To build a successful online community, students need the tools to interact and have conversations. Through conversation, we learn about each other, ourselves, the topic, how to get along, and make group decisions. Though time and geography limit some of our conversations, the power of the connection using varied conversation technologies build community.

Students report that their satisfaction with online courses relates to instructor presence and the collaboration and sense of community they experience. In a successful online learning community, students support one another and help each other accomplish what they might not have on their own. When the students interact and direct their efforts toward a common goal, collaboration exists.

Blackboard Learn offers four communication tools for self-reflection, collaboration, and communication. The discussion board and journals allow you to provide rich assignments and evaluate students in authentic ways where students can share and create knowledge.

Each of the four interactive tools can serve distinct purposes. You can use one or all of them in your course, and they can work well in combination. Select the tools that meet your course goals and allow students to interact in the most efficient ways.

Suggested uses

In this table, find suggested uses for the tools to help you decide how they could play a role in your course. As you progress through the list of tools, the level of interaction required from your students increases.

Suggested uses for interactive tools


Students can express their thoughts, questions, and concerns to you privately.


  • Ask students to record observations.
  • Question the content.
  • Identify areas for help.
  • Develop a plan for improvement.
  • Set goals.
  • Evaluate their educational journeys.
  • Submit prewriting for a graded assignment for guidance and feedback.


Students can express their ideas, gathering feedback and help with refining their opinions and plans.


  • Post ideas for projects and papers, and ask classmates to weigh in.
  • Share initial thoughts about a topic before it is discussed in-depth in individual blogs.
  • Brainstorm ideas for a wiki project.
  • Express opinions to help divide students into work groups.