Moodle offers several different kinds of discussion forums, and I’m still discovering the nuances.
A variant on the Standard forum is Each person posts one discussion, which is nice when you want each student working on their own thread. I’ve used this for personal reflections by each student, with subsequent conversations between the teacher and the student. Very powerful. (See Feedback improving student-teacher relationship.)
A really interesting variation is the Q & A forum, which I use if I want students to post their response to a prompt before they see what everybody else has posted. Students can’t see what others have posted, or reply to them, until they have posted themselves. I like this for avoiding the “me, too” kind of response. I wouldn’t use this as the first kind of forum students use, because they need to feel comfortable with both the technology (do I know how to do this?) and with the situation (am I comfortable saying what I think in this environment?). It does help students reflect about their own thoughts before getting immersed in other people’s.
To see the mechanics of setting up a forum, see this helpful video by DomanskiRPS. (Thanks to Moodle News for letting the moodle world know about this and other videos.
There are several considerations for working with discussion forums when it comes to groups, and that’s the topic for Part 2. (One important hint: the single simple forum won’t work with groups of any kind.)