University of Vermont

Center for Teaching and Learning

Discussion Board

The Discussion Board allows you to conduct or augment class discussion with either the whole class together or with discrete groups of students. (Read about Groups)

Students can read each other's posts and reply to them at a time that is convenient for them. Using the Performance Dashboard, the instructor can see an overview of the students' activity, see participation, frequency of posts, and word count.

How to set up a Discussion Board

menu
  1. If it is not already in your course menu, you'll need to add a link to the Discussion Board:
    • Click the "+" button above the course menu
    • Choose "Tool Link"
    • Choose "Discussion Board," give it the title "Discussion Board", and make sure to check the "Available to Users" box so students will have access to the link

  2. Or, to add a link to the Discussion Board to a content page:
    • Make sure you Edit Mode is "ON"
    • On a content page, click the "Tools" button
    • Choose Discussion Board
    • Click "Next," choose settings, and then "Submit"

  3. The next step is to create Forums, which are topic areas, within your Discussion Board. Click the "Create Forum" button, choose your settings, and submit.

  4. You can choose, in the forum settings, whether you want students to initiate their own threads, or conversations. If you choose not to allow students to start multiple threads in the forum, then you will need to post the initial conversation thread, so students can reply to it.

Tips on Grading Discussions in Blackboard

You may decide, as some faculty do, to give only one or two grades for discussion participation, for instance at the midway point and end point of the semester. In this case, you do not need to select the grading option when setting up a forum. Instead, you may manually create two columns in the grade center to enter these grades.

However, if grading is selected when setting up the forum (or thread *), certain other things are set into motion. When the grading option is selected, Blackboard automatically creates a grade column in the grade center. (In some courses, there may be so many discussion forums that it is screenshotdifficult to keep straight in grade center, so instructors may decide to grade less frequently, as described above.)

Entering Grades: If grading was selected when setting up the forum, to enter the grades, go to the forum list, roll over a forum and click the little contextual arrow button that appears. Choose grading from the list (see image, right). Then, click the grading button the right of each student and Blackboard collects all of the posts they made in that forum for ease of reading. The grade is entered (or edited on the right side of the page.) Note: If this is the only time you have read these posts, you may want to click "mark as read" on each post.

*Grading by Thread: If you choose to grade by thread, students will be prevented from starting their own threads and will be only able to make replies to a thread set up by the instructor. If you choose to grade the Discussion Board using the Blackboard.

Collecting One Student's Posts for Review

An easy way to collect all the posts from one individual is to click on the Discussion Board, and click the "Search" button at the right of the page. You may search by a first name, last name, or NetID. Once you've entered the name, click the tiny "go" button. You may also click into a forum, click Search, and collect one person's posts within a forum. If grading is being done twice in a semester, it may be helpful to choose the date range options to isolate posts that fall within your custom grading period.

screenshot

Forcing students to create a new thread before seeing other's work

In the interest of encouraging more original and diverse discussions, instructors can require students to post to a discussion before seeing other students’ posts. When students encounter forums with the post first setting, a message tells them to create their own thread before they can view threads added by other users:

post first student view message

To set up a forum as post first, select the option under step 3 in the forum settings labeled "Participants must create a thread in order to view other threads in this forum:"

post first setup option

When the post first setting is applied, various settings are automatically set and made unavailable for change to maintain the integrity of the post first capability. For example, allowing the author to delete their own posts is turned off to avoid a student posting something first to see others’ posts, and then editing their post after the fact. You will also be prompted to provide students with instructions for posting in the description field.

Managing Threads

Threads in discussion forums are displayed all on one page. Actions such as Reply/Quote (for individual posts), as well as thread Search and Refresh are visible after hovering your mouse over the thread:

thread management buttons

Video overview of the discussion board

For more info, see Blackboard's tour of the Discussion Board

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