Moodle could benefit from a better forum

Moodle could benefit from a better forum

The ideas in this post have been around for years.  What prompted this was a post from Dan on asking for feedback on compelling features of ForumNG, one of the projects out of the Open University.  Looks like there is a possibility of improved forums in Moodle core.  COOL!!

Philosophical preamble

Where Moodle is concerned I personally work in the areas of course design, staff development and teaching with Moodle. Staff development includes online teaching generally, helping staff become good designers and helping with setup of Moodle sites: everything except setting up, optimising and tweaking servers.

Recently I have had to work with hosted Moodle instances where it costs lots of money to get small items fixed, to install plugins or even get good themes.

 I have two main interests

  • Improving the effectiveness of teaching tools and processes for teaching and learning online
  • Advocating a Moodle core that does as much of this as possible.

The focus of this post is getting a good forum into the core of Moodle.

What do I mean by a “Good Forum”?

Lets start with three aspects:

  • ease of use (for students and teachers)
  • supporting learning, dialogue, knowledge creation . .
    Don Hinkleman has a nice succinct post on
  • routine and random communications (Student <> student and Staff <> students)

Here a few forum features that contribute to either ease of use, improved learning or communication

I’m assuming: multiple file attachments, users can insert images, nice WYSIWYG editor, threaded views.  Using the term “discussion” rather than thread since this is what Moodle uses. Referring to ForumNG as it is a viable option for the way ahead.

  1. Forum views. If you have worked with the ForumNG, with the collapsed/them expand view is great. It is a time saver, and improves efficiency. Think of a student working over several forums in their course (not to mention blogs), and trying to engage in some basic knowledge creation.
    See below: expand links, etc

    Also in ForumNG you can post while viewing the whole thread.
  2. Permalinks. Trying to write and think over a couple of forums/discussions basically is easier with a quick permalink. See above.
    Marginalia appends a link in a Moodle post when you cut and paste from another form.  Quite nice.
  3. Merge discussions (Split discussions) Obvious.  Useful tools for a moderator function.
  4. Sticky discussions. These would save a lot of time in Administration type forums in a course. (These could also save a LOT of time in
  5. Thread closed/resolved option. 
  6. Subscribe at the discussion level. [One of the oldest Moodle tracker items.]
  7. Export posts.
    Scenario: a student is posting regularly and wants to capture a bunch of material for including in an assignment.
    Scenario: A teacher wants to give feedback.
  8. Clean forum search.
  9. “Show all posts by person X” in this forum
  10. Manage Drafts. Obvious for a busy student/teacher. (“Opps, need more info” save, then come back later with the data)
  11. Social side: “Me to” button. Voting.
  12.  Tagging. This is a wider issue.
    Scenario: you are scanning 35 incoming posts. Click “Read later” those you need to attend to in detail.
    Other possible built in tags: “Watch”, “Vote” . . .
  13. Mail NOW option for Admins.
  14. Link to show attachments. ALL the attatchments in a forum.
    Scenario: Assignments are submitted publically. Click to see them all.
    Scenario: “Where is the file I posted?” in a forum of 46 discussions and 1053 posts.
  15. Romantic stuff, what we had in 2004. “Promote this student to admin of forum”.

Plus?? list abandoned for now . . comment if you want to.

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