From e-Learning Documentation
The Discussion tool is useful for encouraging student interaction. Students can discuss topics assigned by the Instructor, or can use the Discussions tool for collaboration or information from classmates. Discussions are "threaded" so that when all posts are opened, the conversation can be read in order so that the postings can be seen in the context of the conversation.
Discussions can also be used to allow small groups to collaborate together on projects. Files and links can be shared, in addition to the threaded conversation.
NOTE: The terms "Discussion" and "Forum" are used interchangeably.
Create a Discussion (Forum)
The Discussion is an organizing tool for the Topics. The Topics are where the conversation actually takes place. The Discussion controls the Topics that are added to it. For example, if the Discussion is set to "draft" mode, all of the topics are also "draft," and when the Discussion is released, the topics are also released. The settings and permissions that you establish at the Discussion level, carry over to all the Topics that you create under that Discussion. You may change the settings at the Topic level, but by default, they will be the same as whatever you set at the Discussion level.
From within the course in which you want to create a Discussion:
- Click Discussions
- At the top of the screen, click New Forum.
- "Forum Title" - Type in a title for this Discussion. This is a required field, and is limited to 75 characters.
- "Short Description" - If you want, provide a brief description (limited to 255 characters) that will be displayed along with the title in the Discussion area.
- "Description" - If you need more than the 255 characters provided in the "Short Description," or if you need the formatting capabilities of the Content Editor, enter the description of your Discussion here.
- If you have an Attachment that you would like to add to the Discussion, click Add attachments. You will be taken to a screen which will let you attach a copy of any file in your Resources, or upload a file that is not in your Resources.
- Attach from Resources - In the lower half of the screen, you will see the Resources for this course. Click Attach a copy beside the file you want to attach.
- Upload a File - In the upper half of the screen, click Choose File, locate the file on your computer and double-click it. Click Continue.
- "Forum Posting"
- "Lock Forum (Disable forum postings)"- Change the "No" to "Yes" if you want to stop participants from posting to any Topic in this Forum. If you select this option as you are building the Discussion, students will be able to see the Discussion and Topics under it, but will not be able to post. You can change this setting back to "No" when you are ready for them to begin posting. Likewise, you may come back at a future date and change it to "Yes" if you want them to no longer be able to post to this Discussion and the Topics under it.
- "Moderate Topics in Forum" - If you change this option to "Yes," you will have to approve each participants' posting before it will be posted to the Topic for everyone to read.
- "Mark Threads Read" - The Discussion tool keeps up with how many posts you have read. If you change this option to "Yes," whenever you open a thread in any Topic, it will automatically mark every posting as "read."
- "Gradebook Item:" If this is to be a graded Discussion, you can choose which gradebook column to send the grades. The gradebook columns must have been created previously. You do not have to choose a column here. You have the option to choose which gradebook column to use when you are grading, but you will have to select the column every time you grade a post.
Note: You will want to consider how you want to grade. Remember that we are now creating a Discussion, but the conversation takes place at the Topic level. If you want to give one grade based on all Topic postings, choose the gradebook item here. If you want to give a separate grade for each Topic, you will grade at the Topic level. If you grade at the Topic level, you do not need to select a gradebook item here.
Permissions determines what each role is permitted to do in the Discussion and the Topics under this Discussion. There are two basic default permissions:
- Contributor - Student type roles are Contributors. Also, a few of the Instructor type roles that have limited power (Grader, and Guest Lecturer for example) are also Contributors.
- Contributors can make new posts, respond to a post, read and mark as read all posts. They cannot create a new Discussion or a new Topic, they can't Grade postings, they can't change any of the settings on a Discussion or Topic. They cannot edit or delete any postings.
- Owner - The Instructor, Teaching Assistant, Facilitator and Designer roles are all Owners.
- The Owners can create, edit, delete and grade all Discussion postings.
There are other permissions also as well as a "Custom" permission where you can select the options you want to give the role. You can see and change the permissions for each role when you click Customize beside the Permission Level.
If the default permissions work for you - students can read and post and instructors can create, edit, delete, post and grade - then you do not need to change the default settings.
Set Permissions for Groups
If you have groups in your course and want to create a Topic for each group, set up the Discussion Permissions as follows:
- "This site role:" - Choose Student from the drop-down menu.
- "gets this permission level:" - Choose None from the drop-down menu.
- If you have any Auditors or CE Students, set those roles to "None" also.
- "This site role:" - Choose Group 1 from the drop-down menu.
- "gets this permission level:" - Choose Contributor from the drop-down menu.
- Click Save Settings & Add Topic
- The Topic creation screen is identical to the Discussion creation screen. Give the Topic a Title (be aware the the group name will be appended to the title of the Topic), any instructions you want to give the students and scroll down to the permissions area. Select "Automatically create multiple topics for groups." A list of all groups in your course is displayed.
- Check the box beside each of the groups for which you want to create a Topic.
- Click Save.
Add a Topic to a Discussion
The screen to add a Topic looks just like the screen to add a Discussion. All the settings and permissions you established at the Discussion will be carried over into the Topic. The Topic is where the conversation takes place, so in either the "Short Description" or the "Description" box, you will want to tell the students what they are to discuss.
When you have completed this process, click Save or if you want to add another Topic, Save Settings & Add Topic.
Automatically Add a Topic for Groups
If you have groups in your course, you will be able to automatically add a topic for each of the groups in your course. For example: You have a Module 1 discussion and have Groups 1-5 in your course. Once you create Module 1, you can have the system automatically create five topics that are each assigned to one of the groups. Students only see the topic for their group.
When creating the Discussion, set the permissions
Manage Topic Postings - Watch, Grade, Reply, Edit, Delete
All participants will be alerted when there are unread postings to Discussion Topics on the Home Page of the course. Under the heading "Unread Messages and Forums" on the right side of the page, "New in Forums" will provide a link that takes you to the posting(s).
When you go to the Discussions Tool, every Topic will display the number of messages and the number of unread messages in parentheses beside the Topic title. Those with unread messages will be displayed in orange.
"Watch" is another method of notification when new posts have been made to Discussion Topics.
- Click Discussions in the left menu bar
- Click Watch at the top of the Discussions page.
- Choose one of the three options:
- "Notify me by email whenever a new message is posted"
- "Notify me by email when a thread that I have contributed to receives a new message" - default
- "No notification"
- Click Save
To grade a posting:
- Click on the hyperlinked name of the Topic which has posts you want to grade. You will see all threads listed.
- Click on the hyperlinked name of the Thread. All postings made to that thread will open so that you can read the conversation in the order the posts were made.
- Double-click the name of the post you want to grade.
- At the top of the screen, click Grade.
- If you designated a gradebook item when you created the Discussion and Topic, it will be displayed for you. If you did not, you will choose a gradebook item from the drop-down menu.
- "Grade (Points Only):" - Enter the numeric grade.
- "Comments:" - Enter any comments for this grade. Comments are only seen by the student who made the post, not by the rest of the people in the discussion.
- Click Submit Grade
There are several ways to reply to a post. When you open the post, there are several icons across the top of the page:
- "Reply to Message" - If you choose this option, you will be posting a reply to this specific post.
- "Reply to Thread" - If you choose this option, your reply will be posted to the entire thread rather than this specific post.
- "Email" - This reply will go to the person's firstname.lastname@example.org email address and so is a private reply rather than one that is posted for all participants to see.
- "Copy link" - This option is used in conjunction with the Email option. If you choose this option, you will see a box listing the highlighted link for this specific topic. CTRL "C" will copy this link. When you email the participant, you can include this link to the posting so it is clear the topic of the email.
Instructors, Teaching Assistants, Facilitators and Designers have the ability to edit any posting. If someone makes an inappropriate or inaccurate post, you can edit this. When an edit is made, it will state at the top of the post that this post has been edited, by whom, and when.
To edit a post:
- Double-click on the name of the post
- Click Edit at the top of the screen
- Make your edits and click Post Edited Message
The edited post is displayed.
Instructors, Teaching Assistants, Facilitators and Designers have the ability to delete any posting. If someone makes an inappropriate or inaccurate post, you may delete it. There is no record of when and who deleted the post.
To delete a post:
- Double-click on the name of the post
- Click Delete at the top of the screen
- You will receive a confirmation screen asking if you are sure you want to delete this message. Click Delete
The thread is displayed with "This message has been deleted" in place of the post.
Manage Discussions - Organize, Template Settings, Statistics
The Organize option allows you to arrange the order of the Discussions (Forums) and Topics To reorder the Discussions and Topics:
- from the course Home Page, click Discussions in the left menu bar, or if you are already in the Discussion tool, click the Reset icon beside the word "Discussions" at the top of the page.
- Click Organize
- Each Discussion has a drop-down menu from which to choose a number that designates the Discussion's place in order. For example, If a Discussion is currently #4, you would choose #1 from the drop-down menu to move that Discussion to the top of the list.
- Likewise, each Topic within a Discussion has a drop-down menu. This will reorder the Topics within the Discussion. It is not possible to move a Topic from one Discussion into another.
- Click Save
If you regularly use specific settings, you can change the defaults so that you don't have to change them every time you create a new Discussion and Topic. For example, if you always moderate the postings, you can set the "Forum Posting" so that "yes" is the default. Or if you always want students to be able to edit and delete their own posts, you can make that the default for the "Student" role. Or if you always assign your topics to groups, you can set the permissions for Student, CE Student, and Auditor to "none" so that when you make the Discussion and Topic, you only need to assign it to the group. To adjust the Template Settings:
- Click Template Settings
- Make your changes to the settings and click Save
The "Statistics" option allows you quickly see the posting activity of your participants. Each person is listed, along with the number of posts authored, read, not read, and the total percent read. If you click on the hyper-linked name of the person, you will be able to see each post that person has made, including a link to the actual post. This feature could help in the grading of large classes with many discussions.