The Performance Dashboard is a valuable tool you can use to monitor student progress throughout your course. On this page, a summary table displays each student's history of access and progress. As the term progresses, you can quickly see if students access your course regularly, review course content, and contribute to the discussion board. This information can help you identify students who are outside the normal range of participation or who need help and encouragement.

Your institution controls if the Performance Dashboard is available. Your institution can also disable the discussion board tool, which will affect the information that appears in the Performance Dashboard.

View discussion analytics

Discussion analytics provide you with insights to forum participants and activity. This information can help you identify students who are participating or may need help and encouragement. You can access discussion analytics from the Discussions or Course Content pages.

  1. Open the menu next to a discussion and select View Analytics.
  2. View information about the discussion:
    • Active students
    • Average posts per student
    • Average word count
    • Average discussion grade
    • Participation
    • Students who haven't participated
    • Responses with the most replies
    • Top participants

Dive into analytics

From the Discussion Analytics page, you can take a closer look at individual discussion posts and participation.

The participation bar helps visualize discussion participation. The bar highlights in blue the percentage of students who've opened the discussion and participated.

Select a comment from the Comments with the most replies section to view that discussion.

Select a student from the Top Participants section to open that student’s discussion contributions. You can view the Discussion Analysis panel for insights at an individual level for each student.

Engage non-participants

You can message the students who haven't participated in the discussion. Select an individual student that hasn't participated to message them directly.

Send a bulk message to the non-participants:

  1. Open the menu in the top-right corner of the section with the names of non-participants.
  2. The message panel opens with the recipients populated automatically. Type your message and Send.
  3. Each student receives the message separately to ensure privacy. No other student recipient names are listed.

View group discussion statistics

You can also view discussion statistics for groups. Open a group discussion's menu and select View Analytics. The Overall tab near the top of the page displays discussion statistics for the entire class. You can also open tabs with details for each group.

Discussion analysis for individual students

Students report that satisfaction with online courses relates to instructor presence. Discussions are an easy way to engage students in your courses. Discussions broaden communication and foster strong connections among the group and with you.

When you add a discussion activity, you may have these goals:

  • Encourage participation
  • Engage your students
  • Read all the responses
  • Assign grades

If you have many students, these goals become challenging. In courses with many discussions or high discussion participation, you may find you can't gauge student participation or gather enough details. Some instructors choose to award credit for completion instead of in-depth grading. Discussion analysis in Blackboard Learn simplifies grading, so you have more time to engage with students.

Discussion analysis provides an in-depth look at each student’s discussion participation using multiple metrics. These performance-based insights show you which students who may need help or are out of the normal range of participation. Our discussion analysis algorithm focuses on a student's content and provides details to help you evaluate participation. We've automated the word count and introduced features that address the meaningfulness of the writing.

Discussion analysis only appears for graded discussions. Discussion analysis is available for courses delivered in English only.

Video: Discussion Analysis

Watch a video about discussion analysis

The following narrated video provides a visual and auditory representation of some of the information included on this page. For a detailed description of what is portrayed in the video, open the video on YouTube, navigate to More actions, and select Open transcript.

Video: Discussion analysis provides an overview of the performance-based insights available to instructors.

Discussion analysis components

Discussion analysis provides a closer look at how your students participate in discussions. As you grade a discussion, you can use these metrics to help determine a grade:

  • Substantive posts: The number of responses and replies that contribute to the discussion's development.
  • Sentence complexity: Average grade level readability for the student's posts.
  • Lexical variation: Count of content words and functional words. Content words support the student's ideas, while functional words support proper grammar.
  • Critical thinking level: Percentage of words and phrases within a student's total posts that demonstrate critical thinking.
  • Word variation: Percentage of unique words in a student's responses and replies.

We've also included discussion details for more insight into the volume of student responses and replies to others. Discussion analysis averages are calculated by comparing a student's responses and replies to those of other students participating in the same discussion.

From a discussion's Grade & Participation page, select a student to view responses, replies, and analysis.

What the analysis means

Substantive posts

Substantive posts are the number of responses or replies that contribute to the discussion's development. A substantive post contains sentences that establish or support a student's position or ask thoughtful questions. These posts also show critical thinking or sophisticated composition, based on word choice and variety.

Non-substantive posts may be short or underdeveloped. For example, a simple "Yes" or "No" reply to a discussion prompt isn't substantial. Students need to expand on their answers and explain their positions to make the responses or replies substantial.

Sentence complexity

Sentence complexity is measured by the number of sentences, words, and syllables in each response. We look at the complexity of words and how often the words are used. This measurement is a linguistic standard called Flesch-Kincaid. The complexity of each student’s total posts is represented by a grade level from 1st grade to 16th grade. Content with a Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 10 should be easily understood by a person in 10th grade.

Lexical variation

Lexical variation analyzes the substance of a student's responses or replies based on the words they've used.

Content words carry meaning in a student's response or reply. These words show a student's feelings or thoughts regarding the prompt. When compared with total word count, content words help show the lexical density of a student's responses and replies. A high count can indicate more sophisticated writing.

Functional words unite the semantic elements of a sentence together and indicate proper grammar. Prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns, and articles are functional words.

Think of functional words as the glue that holds a student's response together. The words may not have substantial meaning themselves.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking indicates words and phrases within a student's total posts that demonstrate critical thinking. Twelve dictionaries are used to identify the words, which then fall into one of the weighted categories of critical thinking:

  • Argue a position
  • Include supporting data
  • Cite literature or experience
  • Evaluate
  • Summarize
  • Reference data
  • Offer a hypothesis
How we measure critical thinking

The weighted number of the words and phrases in each category are combined and then compared to the class average to create the critical thinking score. The score is the difference between the student’s critical thinking and the class average.

The score falls in a decimal range of -1 to 1. A negative score means the student's critical thinking is below the class average. A positive score means the students critical thinking is above the class average. A score close to 0 means the student's critical thinking is at the class average level. These scores are represented by a range of low to high:

-1 < -0.06 = Low
-0.06 to -0.03 = Below Average
-0.03 to 0.03 = Average
0.03 to 0.06 = Above Average
.06 to 1 = High

Critical thinking is represented visually to show each student's score compared to the class average.


  • Empirical research shows disagreeing displays a higher level of critical thinking than agreeing. In a discussion, the statement "I agree with John" receives a score of 0.113, while "I disagree with John" receives a score of 0.260.
  • If students summarize a passage but add no opinion or argument, they score lower than others who argue a position.
  • If students cite literature, they receive a lower score than others who offer a hypothesis.

Word variation

Word variation measures the number of unique words in a student's submission as a percentage. A higher percentage of unique words can show that the student's composition contains multiple ideas and significantly supports a position. A higher percentage can also show that a student engages classmates to think about other perspectives.

You can compare the student's percentage to the class average.

Discussion details

In addition to the calculated readability, the details include average word count, responses, and replies for each student compared to the class average. This information, along with any rubrics or criteria you set, can help you determine a grade.

Hide discussion analysis

To hide discussion analysis, open the menu and select Hide Discussion Analysis.

Why don't I see data?

Discussion analysis refreshes nightly for active discussions. The data won't update if there's no new discussion activity on a given day. You'll see data in the Discussion Analysis panel if the student has participated within the last four months. Only instructors and graders see the discussion analysis.

Discussion analysis only appears for graded discussions. Discussion analysis is only available for courses delivered in English.