Do You Want to Become a Forum Activity Master? Here’s What You Need to Know

forumsDid you know that forums can be used for many different types of learning activities? Sure forums can be used to get students communicating and interacting via postings, but they can also start meaningful discussions to help students grasp new concepts and engage with their course work.

With a little bit of planning, you can stimulate student learning and add variety to your class with forums. In this post, we’ll share some tips to help you become a Forum activity master.

Selecting a Forum Type
Forums can be used to help students to develop a sense of forum iconcommunity, demonstrate knowledge about key concepts, build a consensus, and reflect on materials that they have worked with outside of class. It’s important to choose the type of forum that makes sense for the activity you are asking students to complete. The CLE has five forum types, each with a slightly different layout and purpose:

  • A Single Simple Discussion
    Only one topic, started by the instructor, is allowed. This is best suited for short-term, focused conversations.
  • Each Person Posts One Discussion
    Each student may start one new topic. Students are not limited in the number of replies they can post within those topics.
  • Q and A Forum
    An instructor posts one topic, for example, posing a question to students. Students must post their response before they can view other students’ responses.
  • Standard Forum Displayed in a Blog-like Format
    Allow multiple topics listed with the most recent topic at the top of the page and replies behind a link. Students may start new topics in this format.
  • Standard Forum for General Use
    Allow multiple topics arranged in a threaded conversation. Students may start new topics in this format.

Controlling Email Notifications
Every time you add a new forum to your course, you can determine whether or not students will receive email notifications when someone posts or replies to that forum. This is done by setting the subscription mode for the forum.

There are 4 subscription modes that faculty can choose:

  • Optional subscriptionenvelope
    Participants can choose whether to be subscribed.
  • Forced subscription
    Everyone is subscribed and cannot unsubscribe.
  • Auto subscription
    Everyone is subscribed initially but can choose to unsubscribe at any time.
  • Subscription disabled
    Subscriptions are not allowed, This can be useful if the forum is set up for faculty only.

When viewing a forum, subscription mode settings appear in the Administration block. These settings will allow you to quickly change the Subscription mode options and view the current subscribers via the Show/edit current subscribers link.

tips-and-tricksSetting Up Forums
The CLE makes it easy for faculty and course staff to make edits to forums, but it’s important to follow some simple steps when setting them up initially to avoid any confusion: (1) select a forum type, (2) decide which subscription mode you will use, (3) set any permission overrides for instructor notifications, and (4) set up Groups if necessary.


  • Changing the subscription mode from Yes, initially to No will not unsubscribe existing users; it will only affect those who enroll in the course in the future. Similarly changing Yes, initially will not subscribe existing course users but only those enrolling later.
  • If a forum was initially set up as Forced and then is changed to Optional, the subscription mode will reset and students will need to subscribe to the forum to receive notifications.
  • Forcing everyone to subscribe to forums is useful towards the beginning of the course when students may not be familiar with the settings.
  • If students are unable to unsubscribe to a forum, but want to receive fewer forum notification emails from the CLE, they can update their profile to receive a digest of emails from the CLE, instead of receiving a separate email for every forum post.

Groups & Forums
Did you know that the Forum activity can be set up for Groups? When you apply Groups to forums, you have the option of sharing discussions with the entire class or restricting them to specific students or groups. You have a couple of options for setting up Groups in forums:groups-and-forums

Separate Groups – Students can only see postings for their own group, others are invisible.

Visible Groups – Students work in their own group, but can also see other groups’ postings.

Use Cases:

  • Apply a Grouping to create a forum that is only visible to a particular group.
  • Use separate Groups in the Forum activity to create a private journal activity, create groups of one and only the instructor and TAs will be able to read students’ posts.
  • Apply separate Groups to a forum and add discussion topics for a selected group then only group members can reply to it.

Helpful Links:

Have questions about using the Forum activity in your CLE course? Attend a Tech Clinic at the UCSF Library, contact a Learning Tech Specialist, or leave a comment below!



This entry was posted in Content Creation by Lisa Leiva. Bookmark the permalink.

About Lisa Leiva

Lisa is a Learning Technologies Specialist, with over 15 years of experience working with Faculty at UCSF. She earned a B.A. in Graphic Communications and a Masters in Instructional Technologies, both from San Francisco State University. Lisa enjoys providing faculty with creative ideas on how to integrate technology into the classroom to create rich learning experiences for students. In her spare time, you may find Lisa with her family having a picnic at a neighborhood park in San Francisco. Specialties: Instructional design, presentation design and delivery, teaching with the CLE, graphic design, Adobe Creative Suite, Articulate Studio, and Storyline.

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