EPD - eHelp - Online Learning Systems - Moodle Discussion Forums

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About Discussion Forums

The Discussion Forum tool in Moodle has features to read, write, and organize discussion messages, providing the ability for asynchronous discussions. Discussion forums can be accessed in Community, Technical Support, Student Services, and in each course site. Within each forum are discussion topics. Within each discussion topic are the threads of individual discussion messages.

Posting Messages

Select Add a New Discussion Topic within a forum to start a new discussion thread.

  • When composing a new message to begin a new discussion thread, use a meaningful subject that conveys the main point or idea of the message to make the discussion thread easier to understand and locate later.
Select Reply to continue or respond to an existing discussion thread.

  • When replying to build upon an existing thread, maintain the context by briefly referencing what will be commented on in the first line.
  • Also be aware of which message in the discussion thread is being replied to. Replying to the appropriate message can help to better organize the entire thread.
  • Remember that forum posts are visible to all users of that particular forum. To reply to a specific individual that is private in nature, send the individual an email message or some other means of communication.

Forum Message Display

There are several ways to display messages in discussion threads: newest first, oldest first, nested, and threaded. When the user opens a forum topic, they can select the display format from the drop-down menu centered at the top of the forum topic page.

  • Display replies flat, with oldest first: The discussion will be displayed in one line and in chronological order from oldest to newest.
  • Display replies flat, with newest first: Same as the above, but the most recent post is displayed first.
  • Display replies in threaded form: Only the post starting the discussion will be displayed in its full form; replies will be reduced to headlines (including information about its author and date of release) and organized chronologically; replies will be shifted towards the right so that only replies to the same post are in the same line.
  • Display replies in nested form: All posts are displayed in their full forms; replies will be reduced to the headline (including information about its author and date of release) and organized chronologically; moreover, replies will be shifted towards the right so that only replies to the same post are in the same line.

Attaching Files

Click Add to browse, locate and upload attachments, or drag and drop files in the box to add them.

Forum Read/Unread Tracking

Tracking is a feature in Moodle forums that highlights unread messages within the course site, so it is easy to see what is new. Tracking can be turned on and off for individual forums, but in order to use it, it must first be turned on in the Moodle global user preferences (see screenshot below). In the user profile dropdown menu in upper right, choose "Preferences".  Then from the "Forum Preferences" link, ensure Forum Tracking is set to "Yes: Highlight new posts for me", so the user will know when there are unread posts in forums.

moodle user preferences

Once forum tracking is turned on in the user profile, each course forums will can be tracked. From there, the user must then determine which forums they want to track. Individual tracking for each forum is managed via the administration block, or from the General Forums list. Select either select track/don't track unread posts.

If tracking is on for a particular forum, when entering the course page, a shaded note with the number of unread posts appears next to the forum.

When the user opens the forum, the number of unread messages will appear next to the discussion thread of which there are unread messages.

Forum Subscription

When a person is subscribed to a forum, it means that they will be sent email copies of every subsequent post in the forum. It takes 30 minutes for a post to be sent via email. Note: During that time, the individual who posted the message can edit or delete their message.

Important: The global setting for forum subscriptions is also in the user preferences dropdown menu in upper right of Moodle page.  For example, in the user profile setting, under the "Forum auto-subscribe" drop-down, select "No: don't automatically subscribe me to forums" if forum email notifications are not automatically received after posting to a forum.

Subscribing and Unsubscribing to Forums in a Course Site

The simplest method for globally subscribing/unsubscribing to forums in a course site is to select Forums in the "Activities" block. 

The page refreshes with a list of all course forums. In the upper right hand corner, students can click to select "Subscribe to all forums" or "Unsubscribe to all forums", or a user can easily view/edit all of their forum subscription setting for each course and adjust them by hosing "Yes" or "No" for each discussion forum.


Individual forums can also be managed from the settings block after a particular forum is selected.

However, students should know that if an instructor forces subscription on a particular forum, then other subscribe/unsubscribe options are not available and everyone in the class will get email notifications to that forum. This is especially useful in forums at the beginning of the course. If an instructor has forced subscription, students will not have the option to unsubscribe.

Forum Subscription vs. Forum Tracking

IMPORTANT:  If a user is subscribed to a forum and all posts are forwarded to email, those posts are automatically marked as "read" once the email is sent (30 minutes after the user posts the message). Essentially, if a user subscribes to a forum, it negates read/unread tracking. It is best for a student to choose one or the other for a given discussion forum. For those that prefer to receive email notifications for new forum messages, they will want to "subscribe" to that particular forum. For those that want to use the read/unread tracking feature, they will want to turn on tracking for that particular forum and turn off subscription. To manage these settings, make sure global user preferences are setup correctly as discussed in the sections above. Each user will find a good balance based on their own preferences.

See Related Best Practices

Keywords:EPD eHelp post topic thread display track subscription subscribe email   Doc ID:45985
Owner:Leah N.Group:Engineering Professional Development - Department Resources
Created:2015-01-07 10:53 CDTUpdated:2016-06-20 10:55 CDT
Sites:College of Engineering - Online Learning Resources, Engineering Professional Development - Department Resources
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