Create and sustain effective discussion fora in Moodle

This specific guide on discussion fora can be read in conjunction with the more widely framed Create effective asynchronous online learning activities guide.

About this tool/approach

How to create and maintain a relationship with learners, through the use of asynchronous discussion forum activities and emphasising the importance of:

  1. Clear communication
  2. Setting expectations
  3. Building a dialogue
  4. Supporting learning.

For use when planning online seminar activities.

Why would a teacher use this approach/tool, and link to the 4C features

Asynchronous fora provide an opportunity to create and sustain an online community in your course. They can be used for socialisation and welcoming as well as a basis for subsequent learning tasks. The student may be encouraged to demonstrate an application of disciplinary concepts, give and receive peer feedback, and make use of tutor support and feedback - all as part of an online community. Asynchronous fora also provide flexibility and choice about when and how to participate.

How to use this approach/tool

Think about the use of fora within a module and the relationship with how students will use fora on their wider programmes. Make clear what the purpose of each forum is and how it relates to the overall learning outcomes of a particular unit of study. Remind the teaching team to schedule the time in their diaries for facilitating fora, having agreed what tutor contributions will be, including how and when. How will the teaching team introduce themselves and their different roles?

Clarify specific expectations of learners including how and when they should contribute and when to anticipate a response, and from whom. Explain the purposes of a forum space, induction activities and netiquette rules.

When designing forum tasks, check out the options and settings (see below) available in Moodle and what they are best suited for: 

Moodle settings

  • Standard forum for general use
  • Q & A forum
  • Standard forum displayed in a blog format
  • Settings, each one requires consideration
    • Subscriptions
    • Tracking
    • Time period
    • Grading
    • Groups.

One of the challenges for online tutors is building a dialogue which continues after the first introductory messages. Aim to promote dialogue, interaction and engagement from the outset. Some things that are observed in online courses is that students are willing to add their contributions but less likely to interact or engage with other learners, so it is important to check for a regularly and develop strategies for encouraging learners to interact with each other.

Salmon’s (2013) model of e-moderation recognises that learners need to go through a number of stages of development before reaching the ‘knowledge construction’ stage. A significant amount of tutoring time is likely to be spent responding to students’ questions about the content.

Ensure activities and expectations are reflected in the Student Study Plan for the module in question.

Inclusivity and Accessibility review

Ensure that individual fora have a full descriptive title.

Ensure all relevant activities are added to the Student Study Plan for the module in question.

All online resources should be compatible with the UK Digital Accessibility Standards 2020. See Creating Digitally Accessible Learning and Teaching Materials Brookes Moodle course.

Use the Blackboard Ally tool to help check the accessibility of the content you have prepared (available within Moodle late July - early August 2020).


  • Marion Waite

Further resources/references

  • Salmon, Gilly (2013) E-tivities: The key to active online learning. 2nd edition. New York and London: Routledge. [ebook available via library]