The Discussions tool is organized by Forums, Topics, and Conversations.
- A Forum is a mandatory category or grouping for topics. There may be more than one Forum in the course or project site.
- Topics are required within Forums in order for site participants to be able to post, read, and reply to messages.
- Conversations are messages or threads of discussion posted within a Topic.
This article covers the process for creating a new Forum.
Forums are useful for grouping several similar topics together, such as graded discussions or group topics. They can also be used to specify the default topic settings for all topics within the forum. All new topics will inherit the forum settings by default.
By default, new sites are populated with a single forum titled after the name of the site, and containing one topic for General Discussion. The default forum and topic may be edited for posting messages, adding more topics to the existing forum, or adding a new forum.
To add additional forums, select New Forum from the Actions Menu.
Enter a title in the Forum Title field. Forum titles are required. Name the forum a title to easily identify the types of topics expected within it.
Tip: Remember that users post messages within topics, not forums. Forums are a grouping or classification of topics.
If desired, enter a description into the Short Description field. The Short Description field only allows a maximum of 255 characters and does not allow formatting of text. This information is displayed to users when they view the Discussions tool.
To provide more detailed instructions about the items in this forum, use the Description area to enter the information. This area includes the Rich Text Editor and allows for more advanced formatting options.
There are several forum posting options from which to choose. Remember, any settings selected here will apply to all of the topics within this forum by default. (However, these may be overridden by the settings on an individual topic if desired.)
- Lock forum: This option locks the forum so users can no longer post messages. However, they can continue to read existing messages.
- Moderate topics in forum: This option means all messages posted within topics in this forum must be approved by the instructor before other students can see them.
- Require users to post before reading: Selecting this option requires users to post their own response first before they can view other messages posted previously. This option promotes original content creation and academic integrity, as students must post their own thought before viewing other student responses.
The default option is to Show Immediately, or you can choose to Specify dates to open (show) and/or close (hide).
Tip: Setting open and close dates at the forum level can be tricky because individual topics may also have specified dates. However, the forum must be visible in order for the topics within the forum to be available to students. Typically, instructors set open/close dates at the topic level only.
The default option is unchecked, allowing the user to mark each post as read after reading. Checking this box will mark all messages within a conversation or thread as read.
When grading forum posts, select a specific Gradebook item for the grades to be included in the Gradebook calculations.
Note: A Gradebook item must be created in the Gradebook tool before it can be selected for association with a forum or topic.
Tip: Similar to open/close dates, associating the Gradebook at the forum level is not always ideal because individual topics may also be graded. Faculty may prefer to grade discussions at the topic level.
In most cases, the default forum permissions are appropriate. By default, instructors are forum Owners, and all other site participants are Contributors. The forum owner may add and delete topics, modify permissions, edit the forum and topic descriptions, etc. Contributors may only read, post, and reply to messages.
To modify the default permissions, select Customize to expand the permission settings.
- Select the dropdown menu next to each role/group to choose one of the pre-configured options (i.e., Author, Contributor, None, Nonediting Author, Owner, Reviewer, Custom).
- Forum permissions may be customized for different user roles, or for groups within the class. Select Customize to further expand the options for a particular role and define more granular custom permissions.
Note: Groups must already exist in order for group role permissions to display.