Groups, Groupings and Cohorts In Moodle LMS — The Basics Updated

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Updated on April 23th, 2019

Moodle is based on the Social Constructionism pedagogy, according to which “We learn particularly well from the act of creating or expressing something for others to see.

In layman’s terms: Our learning experiences become more valuable when they involve the exchange of knowledge among peers: Students asking and getting answers from other students. Students providing answers to one another, even teaching them what they know.

Moodle supports this kind of collaborative learning environment at its core. It was in fact designed under a social learning philosophy at the core. For many educators and instructional designers, this is an key difference from other LMS, for which pedagogical philosophies are an afterthought, if they are at all compatible. Many of the top LMS, however, have recently embraced popular approaches, perhaps most notably the idea of Social Learning, which could be seen as a modern trend that aims to grab the benefits of peer-based learning without the theoretical baggage of Social Constructionism.

Courses are the heart of the Moodle experience, as well as most LMS (and learning experiences at large). Courses contain activities and resources. Activities can build on the outcomes of earlier ones, including work made in teams or reviewed by peers. You can create groups in Moodle to support collaborative learning.

The benefits of social learning are obvious soon after implemented. Higher engagement and better performance can be some of them. But it’s not without its risks. Some students can rely excessively on their peers. And there’s the more prescient risk of facts, evidence and logical thinking becoming less of a priority versus engagement.

In this article we will uncover the basics of Groups, Groupings and Cohorts in the context of Moodle. If you are new to the Moodle LMS looking to find your way in all these technical jargon, you are in the right place as well. We will give you a simple overview of the Groups, Groupings and Cohorts, and how you can effectively use them.

First of all, let’s start our way with the Groups.


You as a teacher can create groups to allocate a particular course activity, resource or a complete course section only to a specific group of students.  This will make the students collaborate with others and scaffold upon others learning.

Moodle supports three groups modes within the courses:

  • No groups. are no sub groups, everyone is part of one big community.
  • Separate groups. Each group can only see their own group, others are invisible.
  • Visible groups. Each group works in their own group, but can also see other groups in read only mode.

Groups are available for a complete course level, or on specific activities levels. Once you choose the group mode on a course level, it will be the default mode for all activities defined within that course.

You can create groups from Administration > Course administration > Users > Groups.  You can also create the groups automatically through “Auto-create Groups“.

For more information about creating groups in Moodle course, check out the Moodle Docs.

Use groups if:

  • You are a teacher in a course where you have several classes and you want to filter your activities and Gradebook so you only see one class at a time.
  • You are a teacher sharing a course with other teachers and you want to filter your activities and gradebook so you don’t see the students from your colleagues’ classes.
  • You want to allocate a particular activity, resource or topic section to just one class or set of users and you don’t want others to see it.


A grouping is a collection of groups within a course. Using groupings allows you to direct tasks at one or more groups in your course, so that they can work together on the tasks. Groupings were designed to allow a selection of different sets of groups in each activity.
The key difference between Groups and Groupings is that a Group is a set of users whereas a Grouping is a set of groups.


Cohorts are site-wide or course category-wide groups. A cohort exists only for enrolment purposes, when group exists only within a course. The purpose of cohorts is to enable all members of the cohort to be easily enrolled in a course.

To create a new cohort, go to Administration > Site administration > Users > Accounts > Cohorts and click “Add”. Cohorts can be created in both the system (site-wide) context or in the course category context. You as an administrator can also upload multiple cohorts from a CSV (comma separated values) formatted text file in Administration > Site administration > Users > Accounts > Cohorts > Upload cohorts.

If you have any queries or any questions about Moodle Groups, Groupings and Cohort, do let us know in the comments section below. We’ll be happy to help out!

2 Responses

  1. Thanks for this post – it is very useful. You may be interested in this screencast where I walk through teachers on allocating groups/groupings to particular assignment activities on Moodle

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