This guide will show you why you might use groups and groupings for specific resources and activities on your module.  It is important to be aware of the difference between user groups and using groupings as using them incorrectly can mean that students end up in multiple groups for an activity causing confusion and affecting the success of the activity, so please read the first section below. After that, watch this video we have recorded that shows how to create groups and manage which group members:

Groups and groupings - Need to know!

When should I use Groups?

You can use groups for all Moodle activities and resources in order to dictate how the content behaves, how a student can access or interact with that content. Examples of group use could be:

  1. For restricting access to content for specific groups – e.g. only making a resource available to Year 1 students on a programme site.
  2. For multiple marking – so that staff can filter the inbox to view only the group of students that they have been assigned to mark – click here for the guide on Setting up assignments for multiple markers
  3. For collaborative group activities – to avoid setting up an activity multiple times for each group e.g. group forums that you can filter to view collaborative group spaces. Be aware that you may have to use groupings if students are assigned to more than one group on the module – see more below. This setting cannot be used to create group assignments using Turnitin. See info below on using Moodle assignments
  4. Group assignments – see the Moodle assignment tool. Allows you to set up group submissions so that only one student has to submit and staff can apply the same mark and feedback to the whole group. We also recommend putting all your groups into a grouping for group assignments.

When should I use Groupings?

Groupings are collections of more than one group. If students are added to multiple groups or you require a subset of groups to work on an activity then you will need to use groupings. Examples of how groupings can be used:

  1. Combining multiple groups – you have two groups working separately on a task but you want those two groups to work together on a follow-up activity. You can use groupings to combine the two groups and attach the grouping to the follow-up activity
  2. Adding only a selection of groups from all the modules groups to a collaborative activity such as a forum – in some cases, there may be groups set up for different purposes on a module e.g. there may be multiple tutor groups and then also social groups. If a student was in both a tutor group and a social group and you used groups setting then Moodle would not be able to differentiate which groups to attach to the forum (it just assigns all the groups in the module) and students would end up with access to two forums, one for their tutor group and another for the social group. To set up the forum just for tutor groups you would need to create a grouping e.g. Project Groups Groupings and put all of the tutor groups in that grouping and attach the grouping to the forum, then only those project groups would be set up for the forum. N.b. groupings are needed where students are participating. Groupings are not required where the groups are solely for the purpose of staff to filter by groups on an activity such as a multiple marker selecting their group on an assignment inbox.

Creating groups in Moodle

  1. Click on the Participants menu from the top of the Moodle module, select “Groups” from the drop down menu.
  2. Click on Create Group. Type in the name of the first group (students may be able to see this name). Provide a description of the group. You can even add a picture for the group. Save your changes.
  3. Add as many groups as you need.


Adding students to/removing students from groups

You can choose to manually add students to groups or use the faster auto-create option. Auto-create only lets you sort groups randomly, alphabetically by first name or surname, or by student ID#. If you already have students assigned to groups in other ways you will not be able to use auto-create. If you have a very large module using groups then please contact your eLearning Advisor for assistance.

Add/remove users manually to control who goes into which group

  1. Click on the Participants menu from the top of the Moodle module, select “Groups” from the drop down menu.
  2. Select to highlight the group in the Groups column. Click the Add/remove users button.
  3. In the right column, you have a list of potential members and on the left, a group of actual members.

To add a user 

    1. Use the search box under the right column to search for the student/s.
    2. You can select more than one name by holding “ctrl” on your keyboard and clicking on each name.
    3. Click the Add button to add them to the group.
    4. Check the list has updated.


To remove a user 

    1. Use the search box under the left column to search for the student/s.
    2. You can select more than one name by holding “ctrl” on your keyboard and clicking on each name.
    3. Click the Remove button to remove them from the group.
    4. Check the list has updated.

Auto-create groups to save yourself time – good for large scale groups

Auto-create will allow you to create groups and add users in just a few steps.

  1. Go to Participants > Groups > click auto-create groups.
  2. For Naming scheme, enter the group name you would like to use for your groups. Moodle will automatically generate names based on what you enter. An “@” sign will generate a letter (e.g., “Group @” will generate Group A, Group B, Group C)A “#” sign will generate a number (e.g., “Group #” will generate Group 1, Group 2, Group 3) If you want the name of the groups to be the name of the teachers, go for one of the above naming options and then you can rename them later in step 9.
  3. From the Auto create drop-down menu, choose how you want to divide your students:
    1. Number of groups will form groups based on the total number of groups you select (If you are creating groups for marking purpose, select this option and state the number of markers in the next step.
    2. Members per group will form groups based on the number of members you want in a group. Please note: If you select Members per group, under the Group members settings, check Prevent last small group. If a remaining group is less than the size you set, Moodle will place these members into other groups (preventing a group of 1 student).
  4. For Group/member count (required), enter the number of groups/members you would like in each group.
  5. Under the Group members settings, from the Select members with role drop-down menu, choose ‘Student’.
  6. From the Allocate members drop-down menu, select how you want group members to be assigned to groups. The default setting is Randomly. You can also sort alphabetically by First name, Last name, or Student ID#.
  7. Under the Grouping settings, use the Grouping of auto-created groups drop-down menu and select ‘No grouping’.
  8. Click Preview to see a preview of the groups. If you are satisfied, click Submit.
  9. (Optional): If you wish to rename the group names, select the group you wish to rename and then click on ‘Edit group settings’, type the new group name in place of the old group name and then scroll-down and click on ‘Save changes’.

Group Choice - allowing students to choose groups

If you want users to add themselves to groups, you can use the Group Choice activity. It allows students to enrol themselves in a group. You must set up the empty groups first! You can then select which groups students can choose from and the maximum number of students allowed in each group. Choices can be made visible to others and students can be given the option to move groups.

  1. Turn editing on (button in the top right of the page)
  2. Go to the section where you wish to add a forum, click the “Add an activity or resource” link and choose Group Choice.
  3. Give the activity a name e.g. Choose your discussion group and make clear what the groups are for and how they will be used in the module
  4. You may prefer to stop students signing up to more that one group
  5. Decide on how students choices will be published, if at all, on the module.
  6. Choose whether students names are shown in the results or just the numbers in each group
  7. Allow choice to be updated if you want students to be able to move groups. This can be changed at a later point if required
  8. Show a list of students who have not yet chosen a group
  9. Limit the number of responses allowed – to enable a maximum number of participants is for a group. Select yes, add the max number of group members and click Apply to all groups.
  10. Select the groups you would like students to sign up to by clicking and highlighting the groups and selecting Add.
  11. You may also set a date and time restriction for when students can sign up to groups
  12. When you are finished click Save and display


  1. Set up all your groups first (see above).
  2. Click the groupings tab.
  3. Click Create grouping. Give your grouping a name and an optional description, then save.
  4. To add groups into your grouping, click the Show groups in grouping icon. On this screen, you can add groups into the grouping in the same way that you add users into groups.

Using groups for distributing student submissions between multiple markers
Using groups for collaborative activities

Using the method means you can set up one activity and simply apply groups to create separate groupwork spaces e.g. set up one forum and use groups to create multiple forums accessed via one link. Be aware that you may have to use groupings if students are assigned to more than one group on the module – see more info above on when to use groupings.

  1. Edit the activity or resource, under Common module settings find the groups setting and select either;
    1. Visible – students can view the work of the other groups but can only participate in their own group
    2. Separate – students can only view and participate in their own groups
  2. Click Save.
  3. When you access the activity as a teacher you can either view all to view all activity and in the case of a forum send a message that appears in all the group forums or you can select a specific group to view the activity within that group e.g. send a message to individual group forums.

Restricting access to content using groups

  1. Go into edit any activity or resource, and you will find a section called Restrict access.
  2. Click Add restriction and select Group or Grouping.
  3. A restriction appears, where you can choose the group.
  4. By default, students can see group activities, even if their group is not allowed to access it. When they click the link, they will be told they do not have access. To hide it completely from students outside the group, click the eye icon so it has a cross through it.