Discussion Tool FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Discussion tool?

The Discussion tool can be used for online discussions between you and your students or between groups of students. After setting up a discussion forum (major categories), you can create individual topics within the forum for discussion. Students can post messages in a threaded discussion. Students can also attach documents to their messages.

What is a Forum?

A forum is used to organize your discussion topics. In order for you and your students to post and reply to each other, you MUST create a forum first. Once you have your forum created you can then create the topic, which is where the discussion takes place.

What is a Topic?

Topics are where discussions actually take place; where users post and read messages.

Can I place restrictions on forums and topics so that only specific students can see and post to them?

Yes, you can restrict your forums or topics.  You can do this in three ways:

  1. Create groups using the Groups tool. When you set up your groups you have the option of creating restricted discussion topics for each of the groups created. For further information on creating groups and group discussion areas see the Create Groups
  2. Edit your group category to add restricted discussion topics. For further information on this option see the Edit a group category.
  3. Manually create your group discussion topics and restrict them directly from within the Discussions tool. Keep in mind that you have to create your groups first.

Can I lock forums or topics so that students will not be able to post but will still be able to see all of the posts?

Yes, you can.

What does pin a message mean?

This means that your message will be pinned to the top of the list of messages in that topic, regardless of how messages are sorted. This can be useful when you are posting the initial message in the topic and your message contains important information about the topic or task, that you want your students to be able to access quickly and easily.

Can I use the discussion tool in my face-to-face course?

Sure, the discussion tool may be particularly beneficial for:

  • Large classes where students may not have the opportunity to interact with peers
  • Classes where time does not permit a high level of in-class interaction
  • Classes with a group work component so students have a shared space to work
  • Activities or questions that require the students to take time to develop a thoughtful response that would not be possible in a classroom
  • Courses that focus on current and emerging trends
  • Courses with students who may be more comfortable expressing their thoughts after having time to reflect
  • Students for whom English is a second language since the discussion allows them the time to compose their responses.

Should I grade discussion postings?

Yes, definitely! Whether your course is face-to-face or distance, if you want your students to participate and use the discussions tool there should be an evaluation component.

Should I respond to every posting in a busy discussion forum or topic?

No, you do not have to respond to every student’s posting. You should read the postings and either respond to specific students posts if you have a question or post a summary of students posts that will help to guide the discussion further.

What is my role? How should I participate in the discussions?

This really depends on your course and the maturity of your students. Your role will vary tremendously when teaching a first year course as compared to a graduate level course. You should participate enough so students know that you are interested but students should guide the discussion.

Can I see if students have read or posted in specific discussion forums and topics?

Yes, you can see student’s participation in the Discussions tool by clicking on the statistics tab on the main discussions page.