3.2.1 Set up Q & A type of Forum

1. Introduction

The introduction to this lesson will help you to distinguish Questions and Answers (Q&A) websites and Q and A Forum types in Moodle. Although the introduction also discusses another Forum type (Standard forum for general use), Activity (Glossary) and Block (Forum Search) that could be helpful with providing Q&A support, the examples, instructions and practice will focus on the Q and A Forum type.

What is Questions and Answers (Q&A) outside Moodle environment?

Perhaps you have come across Questions and Answers (Q&A) online pages in websites different from Moodle. Sometimes you may see  Q&A implemented as a static page. Recall a software support website, an airline website or an online service. Q&A pages anticipate and name potential problems that users may encounter when using software, service or website and they provide possible solutions. 

Q&A in a forum format, as opposed to a static page, is also often used in online communities, courses or support pages. An advantage of using a forum for Q&A is the interactive and conversational character, which offers participants immediate response to an encountered problem. In addition, Q&A forum contains a history of previous queries in a form of older posts, that could serve the same purpose as a static page of Q&A. A supplementary search feature is usually present in both Q&A static pages and forums and it is useful for finding previously posted solutions.

Standard Forum for General use as Q&A

When adding a new Forum in Moodle, you have the possibility of selecting a Forum type. In the lesson 3.1.1 you can learn how to set up a Standard forum for general use. This Forum type is appropriate for an open, unrestricted and simply structured forum. Standard forum for general use allows participants to add multiple new discussions. Name the Forum -- Questions and Answers, and indicate in the Forum Description that the Forum is used as a support service where anybody can post a question and other users, participants and teachers, can answer and provide solutions. Using the Standard forum for general use type with precise instructions will allow you to set up an open Q & A forum.

Q and A Forum

Moodle also has a Forum type specifically called Q and A forum. This Forum type has unique characteristics that make it usable for a standard Q & A support forum but also enables implementation of a structured activity. The core characteristics of a Q and A forum are:

  • individual discussions are called Questions;
  • Questions cannot be added by Students, unless special permission is granted to them;
  • each student must answer Teachers' questions before seeing other Students responses;
  • each Student may reply multiple times to one Question;
  • unlike in other Forum types, subscription to receive notifications is granted separately for each Question and not for the entire Forum;
  • notifications from the Forum are restricted and they are sent only to Teachers who added a specific Question and Students who replied to that Question.*

*Note that the notification settings can be change to None in the User Profile Messaging settings. In case the user selects not to receive notifications via email from the Moodle site, they will not be sent from any Forum. Learn more about personal Messaging settings: https://docs.moodle.org/27/en/Messaging_settings#User_profile_settings

This lesson will focus on the Q and A forum and will demonstrate ideas for its use to support structured learning activities.

Search Forums block

In the Unit 1 you can learn about different Blocks that can be added to the Course home page. A Search Forums block allows you to search all the course forums for a word or phrase. If you have multiple Forums in your course, this block can be very useful to participants to find an answer to a specific question or problem. 

Read more about the Search Forums block: https://docs.moodle.org/27/en/Search_forums_block

Further ideas - using Glossary for Q&A support

Another way of creating a Q&A support page is to use a Glossary activity and selecting FAQ as the Display format. It automatically appends the words QUESTION and ANSWER in the concept and definition respectively. You can learn how to set up a Glossary in Unit 2 or read more about it here: https://docs.moodle.org/27/en/Glossary_module