KB1029 - Using Groups and Groupings


Moodle's "Groups" feature lets you divide students into groups. Group-work can encourage more collaboration and participation from each member than 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?

Some Scenarios:

  • Students in Seminar groups share presentations and hold pre- or post-seminar discussions
  • 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 project.

What Types Of Groups Are Available?

  • No groups: Default mode.
  • 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.

How Can I Set Up Groups?

It is important to set up and apply groups before releasing an Activity rather than afterwards.

There are three steps to using groups:

  1. Create a Group.
  2. Add Users to Groups.
  3. Enable Groups for one or more Activities.

1. Create a Group

  • In the Participants page, select "Groups" from the drop-down list on the left:
  • 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 Save changes. (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 once.
  • 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 the CTLR key to select multiple users), and then click the ‘left arrow’ button to add them to the group.
    (Note: You will also need to add Teachers to the group, if you want them to participate.)
    When all desired members have been added to the Group, click Back to Groups to return to the Groups page.

    Figure 2: Adding members to a Group

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 individual activity).
  • 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


This guide is adapted from original material written by CELT at Goldsmiths, University of London and is reproduced here with their permission.

For more information, see the these articles from Moodle HQ: