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Forum requirements

From MoodleDocs


This is just a little flag waving: I've wondered if such a page as this is needed. See the post here: Derek Chirnside 00:06, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

I'm filling in a few of these sections exerimentally at the moment. I'm using as my base document the OU briefing from 2008. I'll add in some comments on the page comments I'll also try to tag my opinion where it is my opinion. Derek Chirnside 09:05, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

I should say, any of my comments here on OU etc are completely in an unofficial capacity, I've left some of them here just for the sake of a bit of context, I'll move or delete them sometime. If there is anyone visiting this page with some thoughts or an itch to edit/add, go ahead. In this site have three places to write: [Development_talk:Forum_requirements the talk page], here or the thread referred to above. Editing here: text preceeded by the colon on a new line, finished by four tildes makes a personal comment. But this is a wiki of course. You know what to do Derek Chirnside 18:53, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

Moodle forum purpose

Refer to the docs as well. [Forum_module]

Where we are now with the current forum?

A list of current features/functionality in the current Moodle forums, with a few OU comments left in. List of current Forum features

Feel free to edit/add or clarify Derek Chirnside 18:44, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

Index Page of Forums

Lists all forums on a course (that the user is allowed to see) with name, description, number of discussions, and number of unread posts.

  1. User can mark messages read, subscribe/unsubscribe, turn on/off read tracking, and access RSS feeds for every forum.
  2. Two features apply to all forums on the course: an ‘all at once’ subscribe/unsubscribe option and a search box.

Forum Main page

  • A list of discussions in date order (the discussion with most recent post floats to the top). If there are very many discussions, they are paged. A tick-mark icon marks all discussions read.
  • For each discussion,
    • the title
    • name and picture of user who started it
    • total number of replies
    • number of unread replies
    • date of last post, and name (only) of the user who made the last post.

A tick-mark icon marks that discussion read.

  • OU: Pictures are not shown. (We are planning to re-enable pictures at some point.)
  • ‘Add a new discussion topic’ button.
  • Ancillary features: search box (searches all forums), subscribe option, RSS feed link, and options to enable/disable read tracking.
  • OU: Read tracking is forced on.

The discussion page

The discussion page shows all posts in a discussion.

  • Users can choose between four view options. There are two fundamentally different views: flat (in date order/reverse), and threaded/nested (showing the structure of replies).
  • OU: this option is disabled, we force the ‘nested’ view.
In some respects I agree with this. But at times we need to see the most recent posts. The problem comes when you reply in the wrong place Derek Chirnside 09:28, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
  • A search box. (Searches . . )
  • A dropdown allows users to move the discussion to another forum on the same course. Forums are shown in course order and with headings of their section name (e.g. ‘Week 4’).
  • OU: Selected (checked) posts can be exported to RTF, which usually opens in Word. The exported file contains an approximation of the post content.
  • OU: Selected (checked) posts can be summarised. This is kind of like reply with quote, but it quotes all the messages you selected, and your reply is added to the top level. The idea is that a tutor will add a ‘summary’ that highlights key points from a number of posts students made.

Viewing Posts

Posts are displayed according to the view style. Each post displays:
  • Title. (OU: Special logic hides the title if it is blank or ‘Re: parent title’; this reduces unhelpful repetition)
I've seen this OU tweak, hides a lot of clutter Derek Chirnside 09:23, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Picture and name of author.
  • Date of post.
  • Picture(s) of author’s groups, if set.
  • Text of post (HTML content) and attachments if any.
Commands and features on each post (available according to user permissions and forum options):
  • Reply – takes you to the edit page for a new post in reply to the current one.
  • Edit – takes you to the edit page for your existing post. Editing is limited to a time set in global configuration. (OU: editing is disabled. Note: this makes the Q&A forum work as expected, where students cannot see other posts then change their own answer)
  • Delete – deletes the current post. You can’t delete posts if they have replies.
Not good. Should blank the post and say "Deleted" Derek Chirnside 09:23, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
  • Show parent – usually within the current page, jumps the viewpoint to the parent post (the one that this post is in reply to).
  • Split – removes this post from the discussion (along with all its replies), and makes it into a new top-level discussion.
  • A ‘Rating’ dropdown is used to rate a user’s post. Ratings contribute to a grade for the activity. Posts can be rated on a defined Moodle scale (a fixed set of text options which correspond to a number, such as ‘Very poor’ = 0) or a numeric scale 0..N. The average result of such ratings (on the same scale) may be displayed alongside a post.

After changing ratings, you need to click ‘Send in my latest ratings’ button at bottom of the page, or they will be ignored.

  • OU: ‘Save to portfolio’ icon.
  • OU: A checkbox allows posts to be selected for the silly features at bottom.


How does search work currently. What can oyu search where. All forums in a course All of a forum All of a discussion

Possible features

What kinds of things could you want to do with forums?

This is a dump of features people have mentioned

  • Once the posts are there, you can't do much with them.
    • Tagging posts
    • Exporting to somewhere
  • Tutors may want to comment on them
    • No easy way to do this without creating spagetti junction.
  • Vote/give ratings
Grade Posts
Subscription at the thread level

Tracker Receive emailed messages for thread not forum

Change order of posts in Forum Overview

Instead of recent at top, oldest at top. Modification to do this

See who has read the forum

(Insert here philosphical discussion on what 'reading' a web page means)

Post a post and ensure everyone has read it
Have a specific Reddit button? Derek Chirnside 20:39, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
Have sticky posts to hightlight a discussion topic

All discussions are not the same.

Lock a discussion, and close to further posts

A recent thread: Blocking posts

Anonymous Posts

Allowing users to post anonymously to a forum. A recent thread: Anonymous posts

A 'solution' of creating another anon login is suggested, but this is clumbsy if you have a lot of courses.


Contrib: Forum Post Approval in 2.0??

Reply with quote

Maybe highlighted bit is quoted only - it is very very rare you need to quote a whole post.

Marginalia cut and paste is superb. Quotes the name, date and time of the author, and automatically indents it. This feature of [Marginalia] is almost enough to consider using it, even if the other features may not be desired. [Forum discussion on Marginalia and ForumNG] Derek Chirnside 09:31, 12 August 2010 (UTC)
Merge discussions
Private discussions with students

Like a journal, private to teacher and student

Hack: set up groups, one student per group and a forum set to groups. (Downside: can't post one post that all can reply to, need to post n times where n is thje n number of students)
OU ForumNG. Has a mode where if a student posts, only they and the teacher sees the thread.
Dialogue activity plugin. Good help pages on dialogue module
OU Blog Partial overview. This may provide another option. There is an option to have a BLOG at the course level private to student and teacher.


OU comments

COMMENTS ON THE OU ENHANCEMENTS listing three fixes to things they see as problems When you subscribe to a forum you receive copies of it by email. This works well but there are problems with the current approach.

  • Sending out mail should not mark posts read. Even though it seems logical, this confuses users, and there are situations – e.g. you are subscribed, but are away from your home email – where it can make receiving mail.)
  • The reply link in mail will take you to the discussion page, jumped down to the post in

question, with the reply box opened ready to type. This is a big advantage over the current system because you will be able to actually see on the same page whether anyone else has replied by simple scroll.

Really cool Derek Chirnside 09:45, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

  • The text of the mail includes the post being sent out and (beneath it, MS-style) the original message it is replying to. This allows for context. (Some of our users pointed out problems related to this.)
Hmm. Threaded discussions are designed to be in threads. Even e-mail readers now can cope with this a lot easier. Maybe best to keep the mail sent out the same as the post Derek Chirnside 09:45, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

Other comments

From Function to Feature


Here a are a few scenarios. They are not there to be in any way exemplary practice, or even defensible. You could want to do these things while actually teaching in a positive constructivist way. (I say this to counter the arguement I have seen in the forums "How could you want this, are you a control freak?")

Just a quick first pass. Feel free to edit or add as you like Derek Chirnside 18:41, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

These are a few specific challenges you may need to solve in real teaching. The real challenge is to sort them into a set of functionalities for a forum. Given a proposed 'need', how can we see functionality to make these task easy?


You want to ensure everyone in your group to read a particular piece of information.

Grading 1

You want each participant to post 3 times in a week. You need an easy way to monitor this.

Hypothetical solution: learn PHP, hack into your Moodle server and implant some code to automatically e-mail people who haven't posted enough every Thursdayevening, just before they are going onto Facebook to plan their weekend, and remind them they need to visit Moodle and make a post.

Grading 2

Regularity of visiting the forum

You would like your students to visit the forum twice a week.

Using the results of a forum

The discusion is over, now it is time to use the content in a final summary.

Moving on in a conversation

The discussion time is over, all done and dusted. But you want to leave the space often for other comments, but youo don't want to overburden with more spaces to look for students . . .

You want to email only some students

For instance, all those who have NOT posted their essay topic. All those who have got an approved essay topic.

Journal/Private forum

You want a simple journal for all your students. Private to them and you.

Current forum features clarified

Brainstorm: desired features

See also . .