Set up a Forum

System: Wattle »


The Forum activity allows students and staff to participate in online discussions. There are several options for how a forum can be set up that can change the discussion dynamics, e.g. discussions can be flat or organised into threads; people can subscribe to receive postings via email; posts can be rated to generate a grade; private forums can be created for groups.



Forums can aid student engagement and interactivity in a variety of ways, such as:

  • A social space for students to get to know each other
  • Course announcements and answers to common questions
  • Discussion of course content or reading materials
  • Continuing online an issue raised in a face-to-face session
  • A place where tutors and other students can give advice

While forums can potentially provide efficiencies for a lecturer communicating with students, they can also potentially consume an inordinate amount of time. Set clear expectations with your students about when you will respond to forum posts. Where appropriate, provide time and encouragement for students to answer each other’s questions.


Step 1

Add a Forum to your course

  • Click on the Gear menu (Cog icon, top-right) and Turn editing on
  • Choose the section (i.e. week or topic) where you want the forum to appear and click Add an activity or resource
  • Choose Forum from the list of activities and click Add
  • Give your Forum a Name e.g. Assignment 1: Collaborative Research
  • The Description will appear at the top of the Forum page. Make the forum purpose and expectations clear and brief so students don’t lose time re-reading it every time they come to the page.

Step 2

Choose a Forum Type

Note: Every course automatically includes one special Announcements forum. Only lecturers can post in this forum, posts appear in the Latest Announcements block, and students are automatically subscribed (Forced subscription). If you delete this forum, it will reappear if you add the Latest Announcements block.

As well as the special Announcements forum, there are 5 types of forums to choose from:

  • The default is Standard forum for general use. Everyone can start a new thread using the Add a new discussion topic button, and can reply to existing posts.
  • The Standard forum displayed like a blog is set up so users can read it and then choose to respond by clicking the Discuss this topic button.
  • Each person posts one discussion – everyone can reply to everything, but can start only one new thread.
  • In a Q and A forum students cannot see any other posts until they make their own initial posting.
  • With a Single, simple discussion students can only respond to the lecturer’s original comments provided in the Description field. They cannot start a new topic of discussion.

Step 3

Set your Subscription mode

Subscribing to a forum means you will also receive forum postings by email. By default, a day’s postings arrive all together in a “digest” around 5:30pm. You can change your Preferences (see Profile and preferences user guide) to receive postings at the time they are submitted (with a half-hour delay) or reduce your digest to just subject lines.

  • Forced Subscription – everyone is automatically subscribed to receive emails from this forum, and cannot unsubscribe
  • Auto subscription – everyone is automatically subscribed but they may unsubscribe
  • Optional subscription – participants have to opt-in to receive emails from this forum
  • Subscription disallowed – this forum does not send email

You may like to begin a forum as Auto subscription, then change it to Optional after a couple of weeks.

To check who is subscribed within the forum, go to the Gear menu (cog icon, top-right) and choose Show/edit current subscribers.

Note: As a lecturer, you cannot change whether your students receive individual posts or daily digests. Please assume that most students will not receive Forum messages until after 5:30pm.


Step 4

Grades and Ratings

If you enable Ratings, the forum can become a graded activity. Initially only lecturers can give ratings. Permissions can be changed to enable students to rate each other’s posts.

Step 5


If you have set up groups in a grouping (see the Groups and Groupings guide), e.g. one group for each tutorial, you can set up a private discussion forum for each group.

  • Go to the Common module settings section
  • Set Group mode to Separate groups
  • Choose the appropriate Grouping

(This will add these conditions to the Restrict access section, so remember to look there if you need to turn it off).

Step 6

Other settings

There are numerous other settings, relevant in specific circumstances. Click on the small blue question-marks to understand how each works.