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Discussions

Create and participate in online discussions

Engage your students in an online discussion around course topics!

The Discussions tool is a collaboration area with a variety of uses in a course:

  • initiate and contribute to discussions on course-related topics
  • provide a space for students ask questions of you and their peers
  • enable collaboration on assignments and homework in a safe environment
  • minimize course-related email by hosting a class FAQ

Find Discussions in the top menu, under Communication. If it isn't there, review how to enable course tools.

Point your students to our Student guide to Brightspace discussions.

The Discussions Hierarchy

Forum  Organize discussions into broader groups. Most courses only need one main forum. In order to have any discussions happen, a forum must be created by the Instructor (or someone like a TA).
Topic  Group discussions into sub-groups under a forum. For example, if the students are expected to post on a weekly discussion concept, a 'Week 1' "topic" would be appropriate here. In order to have any discussions happen, a topic must be created by the Instructor (or someone like a TA).
Discussion thread This is the real meat of the Discussions tool. The actual discussions that are comprised of the initial post and all replies to that post. 

Create discussion forums, topics and threads

  1. On the Discussions List page (Communication > Discussion), click New Forum from the New button.
  1. Enter a Title and Description for your forum.
  2. Select the Create a new topic in this forum with the same title check box to automatically create a topic in the forum with the same name. You can manually create topics after creating a forum.
  3. In the Options section:
    • Select the Allow anonymous posts check box to enable anonymous posting to topics in the forum.
    • Note: You cannot evaluate anonymous posts.
    • Select the A moderator must approve individual posts before they display in the forum check box to require moderators approve posts before they appear in forum topics.
    • Select the Users must start a thread before they can read and reply to other threads in each topic check box if you want users to start a thread before they can read and respond to other threads in each topic.
  4. Select a Visibility option for your forum.

    Note: If you select Forum is visible for a specific date range, select the Has Start Date and Has End Date check boxes to set your availability. You can also have dates Display in Calendar.

  5. Select forum Locking Options:
    • Select Lock forum to the lock the forum upon creation. It remains locked until you select Unlock forum.
    • Select Unlock forum for a specific date range to open the forum within a date range. Select the Has Start Date and Has End Date check boxes to set your forum availability.
  6. Click Save and Close or Save and Add Topic.

On the Discussions List page (Communication > Discussion), click New Topic from the New button.

  1. Click the "New" button, then "New Topic".
  2. Select the Forum you want to place your topic in from the drop-down list. Click New Forum if you want to create a new forum for your topic.
  3. Enter a Title and Description for your topic.
  4. In the Options section:
    • Select the Allow anonymous posts check box to enable anonymous posting to the topic.
    • Note: You cannot evaluate anonymous posts.
    • Select the A moderator must approve individual posts before they display in the forum check box to require moderators approve posts before they appear in the topic.
    • Select the Users must start a thread before they can read and reply to other threads check box if you want users to start a thread before they can read and respond to other threads in the topic.

5. Select a rating scheme from the Rating Scheme drop-down list:

  • No Ratings Hides all rating controls from users.
  • Five-Star Rating Scheme Allows users to assign each post a score out of five.
  • Up Vote/Down Vote Rating Scheme Allows users to push posts up or down in rank.

Up Vote Only Rating Scheme Allows users to push posts upwards in rank.

Notes:

You can change the rating scheme at any time. Reverting back to a previous used scheme will restore its former ratings.

Users need the permissions Rate Posts and See Average Post Ratings to enable post rating. Contact your administrator for more information.

6. Select a Visibility option for your topic.

 

 

Note: If you select Topic is visible for a specific date range, select the Has Start Date and Has End Date check boxes to set your availability. You can also have dates Display in Calendar.

 

7. Select topic Locking Options:

  • Select Lock topic to the lock the forum when it is created. It remains locked until you select Unlock topic.
  • Select Unlock topic for a specific date range to open the topic within a date range. Select the Has Start Date and Has End Date check boxes to set your topic availability.

8. Click Save and Close or Save and New.

Overview

It's actually pretty simple to create section-specific discussion topics -- without needing to use Release Conditions or create groups.

This document assumes that you already know how to create discussion forums and topics, and so will not go into detail about their setup.

This method can only be used if you haven't yet created your discussion topics. Please see the instructions elsewhere on this page for how to release pre-existing topics by section.

Create section-specific topics (not forums)

While Brightspace enables you to create separate forums or topics for each section, we highly recommend creating section-specific topics underneath one shared forum.

Why? Forums take up quite a lot of screen real estate, which will result in lots of scrolling for you and your TAs.

As such, the instructions below are specific to having one shared forum with section-restricted topics within.

This method can only be used to create new discussion topics. The instructions on how to release pre-existing topics by section can be found elsewhere on this page.

Group and section restrictions for discussions
  • Go into the Discussions tool, look to the top of the page and click on "Group and Section Restrictions".
  • Under "View Options", click the link to "Automatically create restricted topics".
Create group or section-based discussions
  • Locate the dropdown menu for "Group or Section Category" and select "Sections". Wait for the screen to refresh.

In the "Forum" section, click the link to create a "New Forum".

  • A pop-up window will appear. 
  • Give the new forum a title, keeping in mind that all of the students will see this forum, but will have a private section-specific topic inside.
  • Click "Save".

Once you have returned to the main screen, note that the title of your new forum appears in the "Forum" dropdown menu.

Click "Create".

Review restriction settings
  • You will be brought back to the "Group and Section Restrictions" main page. Look in the "Edit Restrictions" section to see that a new discussion topic has been created for each section, and access has been restricted to the students in that section.
  • Click "Save"

Rename the section-specific discussion topics

The automatic creation process creates discussion topics named after the actual section names, which isn't the most elegant. 

You can rename these at any time.

  1. On the main Discussions List page, locate the topic that you would like to rename and click the arrow icon to the right of the topic name.
  2. From the menu, click "Edit Topic".
  3. You can revise the title as you like.
  4. Click "Save and Close".

On the Discussions List page, click Edit from the context menu of the forum or topic you want to edit.

Make your changes.

Click Save and Close.

Click Delete from the context menu of the forum, topic or thread you want to delete.

Note: If you delete a thread, all replies to the thread are subsequently deleted.

Manage discussions

  1. On the Discussions List page, click Edit from the context menu of the forum or topic you want to create release conditions for. You can also set release conditions when creating a new forum or topic.
  1. Click the Restrictions tab. Under Release Conditions, do one of the following:
    • If you have already created a release condition elsewhere and want to attach it to this forum or topic, click Attach Existing. Select the conditions you want to add, then click Attach. For example, release conditions include completing a dropbox submission, scoring a specified grade in a particular quiz, completing a survey, or being enrolled in a particular section.
    • If you want to add a new release condition that does not already exist, click Create and Attach. Enter the details for the new release condition, then click Create.
  2. Choose whether All of the following conditions or Any of the following conditions must be met in order for users to access the forum or topic in the drop-down list above the listed conditions. 
  3. Click Save and Close.

You can restrict a forum or topic so that it is only accessible to members of a specific group or section. This enables you to:

  • Create discussion areas where members of a group or section can collaborate on assignments or discuss course material in small teams.
  • Create separate forums or topics for each group or section in a course offering.
     
  1. On the Discussions List page, click Edit from the context menu of the forum or topic you want to set restrictions. You can also set restrictions when creating a new forum or topic.
  1. In the Group and Sections Restrictions area of the Restrictions tab, select the Restrict this forum to the following groups and sections or Restrict this topic to the following groups and sections check box.
  2. Click Add Groups and Sections.
  1. In the Add Groups and Sections window, select a Group or Section Category from the drop-down list.
  2. Click Add.
  3. Click Save and Close.
  1. On the Discussions List page, click Reorder from the More Actions button.
  1. Select the position in the list where you want each forum or topic to appear using the Sort Order drop-down list.
  2. Click Save.
  1. Click Copy Thread from the thread's context menu.
  1. Select where you want to copy the thread to in the Destination Forum and Destination Topic drop-down lists.
  2. Select the Delete original post after copy completes check box to delete the original post in the thread after the copy completes.

    Select the Copy replies check box to include any replies from the original thread.

    Note
    : If you choose to delete the original thread post, it will still be visible in the original topic to users with the appropriate permissions.

  3. Click Copy.
  1. On the Discussions List page, click Copy from the More Actions button.
  1. Click Copy a Forum.
  1. Select the forum you want to copy from the Forum to Copy drop-down list.
  2. In the New Forum Title field, enter a name for the copied forum.
  3. Select your Copy Options:
    • Copy topics: Select this option to copy all of the topics inside the forum; this creates new topics with the same titles and properties as the existing ones.
  4. Click Copy.

Copying a topic creates a new topic with the same properties as the original. Links to grade items or competency activities are not copied. You can choose to copy pinned threads along with the topic. Copying a topic does not copy any normal, unpinned threads inside the topic; however you can copy or move individual threads from inside the existing topic after you create the new topic.

  1. On the Discussions List page, click Copy from the More Actions button.
  1. Click Copy a Topic.
  1. Select the forum that contains the topic you want to copy from the Forum to Copy drop-down list.
  2. Select the Topic to Copy from the drop-down list.
  3. In the New Topic Title field, enter a name for the copied topic.
  4. In the Copy Destination list, select the forum you want to copy the topic to. If you select multiple forums, each forum creates a copy of the topic.
  5. Click Copy.

You can lock a forum or topic manually, so that it is unavailable.

You can also restrict a forum or topic so that it is only accessible to members during a particular date range.

  1. On the Discussions List page, click Edit from the context menu of the forum or topic you want to set restrictions. You can also set restrictions when creating a new forum or topic.
  1. Make sure you are on the Properties tab.
  2. Scroll down to Locking Options.
  3. Locking options:
    1. If you simply want to lock the topic, select "Lock Topic".
    2. If you want to specify when the topic should be unlocked, select "Unlock topic for a specific date range".
  4. When opting to unlock the topic for a specific date range, select the Start date and End date for the time period you wish the topic to be available.
  5. You may also select Display in Calendar if you wish, so that students will be informed via the Calendar tool.
  6. Click Save and Close or Save.

If a topic requires post approval, posts only appear to users with permission to approve them. You must manually approve these posts to make them visible to all users. Users with permission to approve posts in a topic can create posts automatically without requiring their approval.

You can enable and disable post approval from the Properties tab when creating or editing a forum or topic. Once you enable post approval, Moderated appears beside the forum or topic name.

  1. Click Edit from the context menu of the forum or topic you want to add post approval to.
  1. Select A moderator must approve individual posts before they display in the forum in the Properties tab to ensure that you have the ability to approve posts activated.
  2. Click Save and Close.

Approve/Unapprove a post

If a post is not appropriate for the topic and you do not want to approve it, you can do any of the following:

  • Leave the post unapproved.
  • Edit the post before approving it.
  • Delete the post.

To approve or unapprove a thread or post, click Approve or Unapprove from the context menu of the post. You can change the approval status later by clicking Approve or Unapprove from the context menu.

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