Encourage thoughtful contributions with graded discussions.

Discussions strengthen students' ability to think critically, express their thoughts in a clear way, and communicate with others. With graded discussions, you can assess these abilities as part of each student's course grade. Show a student where their contributions excel and where they can improve with grades.

If your course uses the Original Course View, you can assign grades to forums and threads. In the Ultra Course View, you grade a student's overall discussion contributions.

Why grade a discussion?

You may find that assessing a student's discussion participation is ambiguous. How do you differentiate between a student who is active, but doesn't advance the discussion and student who speaks less frequently, but with greater impact?

Student interactions in discussions create a permanent record of participation. But before you begin, you need to have reasonable expectations about what an online discussion can accomplish. Due to the nature of the online environment, you may need more time for well-articulated points to emerge in discussions. Students need a practical number of discussion opportunities and timely and constructive responses regarding the quality of their contributions. Evaluation lets them know how they performed and can shape the improvement of future interactions.

Turn on discussion grading

Doesn't seem familiar? Jump to the "Ultra" help about creating a graded discussion.

You can assign discussion grades in a forum or thread. You can assign grades based on student participation, on the quality of their posts, or a combination of the two. You can create rubrics in advance and use them while grading forums and threads.

When you create or edit a forum, you can enable grading options. A column is created automatically in the Grade Center when you enable grading.

The grade settings appear on the Create Forum and the Edit Forum pages.

  1. Select Grade Discussion Forum and type a point value to evaluate participants on performance throughout a forum.
  2. If you want to evaluate participants on performance in each thread, select Grade Threads.
  3. Optionally, select the check box for Show participants in needs grading status and select the number of posts required to show participants in needs grading status. This setting shows the Needs Grading icon in the Grade Center after each student makes the specified number of posts. The posts are also placed in the queue on the Needs Grading page. If you select a grading option and do NOT select the check box, the Needs Grading icon doesn't appear in the Grade Center and posts don't appear on the Needs Grading page. In the Grade Center, students' attempts will appear with the In Progress icon when they post.

    If you choose three posts from the list and a student submits two, the In Progress icon appears in the Grade Center cell and the discussion board until the specified number of posts is met.

  4. Optionally, access the Add Rubric menu to choose a rubric.

Turn off discussion grading

Even if grades exist, you can disable grading for graded forums and threads.

  1. On the Edit Forum page, change the grading option to No Grading in Forum.
  2. Select Submit. If you already assigned grades for a forum or its threads, a warning message appears that states that all existing grades will be deleted. This action is final.
  3. Select OK to continue or select Cancel to preserve the Grade Center items.

Turn on thread grading

If you choose to grade threads within a forum, you decide on a thread-by-thread basis whether to grade a thread. If you select the Grade Threads option, students can't create new threads.

  1. On the Create Thread page, select the Grade Thread check box and type the Points possible. You decide when posts go into needs grading status. Select the check box for Show participants in needs grading status and select the number of posts from the list.
  2. Select Submit.
  3. In the forum, the Grade Thread option appears in the thread's Grade column.

You can also enable thread grading directly from the thread list in a forum.

  1. Select Grade in a thread's Grade column.
  2. Type the Points possible.
  3. Select Submit. The Grade Thread option appears in a thread's Grade column.

Grade forum participation

Doesn't seem familiar? Jump to the "Ultra" help about grading discussions.

You can assign discussion grades to evaluate participants on performance throughout a forum. Only users with the role of manager or grader can assign grades for posts. Graders can't view their own work.

  1. In the forum where you enabled grading, select Grade Discussion Forum.
  2. On the Grade Discussion Forum Users page, select Grade in a student's row. The student's posts are counted in the Posts column.
  3. On the Grade Discussion Forum page, the student's posts for this forum appear. Because you can assign a forum grade based on multiple threads, all messages posted by a student are included for review. In the content frame, evaluate the currently selected student's posts. In the grading sidebar, type a grade. If you associated a rubric for this forum, expand and complete the rubric.

    The grading sidebar contains these areas:

    • Forum Statistics: View information about a student's posts, such as Total Posts, Date of Last Post, Average Post Length, and Average Post Position.
    • Select the down-pointing arrow next to the current student's name to view a list and select a student with posts ready to grade. The selected student's posts appear in the content frame. Use the left- and right-pointing arrows to navigate to the previous or next student.
    • Add a grade in the Grade field.
    • In the Feedback text box, you can type feedback for the student. You can embed an audio/video recording of your feedback in the editor as you grade. In the Add Notes section, make notes that appear only to you—the forum manager—and the grader role. The two icons after the Feedback box let you access the editor and spell check.
  4. Select Print Preview to open the page in a new window in a printer-friendly format. Posts print in the order they appear on the page. To select which posts appear and in which order, you can filter and sort posts with the Filter option and the Sort By and Order options.
  5. To edit an existing grade, select the Grade box and change the grade.
  6. Select Submit to add the grade, feedback, and grading notes to the Grade Center. The grade appears on the Grade Discussion Forum Users page.

Grade a thread

You can assign discussion grades to evaluate participants on performance in each thread.

  1. Open the forum containing a thread you want to grade.
  2. Switch to List View and select Grade Thread in the thread's row.
  3. On the Grade Discussion Thread Users page, select Grade in a student's row.
  4. Evaluate and grade the student's thread participation with the same steps used for grading forum participation.

Email students while grading discussions

While you assign grades, you can use the email tool in discussions to contact students.

  1. Open a forum or thread.
  2. On the Grade Discussion Thread Users page or the Grade Discussion Forum Users page, select the check boxes next to the students you want to email.
  3. Select Email.
  4. On the Email Forum User page, edit the Subject, if needed.
  5. Type a question or feedback in the Message box.
  6. Select Submit.

More on email in Blackboard Learn

Grade a group discussion

Unlike other graded group activities, when you set a group discussion board to graded, each member is graded independently of other group members. Each group member must make the designated number of posts to earn a grade. You don't assign a group grade for contributions to the group discussion board.

More on group discussions

ULTRA: Graded discussion settings

Doesn't seem familiar? Jump to the "Original" help about turning on discussion grading.

Need a refresher on how to create a discussion? Visit the Create Discussions topic.

To motivate students to post insightful contributions, you can make the discussion count for a grade.

Select the Discussion Settings icon to open a panel with options for your discussion. In the Details & Information section, select the check box for Grade discussion and more options appear, such as the due date and maximum points. The maximum points apply to one or more posts made by a student. When you enable grading for a discussion, a column is created automatically in the gradebook.

Encourage original ideas. Some students may rely too much on the thoughts of others when they draft responses. Hidden responses and replies can help students cultivate their own ideas on your initial discussion topic. Select Post first to hide discussion activity from students until they respond to the discussion. When you want to use both post first and groups, select Post first before you assign groups.

Set the participation due date. You can hide the discussion after the due date so students can no longer add responses and replies or edit their previous posts.

Time limit accommodations don't apply to discussions.

Choose the grade unit. You can choose Points, Percentage, or Letter. Specify the maximum points possible for the graded discussion.

Assign a rubric. After you select Grade discussion, you can create or add an existing rubric so students can view the requirements of the graded work. Rubrics can help you evaluate student submissions based on key criteria that you define. You may associate only one rubric to each discussion.

Align goals with the discussion. You and your institution can use goals to measure student achievement across programs and curriculums. When you create a discussion, you can align one or multiple goals. Select Align with goals to search for available goals. After you make the discussion visible, students can view the goals so they know your expectations.

More on how to align goals with course content

Use groups. You can create discussion groups and grade their contributions.

Finished? Select Save. You can edit these grade settings until you begin to grade.

Remember to make your discussion visible to students so that they can contribute their ideas!


Students see the participation due date for a graded discussion in the same places as other due dates or events. These notifications appear in the activity stream, global calendar, and the course calendar.


Students with accommodations appear with an icon next to their names in the gradebook, discussions, and roster. Students don't see the accommodations you've added. Only the due date accommodation applies to discussions.

ULTRA: Grade a discussion

Doesn't seem familiar? Jump to the "Original" help about grading a forum.

In graded discussions, grades are based on each student's total contributions, not each individual post. Reminder: Students can contribute and edit their posts until the due date.

You can access the grading workflow from these areas:

  • In the list where your name appears, select Grades.
  • Select the Gradebook icon on the navigation bar at the top of your course page. Select the graded discussion from the list. The Grades & Participation page appears.
  • Select the Discussions icon on the navigation bar at the top of your course page. Select the graded discussion from the list. Select the Grades & Participation link.

On the Grades & Participation page, select students' names to open pages with their contributions. Students' responses and replies are highlighted on their submission pages.

View the discussion analysis for an in-depth look at each student’s discussion participation, sentence complexity, critical thinking level. These performance-based insights show who has low participation or may need assistance.

More on discussion analysis

Type a grade and feedback for this student at the top of the page. You can add a numeric value of five or fewer digits and two digits after a decimal point. Select the feedback icon next to the grade pill to open the feedback panel. The feedback panel persists on the side of the screen so you can scroll through the page and add overall feedback. You can also embed an audio/video recording of your feedback in the editor as you grade. Students can watch or listen to your feedback alongside any text you include.

If you've assigned a rubric to the discussion, select the grade pill with the rubric icon to open the rubric panel. You can directly type a grade or select values from the rubric to add to the grade.

When you're ready to reveal the grade to the student, open the menu and select Post.

Assign a grade in the gradebook

You can also assign a grade in the gradebook. New Submission appears in cells when students have submitted work. Select View in the menu to open the student's contributions to the discussion.

More on assigning grades in the Ultra Course View