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Setting Up Forums

Why Do This

Forums are one of the most powerful and versatile activities in Cougar Courses. A well-run forum can stimulate a thoughtful exchange of ideas, motivate students to be involved, give the shy students a voice, or act as a team workspace. In online courses, the forums may be the primary method by which you, the Instructor, build that sense of community which is so crucial to retention. Forums can be set up with groups, forum posts can be graded, and students can submit attachments to forum posts and replies.

See the Using Forums Guide for a thorough introduction to the different ways to use forums, how to write effective forum questions, and a description of the 5 forum types and when to use each.

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Create a Forum

  1. Log onto Cougar Courses and go to your course.
  2. In the Contents area at the top, click on the topic where you would like to add the forum.
  3. Once selected, scroll to the bottom of the topic.
  4. Click the Create Learning Activity link at the bottom left of the topic.
    create learning activity link

  5. In the list of Activities, click on Forum.

    select forum from the list of activities

  6. Type the title of the forum in the "Forum name" box. Type the question and instructions in the Description box. Choose the forum type (see descriptions below) from the drop down menu next to the default type: Standard Forum for General Use. Click the Save and return to course button to keep the default settings.

setting for the forum topic, prompt, and type

NOTE: Include specific instructions for the students in the description section regarding the subject of the forum, the grading criteria and number of initial posts and replies you expect, as well as the due dates for the intital prompt and any responses.

Forum Types

There are several forum types that have different functionality.

  • A single simple discussion

    Instead of multiple discussion topics (aka threads) within a forum, this only has one. Each person posts by responding to someone else's post.

    Example: Sam wants to find out what computer equipment the students own. He posts the first question and students respond to him. Everyone can see all the responses on one screen.

    This forum type does not work with groups.

  • Each person posts one discussion

    Each person starts their own discussion topic and then other students can respond to it. 

    Example: Sam wants each student to start their own discussion topic and use it to post their favorite movie. They will put the title of the movie in the subject line and explain why it is their favorite in the message box. Students will respond to a movie that interests them. Each student will have one initial post.

  • Q and A forum

    The instructor begins the question and answer (Q&A) forum by creating the initial question. The students reply back and answer the question. They cannot see anyone else's response until AFTER they have posted themselves and wait 15 minutes and refresh the page.

    Example: Sam wants to make sure the students have watched a movie and can answer a specific question about a sceen in the movie. He posts the question "After watching The Godfather, what would you have done different after Sonny learns Carlo has beaten his sister again?" The students reply to the prompt without seeing what anyone else has answered. After they post, they must wait 15 minutes before the refresh the page to see what others have posted.

    Note: When using the Q & A forum type, you must start the prompt using the Add a Question button. The students will read your prompot and click the reply link in the bottom right to post their response.

  • Standard forum for general use

    The most generally useful forum type and the default type. Anyone can start new discussion topics, or respond to an existing one.

    Example: Sam asks the students to reflect on the movie and which emotions they felt as they watched it during specific scenes. Students post their reflection by starting a new discussion topic. They can also respond to another student's post. They do not have to wait before seeing the responses and can create multiple discussion topics.

  • Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format

    This forum type works like the standard forum for general use, but the first post of each discussion is displayed so students can read it and then choose to respond by clicking the "Discuss this topic" link in the bottom right of the post.

    Example: Going back to Sam's discussion on the movie, he could use this format so the students could see the full text of everyone's favorite movie at a glance without having to click into each discussion topic.


 Forum Settings and Options

There are nine different options you can set for forums.

forum settings and options

  • Attachments and word count

    Determines whether students can add attachments to their post, limits size and number of these attachments, and displays a word count to students as they compose their posts.

    attachment and word count settings for forum

  • Subscription and tracking

    Determines whether participants will receive email copies of forum posts. Leave the default setting so students can make this choice. If the forum is forced subscription, students (and instructors) will be sent an email for each reply posted.

    subscription and tracking settings for forum

  • Discussion locking

    Allows you to lock a forum (prevent additional posts) after a period of inactivity.

    discussion locking after a specific period of inactivity

  • Post threshold for blocking

    This section can be used to warn and block students from posting more than a given number of posts in a specified time period. It is not commonly used.

    post threshold for forum

  • Grade

    Put the forum into a category in the gradebook. This can be skipped if categories are not used.

    grade setting in forum to put forum into gradebook category

  • Ratings

    This section allows you to determine how student posts are graded and to restrict grading to posts submitted within a date range.

    Aggregate type: The aggregate type determines how the ratings for all of a student’s posts within the forum are aggregated into one score. You can rate each post, using a dropdown just below the post.  The dropdown will display all points to the maximum assigned. 

    Select one of the aggregate types.

    • Average of ratings - The mean of all ratings for the student in that forum.
    • Count of ratings - The number of rated items becomes the final grade. Note that the total cannot exceed the maximum grade for the activity.
    • Maximum - The highest rating becomes the final grade
    • Minimum - The smallest rating becomes the final grade
    • Sum - All ratings are added together.
      NOTE: The total cannot exceed the maximum grade for the activity.
    • If "No ratings" is selected, then the activity will not appear in the gradebook. 

    Restrict ratings to items with dates in this range: When selected, the rating dropdown will not be available for posts outside of the specified date range, preventing the instructor from assigning points for "late" posts.  Students will still be able to view the forum and post outside of the range.

    forum ratings

  • Common module settings

    Forums can be assigned to groups. The groups must be created before they can be attached to a forum.

    1. Set the Group mode to Separate groups or Visible groups.
      • Separate groups - Each group member can only see their own group, others are invisible.
      • Visible groups - Each group member works in their own group, but can also see (not contribute to) other groups.
    2. Select a Grouping, if you have assigned your groups to a grouping.
    3. Click on Save and display at the bottom of the page.

    group forum settings

  • Restrict access

    Use restrict access if you want specific users to post to the forum or if you want users to post within a specific timeframe (different than process in the Ratings description).

    restrict access to forum

  • Activity completion

    Allows you to set how that activity or resource can be marked as complete.

    activity completion setting in the forum

 Using the Q&A forum

  • When using this forum type, do not enter your prompt in the description field.  Create the “question” (discussion prompt) using the Add a new question button. 
    Q and A forum type

  • Students select the discussion, read your “Question” and click reply to “Answer”.     

reply to prompt from instructor

Using the Q&A forum with groups

  • Unlike any other forum type, when using the Q&A forum with groups, you must create the initial “question” for every group.
  • You must have the groups already set up set up and students added to the groups in your course via Administration>Users>groups.
  1. In the forum settings, scroll to the Common module settings.

    common module settings for groups
  2. Set the Group mode to Separate groups
    • Separate groups - Each group member can only see their own group, others are invisible.
  3. Select a Grouping, if you have assigned your groups to a grouping.
  4. Click on Save and display at the bottom of the page.
  5. Click Add a new question.
  6. Enter the Subject.
  7. In the Message field, type your question/prompts.
    subject and message in the forum discussion prompt
  8. Scroll down and check the box Post a copy to all groups.
    Note: If you skip this step, you will have to create a new post, or post a question to each group separately. You won’t be able to edit the post in order to check this box.
    post to all groups setting in the forum prompt
  9. Click Post to forum.