Using Groups and Groupings
The Moodle ‘Groups’ feature allows you to divide up the students on your course into
groups, such as their class groups. Students can then undertake Moodle activities within
these groups, allowing them to work together more closely, and encouraging more
participation from each member than they might get in a whole-class exercise.
Using Groups, you only need to create a single instance of any activity, rather than one
for each group.
For example, imagine you’re organising an online discussion. You decide to divide 40 participants into 4 groups of 10 each. Using Groups in Moodle,
you would only need to set up a single discussion forum, rather than four separate
ones. This applies to any Activity in Moodle.
Why Use Groups?
- Students in Seminar groups share presentations and hold pre- or post-seminar
- Small groups of students use the Forum tool to cover the same discussion points,
increasing chances of individual participation and allowing you to compare the
different conclusions drawn by each group.
- Small groups of students use the Wiki and Forum tools to work together on a group
What Types Of Groups Are Available?
- 'No groups’ (the default)
- Visible Groups - students can view other groups’ activities but not participate
- Separate Groups - students can neither view nor participate in other group's activities
Moodle allows you to apply one of these to any Activity.
(Note: Groups can only be applied to Activities, not to Resources, so they can’t
be used to control access to specific pages of content.)
How Can I Set Up Groups?
It is important to set up and apply groups before releasing an Activity rather than
There are three steps to using groups:
- Create Groups
- Add Users to the Groups
- Enable Groups for the Activity
1. Create the groups:
- In the Settings block, under Users, click on Groups:
- You will see a screen with two columns: Groups & Members (Fig 1). If no groups
have been set up, both columns will be empty.
Figure 1: The Groups tool before any groups have been set up
- Create each group by clicking the Create Group button, typing a name into the Group
name field and clicking Create group. (The other fields are optional – see ‘Further
Group Settings’ below). The new group then appears in the left-hand column.
2. Add Users to Groups:
The process described here is a manual one and is
dependent on the students having already enrolled on
your course. Alternatively, you could allocate students
to groups automatically using a Group Enrolment key
(See ‘Further Group Settings’ below).
- Select the group you want to populate by clicking it
- Click the Add/Remove Users button on the right. You
will see lists of existing and potential members
(Fig2.) In the ‘Potential members’ list, select the users
you want to add to the group (hold down Ctrl to select
multiple users). Then click the ‘left arrow’ button to
add them to the group. Note: You will need to add
teachers too if you want them to participate.
- Click the Back to Groups button to return to the
3. Enable Groups for the Activity
- Go back to the Course homepage and ‘Turn editing on’
- Find the Groups icon for the activity and click it until you reach your preferred mode.
(See the icons above in "What Types of Groups are Available?")
Further Group Settings
Click on ‘Groups’ in the Admin block. Select a Group and click on the ‘Edit Group
Settings’ button to see the options:
- You can add a Description for the group which can be seen by all enrolled in your
course area (remember this description applies to the group’s entire work, not just an
- Group Pictures can be uploaded by Tutors. When a individual makes a contribution
to a grouped activity, their Group picture appears as an icon alongside their individual
picture. The picture replaces the group name (text).
- Assign a separate Enrolment Key (one-time password to enter the course) for each
group and give each group’s members this Key in advance (by email, for example).
When a student enrols in your course for the first time, they will be prompted for their
Key, and will automatically become a member of the course and the group whose
Key they use. For this to work you must also have a course enrolment key (which
wouldn't need distributing).
Groups Q & A
Can students be in more than one group?
Yes, students can be members of multiple groups.
Can I make certain activities or resources visible only to certain groups?
You can use the Grouping "Available for group members only" setting for the specific activity or resource for allowing access to an activity/resource only to participants who are assigned to a group. If no participant on the course site is assigned to a group, ticking the 'Available for group members only' will effectively hide the activity/resource from everyone.
How do I Communicate With Grouped Forums?
Moodle Teachers can post to all groups or to individual groups. Remember to select the
group to whom you want to post from the pull down menu in the top-left corner of the
screen when you enter the Forum (Fig 3).
Figure 3: Posting to an individual group within a Forum
Displaying Groups on the Participants Page
You can display Groups on the Participants page which will allow students to see who is
in which group. To do this you need to choose ‘Visible Groups’ at the course level
(Admin block > Settings > Group Mode). Note: Changing this setting will also change
the default group mode of any new activity you create. (But you can then change this in
the activity’s own settings).
What Do Students See?
As tutor you can log on as any of your students to view the course from their perspective.
This is useful for making sure that the groups are set up correctly before you release the
course to the students.
1. Click on Participants in the People block
2. Click on the name of the student you wish to log in as, to load their profile
3. Click the ‘Login As’ button below their profile and note that the “You are logged in
as” message along the top of the screen changes.
4. Browse to the Activity you want to check.
5. Click on your own name to return to your normal view
For more information, see Moodle Docs Groups FAQ and Groupings FAQ.
This guide is adapted from original material written by CELT at Goldsmiths, University
of London and is reproduced here with their permission.