Moodle Tips: Notifications

Some tools and activities within Moodle enable users to receive notifications. These can be useful for monitoring activity in an area or task, and can provide useful information or prompts for both lecturers and students. Subscribing to such activities also eliminates the need to regularly check for posts or submissions, as notifications are automatically generated when additions are made. The principal ‘activity’ that provides this facility is the Forum, and there are several forum types available in Moodle:

  • News Forum: (a special forum for general announcements on a course. (acts the same as the news alert item on tulip), and is automatically created for each course on the front page.

  • A single simple discussion – A single discussion topic which everyone can reply to (cannot be used with separate groups)

  • Each person posts one discussion – Each student can post exactly one new discussion topic, which everyone can then reply to

  • Q and A forum – Students must first post their perspectives before viewing other students’ posts

  • Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format – An open forum where anyone can start a new discussion at any time, and in which discussion topics are displayed on one page with “Discuss this topic” links

  • Standard forum for general use – An open forum where anyone can start a new discussion at any time

Notifications from the News Forum:
By default, the news forum is placed in the top of the centre section of all courses on Moodle, and only teachers and administrators can add posts or reply to posts.

The default setting for the news forum is that every enrolled person on a course is automatically subscribed to it (forced subscription), and will therefore automatically receive notifications (emails), of forum posts. This is therefore a very useful tool for sending important notifications to entire cohorts, such as room changes, lecture cancellations, tutor sickness etc.

In addition, the “Latest News” block (located on the left or right-hand column of courses) displays recent posts/discussions from the News Forum, and therefore serves as another prompt for students on their course home page.

latest news block

Notifications/alerts are also automatically sent to users’ mobile devices with the Mobile with Plymouth app installed. (Anyone accessing ‘Mobile with Plymouth’ on a web browser will also receive the alerts):

mobile with plymouth

Mobile with Plymouth (web version) showing 3 alerts

Notifications from other forums:
By default, students are given ‘optional subscription’ on the other forum types in Moodle, unless the teacher chooses another option in the ‘edit settings’ area when creating the forum. Students can then set their own preferences.

Subscription options on forums:
When a user is subscribed to a forum it means that they will receive notification (via popup and/or email, depending on the user’s messaging settings preferences) of each new posting. Teachers and students can choose whether or not they want to be subscribed to each forum. However, the teacher can choose to force subscription on a particular forum, then all course users will be subscribed automatically, even those that enrol at a later time (e.g. News Forum).

There are 4 subscription mode options:

  • Optional subscription – Participants can choose whether to be subscribed
  • Forced subscription – Everyone is subscribed and cannot unsubscribe (News Forum)
  • Auto subscription – Everyone is subscribed initially but can choose to unsubscribe at any time
  • Subscription disabled – Subscriptions are not allowed.

How to subscribe to a forum:
Whilst in the forum, go to the ‘navigation block’ on the left > Administration > Forum administration > subscribe to this forum

forum administration

How to edit the subscription mode of a forum:
The subscription mode, and subscribe or unsubscribe links appear in Navigation > Forum administration when viewing the forum. Teachers can quickly change the mode via the ‘Subscription mode’ options and can also view the current subscribers via the ‘Show/edit current subscribers’ link.

forum administration-teacher


  • Changing the setting from “Yes, initially”  to “No” will not unsubscribe existing users; it will only affect those who enrol in the course in the future. Similarly changing “Yes, initially” will not subscribe existing course users but only those enrolling later.
  • There is also a “Subscriptions not allowed” setting which prevents students from subscribing to a Forum.
  • Teachers can also subscribe to a forum if they wish.

Other Moodle activities that enable notifications are the Feedback activity and the Scheduler:

Feedback Activity
This activity enables a teacher to create a custom survey for collecting feedback from participants using a variety of question types including multiple choice, yes/no, or text input. When creating a feedback activity, it is possible to enable notification of submissions in the ‘edit settings’ area. Anyone who then chooses to subscribe to that particular feedback activity will receive email notifications of any submissions made (mobile alerts will also be received by any users who have the Mobile with Plymouth app).

This allows teachers to schedule appointments with their students. Time slots can be specified for students to book, and an outcome can also be recorded if desired.

Notifications can be enabled so that students receive emails to confirm their appointment slots, and teachers can receive notification when a slot is booked. Notifications will also be received if any cancellations are made. In addition, appointments are automatically added to the Moodle calendar and also appear in the ‘Upcoming events’ block as a reminder.

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