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Discussion Overview

The Discussion tool is useful for encouraging student interaction. Students can discuss topics assigned by the Instructor. 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:

  1. Click Discussions
  2. At the top of the screen, click New Forum.
  3. "Forum Title" - Type in a title for this Discussion. This is a required field, and is limited to 75 characters.
  4. "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.
  5. "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.
  6. 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.
  7. "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.
  8. "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."


Permissions determines what each role is permitted to do in the Discussion and the Topics under this Discussion. There are two basic default permissions:

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 the permissions for each role when you select it from the "gets this permission level:" drop-down box. The checked boxes underneath the role list the permissions.

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. But if you want to, for example, give this Discussion and all topics to Group 1:

    • "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.

You have now set this Discussion and any Topics that fall under it to be available to Group 1 only. Now that you have set the Permissions, you can continue with the creation of the Discussion:

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 Topics postings, you can choose to grade at the Discussion level. 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.

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.

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