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Why use groups and groupings?

Groups and Groupings can be used to manage student cohorts, facilitate group work and/or restrict access to activities, resources or topics within a Moodle course.

1 - Managing Cohorts - groups at the course level can be used to enable several student cohorts to use the same Moodle course. For example you may want to keep the student groups separate if you are teaching the same unit twice in the same semester or if your are teaching the same unit in different modes (face to face or at a distance).

2 - Facilitating Group work - groups can be used to create different 'workspaces' within a single Moodle activity. If for example you are running small group projects in your unit then each project team can be set up as a group. Adding a single forum, wiki or any other activity set to work in groups mode will provide a work space for each team.

Groups can be separate or visible. For example using groups with a discussion forum allow teachers to restrict interaction between students. Separate groups mean only students in the same group can see and participate in discussions within the forum. Visible groups allow students to see other group's discussions, but only participate in their own group's discussions.

Enabling either separate or visible groups on an assignment submission allows staff to filter the student submissions to see only those from a particular tutor group. With visible groups, students can see which other groups are doing the same activities as they are; with separate groups, they do not know what other groups are doing the same activities.

3 - Restricting access to resources or activities - If you want an activity or resource to only be available to certain students then groupings and groups can be used to restrict access to resources or activities within a Moodle course. For example if some students are allowed extra time to complete a quiz you can set up two quizzes in your Moodle course each with different completion time settings. A grouping containing the group of extra time students can be used to restrict access to the quiz set with extra time. The extra time quiz will not be seen by any other students.

4 - Managing extensions when anonymous/blind marking is enabled.

Managing Cohorts - groups at the course level

There are two steps to setting up Groups at the course level.

1 - Set the Groups Mode 

Go to Edit settings in the Administration block and scroll down to the Groups settings.

The Groups mode has 3 options:

  • No groups - There are no sub groups, everyone is part of one big community
  • 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 other groups

The groups mode defined at course level is the default mode for all activities within the course. Each activity that supports groups can also define its own group mode, though if the groups mode is forced at course level, the groups mode setting for each activity is ignored.

2 - Create a Group(s) and populate with students



Facilitating Group activities

There are two steps to setting up Group Activities.

1 - Setting the Groups mode for a Moodle activity can be done with editing turned on. The groups mode icon appears in the string of icons to the right of the activity (forum, wiki etc.). It has three states:

(top to bottom: no groups, visible groups, separate groups).

If you have set the Groups mode at the course level then this is the default setting for the groups mode for all activities and the groups mode icon will appear in this state. Clicking on the groups mode icon will toggle between the three group mode settings (no groups, visible groups, separate groups).

2 - Create a Group(s) and populate with students

Restricting access to resources, activities or topics

Restricting accss to resources or activities

There are 3 steps.

1 - Set up a Grouping

From the Administration block in your Moodle course expand the Users sub-menu ad click on Groups.

Click the Groupings tab and then create a grouping. Give your grouping a name e.g. Option2 Students.

2 - Now create a Group(s) and populate your Group with students.

3 - Add your Group(s) to your Grouping.

Go back to the Groupings tab and click on the 'show group in grouping' icon  under the Edit menu for your 'Option2 Students' Grouping. Click on The Group your created in step 2 to select and add it to your  'Option2 Students' only Grouping.

4 - The final step is to add your access restriction to your chosen activity or resource. With editing turned on update the activity/resource settings (spanner icon) from the main course page. Under common module settings select your 'Option2 Students' grouping then separate or visible groups mode and tick the box that says Available to group members only. After
saving settings you will see that the activity/resource displays on the main course page with some greyed out text next to it that says 'Option2 Students'.

Restricting access to a whole topic using a grouping

There is a dropdown setting in each topic summary which allows you to select a particular grouping for that topic section. To enable this setting, you need to enable both Conditional activities

One way to visualise groups and groupings


An olympic metaphor: at the Olympics, there are different sports (gymnastics, swimming, track) and many countries. There are two ways to think of an Olympian athlete: by the sport they compete in, and by their nationality. To be part of the United States Olympic Team, you must first be a swimmer, a gymnast, or a runner. You cannot be in the US Team without first being an athlete in a specific sport. The sport is your group. Your country is your grouping. You must belong to a group before joining a grouping.

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