Good Practice

Conduct Private Online Conversations with a Student Using Moodle Dialogue


Moodle offers a number of ways to communicate within the course. However, most of these are initiated and facilitated by the instructor, and often are available for others to read. Sometimes, an instructor or a student desires a private, one-to-one exchange.


The Moodle Dialogue activity allows course participants to start a private, one-to-one, asynchronous conversation with one other person (e.g., instructor to student; student to student). For example, the Dialogue tool can be useful when the instructor wants to provide private feedback to a student on an ungraded activity or prior to giving a grade on an assignment. Instructors also can choose to set up the Dialogue activity so as to be able to send a message individually to all members of a Moodle group, or all the class participants, by using the Bulk Opener. This would create private conversations between each member of the group and the instructor.

Some features of the Dialogue tool:

  • It's possible that only one Dialogue instance needs to be added for the whole course, as it isn't tied to any particular activity, and can be used by anyone at any time.

  • If sending a message to a group, the instructor can choose to have the message sent to any students who join the group later, up to a specific cut-off date.  

  • Users can Close conversations that they have originated (ending the conversation, although both the sender and recipient can see it).

  • Instructors can Delete conversations that they have originated.

  • Both instructors and students can attach documents to their Dialogue posts.

  • Both instructors and students can view time-stamped histories of the interactions between them.

  • Users can receive notification of new Dialogue posts via email subscription.

Uses of Moodle Dialogue

  • Establish instructor presence: Send a welcome message to all members of a class individually, as they join the class, with one post.

  • Encourage deeper learning through reflection. The Dialogue tool gives students a space to reflect on content and share their personal thoughts on a subject with the instructor. The conversation may be a one-time event or may persist over the duration of the lesson/unit/course; e.g., each student could use the Dialogue tool to post journal entries.

  • Provide a channel for private conversations. The Dialogue is also a useful alternative to UMN email or private messages, as the Dialogue conversations are located within a UMN authenticated site.


  • The Dialogue activity can be quirky when selecting a recipient:

    • If the drop-down list of potential recipients is accessed, but no recipient is chosen, the drop-down list becomes unavailable until the page is refreshed.

    • If a recipient is chosen, then deleted, the drop-down list becomes unavailable until the page is refreshed.

  • Further, if the Dialogue is set up to use Groups, a student will only be able to open conversations with others who are in any group(s) s/he is in unless, in the Dialogue Permissions, the instructor adds the Student role to those who can Access all groups (see below).

  • Once a conversation is closed, it cannot be reopened, although it still can be seen by both participants.

  • While conversations are stored (unless deleted by the instructor), the Dialogue tool currently does not export to Grades (grade book). So, if instructors use the Dialogue tool for participation, they will have to manually record information into Grades.

Use Case

Barb Horvath, Assistant Director, Undergraduate Major; Technical Writing and Communication, uses the Moodle Dialogue "for times when students submit an analysis of a document, which is the first step toward a larger project. Through the dialogue tool, I grade the analysis individually and offer feedback that is visible only to that student."

Get Set Up to Use Course Groups

screenshot of how to set up course groups in Moodle

Course groups enable instructors to contact all the members of a Moodle group, or all the members of a class, individually with just one message by using the Bulk Opener. However, if Use course groups is selected, and the course has Groups set up, students will only be able to start conversations with other students who are in the same group(s), unless the instructor adds the Student role to those who can Access all students in the Dialogue Permissions.

Add Student Role to Access All Groups 

screenshot of how to add a student role to access all groups in Moodle

By doing this, the instructor allows students to open a one-to-one conversation with any other student in the class, regardless of Groups.

Create a Conversation

screenshot of how to create a conversation with Moodle Dialogue

Female student watching a presentation on a computer screen

Effort Required

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High

Learning Objectives Addressed


Teaching Applications

  • Grading
  • Providing feedback on an individual's assignments