Moodle Monday: Discussion Forums

Discussion forums have been a mainstay of the web for many years and still make up a core part of online/distance learning programmes. Most major VLE platforms have discussion forums available as an activity and the Moodle forums can be a great way to enhance your blended learning delivery. Forum discussions are ‘asynchronous’, meaning that participants can post and reply to posts at any time, rather than in a ‘live’ online chat session which would occur on a set date and time. Some possible uses for forums in your Moodle course can include:

  • A space for continuing discussion after a seminar or workshop.
  • A space for structured discussion activities before a face-to-face session if you’re using a flipped classroom approach.
  • A ‘frequently asked questions’ forum that builds up over the duration of the module. This approach is particularly effective for reducing student emails containing the same questions. If students are directed to a forum to ask their question instead, your answer could then be seen by everybody. If any other students had the same query, they would be able to see your response without having to send a separate email. As these forums build up over time, students can also end up answering each other’s questions and build up a knowledge base in the module Forums.
  • If your module includes group work, group forums can be set up to give students a space to discuss their project. These are only visible to students in that particular group and not the rest of the cohort.

Research into computer mediated communication (CMC) in education has been ongoing since the late 1980s. Work by Browne (2003) and Macdonald (2006) suggests that the asynchronous nature of discussion forums potentially benefits learners by giving them time to reflect on previous messages and gives them time to think before they reply, in a way that wouldn’t be possible in face-to-face seminar discussions. Andrews and Haythornthwaite (2007) also suggest that the permanent nature of the messages in the forums give them the opportunity to go back and reflect on the posts at a later date when revisiting what they’ve learned. The article by Yvonne Bain from Research in Learning Technology (linked below) provides insight into learners’ perceptions about learning through online discussions.

You can set up your Forum so that students are automatically subscribed, meaning that they will receive an email notification to their YSJ email account whenever a new post is added. Alternatively, you can set up optional subscription, so students can choose whether or not they want to receive emails.


The video and written guides below will show you how to set up a Forum in your Moodle course. If you run into any problems you can contact the TEL Team:



  1. Andrews, R., and C.Haythornthwaite. 2007. Introduction to e-learning research. InThe sage handbook of e-learning research. ,. R.Andrews and C.Haythornthwaite, 152. London: Sage Publications Ltd.
  2. Bain, Y., 2011. Learning through online discussion: a framework evidenced in learners’ interactions. Research in Learning Technology; 19(1): [Taylor & Francis Online]
  3. Browne E. Conversations in cyberspace: A study of online learning. Open Learning. Open Learning. 2003; 18(3): 24559[Google Scholar]
  4. Macdonald J. Blended learning and online tutoring. Gower Publishing Limited. Aldershot, 2006

Have you been using Forums with your students? Do you feel like it enhances their learning experience? What challenges have you encountered? Let us know in the comments below!


Rosie Hare

Working to the Directorate’s annual objectives and the TEL Quality Framework, Rosie’s role as a TEL Advisor is to proactively support and develop staff in using technology to enhance the student learning experience. Her main focus is to advise academic staff on effective use of learning technologies to develop innovative learning resources, processes and practices. Before joining YSJ Rosie was an E-Learning Support Officer at University of York, and prior to that worked as a Digital Facilitator in the E-Learning Team at Middlesbrough College.

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