Community Discussions

With Google Groups, you can set up your very own web forum to communicate and collaborate, safely and securely, with others online. You can use Google Groups to post important information such as answers to frequently asked questions or to host online discussions. You can set up your group to be published for all to see, or you set it as a private group and share only with those of your choosing.

Google Groups features like online discussions and real-time editing can make it simple for students to work together when they're not in the same physical location, sharing research findings, collaborating on group projects, and comparing notes on the lessons.

For a longer introduction to Google Groups, see Welcome to Google Groups.

Create your group

When setting up your group for the first time, follow the instructions to create a group.

On the Create Group screen, set the following:

Once you finish creating your group, you see a Congratulations screen. From that screen, choose Customize your group's settings. Then, from the screen that appears:

In the left navigation, expand Settings.

In the left navigation, expand Permissions.

Create categories to organize posts to your group

If your forum is effective, your group will get an extremely large number of posts. To make it easier for students to find the specific information in which they're interested, consider using category groups and categories to organize posts.

A category group is simply an organizational mechanism within the Google Group. Group members do not post messages directly to a category group. Instead, group members post to a category within a category group. Refer to Adding and removing categories for general information on this topic.

The following hierarchy suggests category groups and categories within those groups that you might use. The top level of the hierarchy contains the category groups. The second level contains the categories.

This is just one set of category groups and categories. You might choose completely different ones. For example, instead of organizing the Need Help section strictly by the unit that covers the material, you might choose more explicitly topic-related categories or even suggest new things for students to think about with your categories. For example, in a knitting course you might have categories such as "The Stitches", "Measuring Garments", and "How Yarn and Needles Interact".

Tip: With category groups, you can decide whether choosing a category from each category group is optional or required. If it is required for a category group, that means all posts must choose a category from that group. If you use a hierarchy such as the one above, clearly the category groups need to be optional.

Mark duplicate posts

It is very common for people to post essentially the same question many times. Rather than answer the same question over and over again, you can instead mark some posts as duplicates of other posts.

To do so, you first must set the moderation permissions for your group as described in Create your group. Then, when you encounter a duplicate question, follow this procedure:

  1. Identify the main post.
    1. Decide which post is the "main" post; that is, which post you want all the others to point to.
    2. Visit that post in your web browser.
    3. Copy the URL for the post from the address bar in your web browser.
  2. Mark other posts as duplicates.
    1. Visit the topic you want to mark as a duplicate.
    2. From the Actions menu near the top of the window, choose Set Duplicate.
    3. In the dialog box that appears, enter the URL of the main topic and click OK.

When you do this, a couple of things happen to the duplicate topic.

When a student registers for your course, you should include information about how to subscribe to the discussion forum you created.

See Registration for information about modifying registration.

Include information about your group on the page the student sees upon successful registration. To do so, modify the file at views/confirmation.html. If your group is named My-Course, include something like the following:

<p class="top_content">Thank you for registering.</p>

<p>To participate in community discussions about this course, register for the web forum at
<a href=" "></a>.
On that page, click on <b>Join Group</b>.</p>

Add the link to your discussion forum.

Ask questions in the forum