Best practices: Using ratings to grade Moodle™ forums

The Forum activity is an online message board that allows course participants to post messages and reply to each other. Most teachers use this activity as the primary tool for online discussion within courses since it is such a powerful communication tool. Oftentimes teachers will enable ratings so that they can grade participant’s posts based on the relevance of a response and the level engagement in the discussions. In today’s post I am going to highlight how configure a Forum with ratings and discuss the available aggregation methods.

Enabling ratings

In order to use ratings teachers must enable ratings by selecting an Aggregate type and a Scale in the settings of a Forum activity. Selecting the appropriate Aggregate type and Scale is extremely important since these settings define how the activity grade is calculated. There are five aggregate types to choose from when setting up the activity.

Grading with ratings

It is important to understand how Moodle™ calculates Forum grades. Ratings have the same weight for all entries. This means that Moodle™ does not differentiate original discussions from Forum replies and not does it automatically grant points based on the number of posts. Teachers will have to rate each entry and Moodle™ will calculate the final grade based on the select aggregate type. Next let’s talk about aggregate types. For each type below I will provide an example of how the grade for a student would be calculated for a Forum activity with a 10-point scale where the student posts one new discussion entry and two replies.

Average of ratings

Use this aggregation method if you want to evaluate the quality of each discussion post individually without worrying about quantity. It provides the mean of all the ratings given to posts in that Forum. If the teacher rates three entries for the same student it will calculate based on the average of all three. Example: Rating A=10/10 B=1/10 C= 10/10. Forum grade= 7/10 {70%}

Count of ratings

This aggregate type tallies the number of rated posts made by a user to define the final grade in the Forum. Count of ratings is useful when the number of posts is important. When using this method you need to be conscious of how many points you select in the Scale setting since this Aggregate type counts each rating as one point regardless of the value placed in the rating. If you select a higher scaled value students will need to receive a lot of rating counts in order to obtain full credit. Example: Ratings A=10/10 B=1/10 C= 10/10. Forum grade= 3/10 {30%}

Maximum rating

The Maximum rating aggregate type calculates the highest rating among all posts as the final grade. This method is useful for emphasizing the best work from participants allowing them to post one high-quality post as well as a number of more casual responses to others. Once the highest grade is achieved in any post it will become the final grade of the activity. Example: Ratings A=10/10 B=1/10 C= 10/10. Forum grade= 10/10 {100%}

Minimum rating

For the Minimum rating aggregate type the lowest rating of all posts is calculated as the student’s final grade. This type can promote a culture of high quality for all posts. However it also means that one poor response from a student will result in a low scoring activity grade. Example: Ratings A=10/10 B=1/10 C= 10/10. Forum grade= 1/10 {10%}

Sum of ratings

The Sum of ratings aggregate type adds each rating to calculate the activity grade which cannot exceed the maximum scale for the Forum. This is a good method if you want to assess the quality and quantity of posts at the same time. You should avoid rating an entry with the maximum value because the student will automatically get 100% for the activity. Example: Ratings A=3 /10 B=1/10 C= 5/10. Forum grade= 9/10 {90%} As you can see the aggregate type you select plays an important role when using ratings in Moodle™ Forums. Please keep in mind the same logic applies if you decide to use ratings in glossaries and/or database activities. If you think Moodle™ ratings do not satisfy your needs for assessment within a Forum try to create Joule’s Advanced Forum. By creating an Advanced Forum you will be to use a Rubric or Checklist as an advanced grading method. Enroll in the course Advanced Course Building to learn more about creating Advanced Forums in Joule.

Have fun moodling around!


~Marcelo Mendes



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