As its name implies, the Discussions tool is used to facilitate class discussions. Your instructor will typically post a discussion topic related to the course material and you and your classmates respond by posting messages. The Discussions tool is much like a message board in an online community, as communication does not take place in real time and messages are organized into threads.
The Discussions tool has the following features:
- You may be able to post messages to topics anonymously.
- You can attach files to messages. For example, you might want to attach a document to allow your peers to review it and provide comments.
- You may be allowed to edit your messages after you have posted them.
- Your instructor may create a topic that is assigned specifically to a group of which you are a member.
- Your instructor may lock a topic, so that the messages are read-only and you cannot post any new messages.
- Discussion topics may be gradable, meaning that your participation in the discussion will be counted towards your final grade for the course.
If the Discussions tool has been added to your course, it will appear under Course Tools. When you click on Discussions, you'll see the available discussion groups at the right.
If you click on a Discussion, you are taken to the main screen for the Discussions tool.
Note: Alternatively, your instructor may add a discussion topic to the Course Content Home, another folder, or the Action Menu of a learning module. If you click the discussion topic icon, you are taken to a screen that contains that specific discussion topic.
Discussion topics are listed on the main screen for the Discussions tool. Your instructor may provide a brief description of the topic, elaborating on the subject or providing instructions or suggestions. You and your classmates can post messages in response to the topic as well as respond to one another's messages.
A series of replies to the same message is called a thread. You are probably already familiar with threads, as threads in the Discussions tool are just like the threads that are created in a typical e-mail. For example, when someone sends you an e-mail and you reply to it, the subject heading does not change and the sender's message appears below yours; this is a thread. Alternatively, if you were to compose a new message rather than reply to the original message, the messages are not threaded.
There can be multiple threads within a topic.
Navigating the Discussions Screen
The Discussions screen lists all of the topics that are currently available to you. For each topic, the Discussions screen lists the total number of messages posted and the number of new messages. If you posted a message, next to All My Posts, the number of replies to your message is listed.
From the Discussions screen, you can open topics or replies to your messages:
- To view a topic and the messages posted to it, click its title.
- To view all topics or all your posts, click All Topics or All My Posts.
A screen containing all of the topic's messages appears or the replies to your messages appear in a pop-up window.
When you open a topic, a screen containing all of the topic's messages appears. Messages that you have not yet viewed appear in bold.
How the messages are displayed depends on the settings you select. You can choose to display messages as follows:
- You can display all messages or unread messages only.
- You can display messages as threaded or unthreaded.
- If messages are threaded, you can choose to expand all or collapse all the messages in the thread.
If a large number of messages are posted to a topic and it's getting hard to manage, click the Unread button, so that only unread messages are displayed.
Reading and Posting Messages
You can read messages or post new messages from the messages screen:
To read a message, click its title. The Message pop-up window appears, where you can reply to the message. Your reply will be added to the thread.
To post a new message, click Create Message. The Create Message screen appears, where you can enter the message text and post the message. When the message is posted, it will start a new thread.