using this type of forum. Students normally can't start new threads in a Q&A forum.
- Single simple discussion. The instructor makes an initial post. The students can reply, but not start new threads of their own. Anything you can do with this, you can do with a standard forum.
- Each person posts one discussion. Each student can initiate exactly one thread, to which others can reply. Again, anything you can do with this, you can do with a standard forum.
The natural way to assign a grade to students' forum participation is to rate their posts. There are lots of ways to do this, depending on what behavior you consider important in your forum. Some examples:
Assign a single grade to the student's entire participation in a given forum, and attach that grade to a single post. The obvious choices for which post to rate are the student's first post in the forum and the student's last post in the forum; either one can work. All the other posts from that same student are left unrated. In the forum settings, under “Ratings”, “Aggregate type” is set either to “Maximum rating” or “Sum of ratings”.
One thing to be sure of with this approach is that the students know what you're doing, so they know that the rating on each student's first or last post really applies to the student's entire participation in that forum. Otherwise, students will be wondering why each student's first/last post got rated and the others didn't.
Rating each post
Moodle forums are really designed for each post to be rated. (This is one of the relatively few places where Moodle's underlying social-constructivist pedagogy really shows through.) The ratings can then be aggregated to give a single grade in any of several ways, to reflect different prioritization of desired behavior. Some examples:
Consistent quality, quantity not important: An aggregation strategy of “Average of ratings” prioritizes the quality of the student's posts over the number of posts (after the first, at least; the student does need to post to the forum at least once to get any credit at all).
Quantity is king, quality not so much: An aggregation strategy of “Count of ratings” counts the number of a student's posts to a forum. The only quality option here is whether the post is good enough (by some measure) to attract a rating.
The aggregation strategy of “Sum of ratings” is similar, except that the ratings can be adjusted to reflect the quality of each post, as well as the sheer number of posts. “Sum of ratings” can also be used in such a way that a student's first post to a forum is worth more than subsequent posts.