Learning Technology

Anonymous forums in Moodle

February 15th, 2019 at 12:02

We are occasionally asked about how staff can set up anonymous forums in Moodle.

At the time of writing there is no official anonymous forum in Moodle. The Moodle space is designed to be, like the classroom, a safe learning community where students feel OK to speak, and there are ways to build that type of community online should you wish to know more.  To some extent it is better to train students to be confident to ask questions – and even to facilitate each other in asking questions.  This will substantially support their learning. And after all, they will not be anonymous in the workplace.  One route to this is:

  • Put the answers to emailed questions on a forum so they have to look there, they don’t get an email back
  • Facilitate students putting their questions in the forum / or in an FAQ
  • Make the instructions clear, design the activity carefully to promote participation, and encourage posting whenever possible
  • Answer only in the forum/FAQ

Having said that – and there is evidence to support the use of both anonymous and named forums – there are still occasions where anonymous responses are useful.

In Moodle you can set up a Database activity in which, while staff can see who has posed questions, you can exclude the student name for view by other students. You can also use the FAQ (done via the Glossary tool) where students can add Questions and you can edit and add answers which all can see.  If you would like to try any of these please let us know and we can point you at some examples.

Example of a Database resource used for anonymous questions

Anonymous Database

Example of a Glossary resource used for anonymous FAQ

You can also use Office365 to set up forms on which students can submit anonymous feedback, but this would need to be transcribed in some way and put into Moodle manually.

One genuinely anonymous activity in Moodle is Feedback, however neither the questions nor the answers can be made visible to other students. It’s a questionnaire which can compile responses for you, and which can be set up to be completely anonymous even to users with the highest level of permissions in Moodle. To share the answers you would need to copy and paste them into a visible activity or resource.

Anonymous Feedback

The Learning Technology Team have also looked at various Moodle plugins which allow anonymous forums or questions: however, such plugins are often not appropriate in our Moodle installation – it’s one of the largest in the world, which brings its own issues. For example, many of the advertised solutions use one single Anonymous account for all anonymous posts. In a University the size of ours (we currently have 66,200 active users), the number of people using it would soon crash a single account!

We are still looking at possibilities and hope to have more options in due course.

There are alternative external third-party tools of various kinds which are a replacement for forums and/or allow students to post anonymously.  It rarely encourages participation, if students are reluctant, to send them to an outside third party site where they have to create yet another account.  Usually, even if integrations are offered with the VLE (Moodle), then they don’t offer much more than existing forums, except for the anonymous possibility.  It should be borne in mind that:

  • posts on external websites are not kept on University systems for later review and record-keeping
  • such websites and services can disappear at any time (we are speaking from bitter experience!)
  • they may not be usable on our China campus or in other countries from where our global community of students access our resources
  • it is your responsibility to ensure that the systems are GDPR-compliant and secure.

Whatever you do, it is certainly the case that just setting up a space will not necessarily encourage students to participate. If you build it they won’t just come. They need to be guided and motivated to do so. And that’s where we can help, for example, see our Online Facilitation and Designing for Engagement course, itself online over two weeks (https://training.nottingham.ac.uk/Guests/GuestCourse.aspx?CourseRef=ONLINETEACH&dates= ).

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

No comments for “ Anonymous forums in Moodle ”