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Evaluate discussion participation

Now that you have completed some discussion activities in the class, it's time to review the students' participation.

There are a couple of features in the Brightspace Discussions tool that can help you to complete an evaluation:

  • Enable 'assessment' on a discussion topic - this provides the ability to collect posts for assessment, as well as provide a grade.
  • Review the history of a post
  • Review the statistics for a discussion

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

Assess discussions

  1. On the Discussions List page, click Edit Topic from the context menu of the topic you want to configure.
  1. Click the Assessment tab.
  2. If you want to link a topic score to a grade item, select your Grade Item from the drop-down list, or click New Grade Item to create a grade item for the topic in a pop-up window.
  3. Specify the number you want to Score Out Of. This is the scale, ranging from zero to the number you enter, that users are evaluated on. For example, if you enter 15, users are assessed on a scale from zero to fifteen.
  4. Click Add Rubric to associate the topic with one or more rubrics. Click the Create Rubric in New Window link to create a new rubric.

    Note: A Rubrics section displays in the collapsible Description area of the topic, containing links to any rubrics you associate with the topic. Clicking on a rubric link will open the rubric in a pop-up window, allowing users to preview the expectations for the topic. Learn more about how to create and use rubrics, including controlling if and when students can see a rubric.

  5. If you want to assess individual posts (rather than assigning an overall topic score directly for each user):
    • Select the Allow assessment of individual posts check box.
    • Select the Calculation method you want to use to determine users’ overall topic scores based on post scores. See above for more information.
    • By default, the system ignores unassessed posts when calculating the topic score. However, if you want the calculation to treat unassessed posts as if those posts receive a score of zero, select the Include unassessed posts in the calculated score as zero check box.
  6. Click Save and Close.

You can evaluate users' individual posts and have Learning Environment automatically calculate a topic score for each user, or you can assign a topic score directly to each user. If you choose to assess individual posts, you can specify how you want the system to calculate each user’s overall topic score in the Posts section of the Assessment tab when you edit a topic.

Calculation methods

There are five possible calculation methods that you can select when configuring a topic for assessment.

  • Average post score: This calculation method averages all of the post scores included per user.
  • Maximum post score: This calculation method identifies the highest score of all the post scores included per user.
  • Minimum post score: This calculation method identifies the lowest score of all the post scores included per user.
  • Mode post score - Highest on multiple: This calculation method looks at the frequency of scores on posts, then selects the highest occurrence of a score per user. Once it picks the frequency, the system looks to see if multiple scores occur at that frequency. If not, it assigns that score to the user. If there are multiple scores with the same frequency, it will choose the highest of those scores. For example, if a score of 7 occurs 2 times, a score of 8 occurs 3 times, and a score of 9 occurs 3 times, the system will choose the frequency 3 and the score of 9.
  • Mode post score - Lowest on multiple: This calculation method looks at the frequency of scores on posts, then selects the highest occurrence of a score per user. Once it picks the frequency, the system looks to see if multiple scores occur at that frequency. If not, it assigns that score to the user. If there are multiple scores with the same frequency, it will choose the lowest of those scores. For example, if a score of 7 occurs 2 times, a score of 8 occurs 3 times, and a score of 9 occurs 3 times, the system will choose the frequency 3 and the score of 8.

Assess within discussions: individual posts

You can assess users from inside a discussion topic while reading posts or from the Assess Topic page. Assessing users from within the topic lets you read users’ posts in context and evaluate them as you perform other reading-related tasks (approving posts, marking posts as read, replying, etc.). When assessing users from the Assess Topic page, you can see topic scores for all users and view all of a user’s posts together on one screen. Assessable topics display an Includes assessment icon beside the topic name in the Discussions List.

To assess individual post, you must select the Allow assessment of individual posts check box in the Assessment tab of the Edit Topic page.

  1. On the Discussions List page, click on the specific thread you want to assess.
  1. Click Assess Student from the thread title's context menu.
  1. Enter grade score.
  2. Add feedback, if desired.
  3. Click Publish to push grade and feedback to Grades, or Save Draft to just save for now. You will need to publish later.

    Note that when you Save Draft or Publish, the student's score will be updated in the upper-right of this screen.

Assess within discussions: entire topics

To assess an entire topic, you must clear the Allow assessment of individual posts check box in the Assessment tab of the Edit Topic page.

  1. Click Assess Topic from the topic title's context menu.
  1. Click Topic Score beside each student you want to assess to enter a grade score and comments (if necessary). Click Save and then Close.

Once you have a discussion tied to a grade item, there is also another way to assess a student's contributions, through the gradebook.

1. In your course, go to Grades > Enter Grades.

2. Click on the downward-facing arrow beside the column header for the grade item you wish to grade.

3. Choose Grade All.

4. If a student has discussion posts, you will see a speech bubble icon with an orange indicator in the Submission column.

Click on the icon to grade this student's discussion submissions. Please note that this will open in a new popup window, so you may need to rearrange your browser windows to see everything you need to review.

Please avoid entering a grade directly in the gradebook, if possible. For consistency, it's better to enter grades in the popup window.

If you're using a rubric

The assessment panel will open in a popup window.

5. To see the student's contributions to the discussion, scroll to the very bottom of the window. 

If you need more context, you might want to open the discussion topic in a separate tab, or you can click on the thread title to view the specific discussion thread, so that you can read the context of the student's contribution. Please note that this link will open in a new tab in your original browser window (not in this popup window).

6. To mark the student's discussion participation in the rubric (near the top of the window), click on the appropriate level for each criteria. Assigned points will appear in the right-hand column.

7. If you wish to award a score that is between two levels, click to choose one of the levels, then click on the score in the right-hand column to edit the score.

8. As you grade in the rubric, you will see the Topic Score (in the upper-right of the window) update. This is the score that will ultimately be transferred to the gradebook. Resist the urge to manually edit this score here, as any discrepencies between the rubric score and the grade in the gradebook could cause confusion.

9. As you grade in the rubric, you will see the overall level achieved indicated in the Overall Score area.

10. Use the General Feedback area to provide individualized feedback for the student. (You can also use the Add Feedback links for each criteria to provide feedback, but D2L recommends using General Feedback instead, as it is easier for students to spot this information.)

11. Click on Publish to push the score and feedback to the gradebook, or click on Save Draft to save this information without pushing to Grades.

If you're not using a rubric

5. Click on the Topic Score icon in the upper-right of the screen to reveal a text box where you can type in the grade for this item.

6. Use the General Feedback field to provide overall feedback to this student.

7. If you wish to review any or all of the student's contributions to Discussions, you can see a list of links toward the bottom of the screen. Click on the thread title to view the entire discussion thread, so that you can read the context of the student's contribution. Please note that this link will open in a new tab in your original browser window (not in this popup window).

8. When you have reviewed all posts, graded, and if desired, provided feedback, and wish to save your changes, click on Publish to publish the grade and feedback to Grades, or Save Draft to just save (you will need to publish later). This will close this popup window, and return you to your main browser window.

Review discussion statistics and history

Click View Post History from the context menu of the post.

Statistics give you an overview of user activity in your discussion topics and forums. You can use this information to determine which topics stimulate conversation and which do not, or which students post frequently and which hang back.

As the semester unfolds, you can use statistics to pinpoint topics in need of conversation-starters and to follow the participation levels of different users. You can send email reminders to users who have not been participating or ask overly vocal users to slow down and give others a chance to contribute.

When the semester ends, statistics help you identify the topics that were most effective and the ones you might want to omit or modify for the next course.

Three levels of discussion statistics:

There are three levels of discussion statistics. Choose the one that meets your needs to get the statistics on all discussions, discussions in a specific forum or discussions in a specific topic.

Please note that the results you get may differ, depending on the type of statistics you are viewing. For example, the topic-level statistics include values for star and up/down ratings.

All Discussion Statistics

You can get statistics for the entire Discussions tool by clicking the 'Statistics' button in the top bar.

Unique to this view:

  • Click on the student's name to "drill down" to statistics for the various forums and topics.

Forum-Level Statistics

You can get statistics for a specific discussion forum by clicking the arrow icon to the right of the forum name, and clicking View Forum Statistics.

Topic-Level Statistics

You can get statistics for a specific discussion topic by clicking the arrow icon to the right of the topic name, and clicking View Topic Statistics.

Unique to this view:

  • View the star and up/down ratings if they were enabled on the topic.

Statistic Results

These are quantitative statistics, only providing you with the number of threads and replies a user posted, number of posts they read, etc.

Notes
  • Post counts do not include unapproved and deleted posts.
  • Only users who appear in the classlist appear when viewing statistics by user; however, totals include posts by all users, including instructors.
  • You can sort statistics by clicking on any column heading.


  1. Generate the discussion statistics as per the instructions above.
  2. Click Export to CSV File. Once the file has finished processing, click the file name to download the file.