Moodle Recipes: Small Group Discussions

We’ve started a new series of posts called Moodle Recipes that will focus on pedagogically effective ways to make use of Moodle in a face-to-face classroom setting. All Moodle Recipes will be available under the Moodle Recipes header on Carly’s blog, and will also be highlighted here.

Most are familiar with using the Forum tool in Moodle to have students participate in online discussions outside of class time. There is a lot of value in this activity for a number of reasons:

  • Online discussions have a lot of value when the prompts are carefully crafted
  • Students can take more time to consider their contributions and word them well
  • Before class Forums can help jump start in-class discussions, making them a richer conversation
  • After in-class discussions, Forums can extend the conversation beyond the confines of your class period
  • Quiet students get an equal chance to voice their thoughts
  • It’s a great community-building exercise

This recipe focuses on the value of the Forum tool, but includes breaking your students up into smaller groups.  Using the Groups tool in Moodle, you can divide your class into groups of 3-5 students.  Then set the Forum activity to make use of those groups you created so that each group has their own discussion space. Using Small Group Discussions gives students even more opportunity to have a real discussion, rather than just submit a single post on the topic.  For example, in a full class discussion often the most interesting/provocative posts get all of the replies, so requiring students to reply to all of their group mates will give everyone feedback on their contribution.

The instructor can also hop in and out of all of the small groups, giving more attention to each small group of students. Just like when you have students discussing in groups in class, it’s often more rich conversation between instructor and students when there are fewer students in the group.

So, here’s the Small Group Discussions recipe:

Small group discussion recipe card

The tools to use in Moodle are the Forum activity and the Groups capability. It’s also good to understand Groupings which will allow you to have different groups for different discussions or activities in the same course. If you want to require a certain number of posts or replies, do so with the Activity Completion settings.

Moodle Help Links

Further Reading

Much of the research about online discussions refer to fully online courses, but much of the information is applicable to online discussions conducted asynchronously outside of a face-to-face course. Here, I chose articles that have many other references if you would like to read further about the research on conducting online discussions.

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