Open the line of communication and engage your students with online discussions.

Discussions are a good way to encourage students to think critically about your coursework and interact with each others' ideas. You can create discussions around individual course lessons or for your course in general. As the instructor, you own the discussions. After you start a discussion, you can post comments of your own to guide students.

More on discussions, forums, and threads with JAWS®

Watch a video about discussions

Doesn't seem familiar? Watch a video about discussions in Ultra.

This video explains how to access discussions, manage posts, and reply to them.

Video: How to use Blackboard discussions

Discussion board structure

Using Ultra? You won't see forums or threads. Jump to the "Ultra" help about the Discussions page.

Just as it's critical to plan and structure your course content, you need to provide structure for online discussions.

The main discussion board page displays a list of forums. A forum is where participants discuss a topic or a group of related topics. Within each forum, users can create multiple threads. A thread includes the initial post and all replies to it. You can create forums and threads to organize discussions into units or topics relevant to your course.

Discussions appear sequentially so all course members can follow the conversation.

Discussion Board page

Doesn't seem familiar? Jump to the "Ultra" help about the Discussions page.

The discussion board is commonly accessed from the course menu, although you can provide a link to it in another course area, such as in a content area.

The Discussion Board page contains a list of all the forums you've created. You must first create one or more forums before users can start message threads. You can also search for discussion content. By default, the search field appears collapsed to save screen space.

  1. To sort the list based on a column, select the column heading.
  2. To view the posts in a forum, select the forum title. Forum titles in bold contain unread posts.
  3. For each forum, view the total number of posts, the number of unread posts, the number of replies to you, and the number of participants. For quick access to the forum's unread messages, select the link in the Unread Posts column.

Forum page

When you access a forum, a list of threads appears. When possible, use the breadcrumbs to navigate to a previous page. If you use the back function on your browser, you may see page load errors.

  1. Within a forum, you can create threads, grade forum contributions, collect threads, and search content.
  2. Use the check boxes to select one or more thread and perform actions such as Collect or Delete.
  3. Select a thread title to read the posts. Titles in bold contain unread posts.
  4. View a forum's threads in a list view or in a tree view, with all posts listed after each thread title.

More on creating forums

Thread page

When you view a thread, all posts and the thread description appear on one page. You can use thread descriptions to prompt users to participate in the discussion. Each author's profile picture accompanies their posts to help you easily identify authors. Use Expand All and Collapse All to manage the visibility of posts on the page. Move your mouse anywhere on the page and functions appear at the top, such as Search and Refresh.

The editor appears immediately after the message you're replying to. You can refer to any post on the page while you type your reply.

  1. Select the number of unread posts to view only those posts in a thread. Use the arrow buttons to navigate to other threads in the forum.
  2. If you enabled the rate posts feature in a forum's settings, Overall Rating displays the average rating for a post. When you point to the rating area, it changes to show Your Rating.
  3. View relative dates for posts, such as "7 days ago." When you point to the relative date, you can view the absolute date of creation or editing, and the number of views.
  4. Mark posts as read or unread. Blue icon = unread. White icon = read. Only expanded posts that you view onscreen are marked as read. Posts are not automatically marked read by quickly scrolling down the page. Select the icon to manually change the status of a message. You can also flag posts you want to review again later or indicate as important.
  5. Point to a post to see Reply, Quote, Expand/Collapse, and other available functions. Select Collapse to minimize a post. This increases the vertical screen space available for viewing posts.
  6. When you view threads, a badge appears next to a forum manager or moderator's name. Point to the badge to see the user's course role and forum role. Custom roles are displayed if your institution uses them.

More on creating threads

ULTRA: Discussions page

Doesn't seem familiar? Jump to the Original help about discussions.

Discussions are an easy way to engage students in your courses! They broaden communication and foster strong connections among the group. This feature is a staple for online instructors, and now we've made it simpler to use.

Create opportunities for interaction right where you need them. On your course content page, just select the plus sign or the Discussions icon to add a discussion.

Use the activity stream to your advantage. Review student contributions and respond from the activity stream. Or, you can jump to the full course discussion from the activity stream.

You own discussions. Not ready to share a new discussion? Hide it. Want to make it simpler? Create folders to organize discussions. You can also rearrange the order, or delete an entire discussion or specific response. New discussions are hidden from students by default. When you're ready to start, make your discussions visible to get your students talking!

No need to dig—everything's on the surface. Want to know how many times a student participated in a specific discussion? You can filter by participant name, see the number of posts each contributed, and jump right in!

ULTRA: Discussions or conversations?

While you can use class discussions to develop or share ideas, you can also use conversations for quick exchanges on specific content. For example, when you create assignments, you can enable conversations. Anyone can make a contribution to the assignment conversation—ask for help, share sources, or answer questions others have. Everyone can read the conversations while they view the assignment.

Conversations appear only with the relevant content item and don't appear on the discussions page.

ULTRA: Watch a video about discussions

Doesn't seem familiar? Watch a video about discussions in the Original Course View.

This video shows you Ultra discussions in action.

Video: Discussions