The Discussions tool has the following features:
- Discussion topics are gradable, and can be counted towards the final grade for a course.
- You can attach files to messages. For example, you might want to attach an image or link to another page.
- Messages can be edited after being posted.
- Messages can be rated using a five-star rating system or a like/dislike feature.
- Topics can be created and assigned specifically to a group.
- Topics can be locked so that the messages are read-only and any new messages cannot be posted.
Creating a Discussion
The first step to creating a discussion is creating a forum. The forum serves as the folder that holds the discussion.
- Click Discussions (Figure 1).
- Click new, then select new forum (Figure 2).
- Name the forum and give it a description if needed (Figure 3).
- Underneath the description box, is a list of Options. The list of options is for setting up how the forum will be proctored (Figure 4).
- Allow anonymous posts allows for students to post to the thread anonymously. This option would be beneficial if the discussion topic is a touchy subject.
- A moderator must approve individual posts before they display in the topic, allows for the instructor to approve each posting. A downside to this option is it can create lots of emails and be very time consuming.
- Users must start a thread before they can read and reply to other threads, has students post to the topic first before being allowed to read and respond to others post.
- Under Options is an Availability section for setting how long the Forum will be open. Availability has 2 components: visibility and locking (Figure 5).
- Visibility is the feature that allows for the forum to be visible. Selecting "forum is always visible" keeps it visible. "Hide this forum" will make it only visible to the instructor. "Forum is visible for a specific date range," allows for setting a specific start and end date for the forum to be visible.
- Locking is what allows for students to be able to post. "Unlock forum" allows the forum to open for students to view topics. "Lock Forum" will prevent anyone from accessing it. "Unlock forum for a specific date range" sets a start and end date where during that time frame students can view what's in the forum until the end date.
- Now you have the option of clicking 'Save and Add Topic' to create a topic now or clicking 'Save and Close' to add topics later.
- Next is the topic section. Give the discussion topic a title and description (Figure 6).
- Underneath the description box, is a list of Options. The list of options is for setting up how the topic will be proctored just like the forum (Figure 7).
- Under options is a drop down menu for Rate Posts.
Rate Post allows for users to rate each discussion posting. Rate post has three different ways that a post can be rated: 5 star scale, Up vote / Down vote scale, and up vote only (Figure 8).
- Under Rate Posts is an Availability section for setting how long the Topic will be open. Availability has 2 components: visibility and locking (Figure 9).
- Visibility is the feature that allows for the topic to be visible. Selecting "topic is always visible" keeps it visible. "Hide this topic" will make it only visible to the instructor. "Topic is visible for a specific date range," allows for setting a specific start and end date for the topic to be visible.
- Locking is what allows for students to be able to post. "Unlock topic," allows the topic to open for students to post to it. "Lock Topic" will prevent students from posting to it. "Unlock topic for a specific date range" sets a start and end date where during that time frame students can post to the topic and respond to others postings.
- There is an option underneath the end date where you can choose to display the end date in the display calendar (Figure 10).
- At the top of the screen are 4 tabs: Properties, Restrictions, Assessment and Objectives. The properties tab is now complete next is Restrictions (Figure 11).
- Under restrictions you can release discussions based on established criteria (Figure 12).
- Complete a task first (ex. a Survey).
- Group Restriction limits a discussion topic to just that groups members.
- Assessment is where you set the grading for the discussion. Under assessment you can select the grade item to link to or you can create the grade item (Figure 13).
- If creating a grade item, give the grade item a name (ex. Discussion 3).
- Set the scoring. The "score out of" represents the denominator value for topic scores. For example the discussion may be graded on a 100-point scale, 100 is your denominator.
- Add a rubric allows you to attach a rubric. You can also create a rubric my clicking "Create Rubric in New Window".