Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Groups and discussions in Moodle, Part 2

     In a previous post we looked at discussion forum possibilities, but here we’re going to focus on how groups work with discussions, because if you do it wrong, your students won’t be able to participate and there will be frustration all around

     Since groups can limit your discussion forum choices, why work with groups?  You often don’t want the discussion group to be too large – it gets to be too much reading which frustrates students.  For example, I have about 50 students in 2 classes for just one subject, and that’s way too much reading.  Think of having to wade through all those original posts and the comments; kids just won’t do it, and that reduces the effectiveness of the discussion tool.  Another reason to work with groups:  I have students working in small groups on a mock trial; since they’re in a competitive situation, I may want to provide students with discussion work space that’s not available to a team they’re competing with.  Or I might just want to give a group a separate space where tey won’t be distracted.

     Moodle offers visible and separate groups.  Visible shows group membership, but still allows students to see – and comment – on each others’ posts.  But if you wants student work to be in separate groups, in terms of mechanics, here’s what to do:
  • If you want to use groups, you can’t use single simple forum.  The Groups function seems to need separate threads, and there are no separate threads here, so this forum type won’t work. This is true for both visible (students can see everybody’s postings, but group membership is identified) and separate groups (students can only see their own group’s postings). 

  • When you’re setting up the forum, and you want to keep groups completely separate, select both Separate Groups and Available for group members only. The choices look like this.  Important:  You’ll have to click on Show advanced to get to the Available for group members checkbox.  (You can read in a lot of gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair for this little tip.)
        Abundant thanks to Russ Willis of Globalclassroom  for helping me tease out my understanding of groups. 

        Want to set up groups in the first place?  Here’s a link to a helpful video, created by G4 Ventures, that explains how.

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