Discussion Boards

What are Discussion Boards?

Discussion boards are online spaces that enable asynchronous written conversations to be posted and shared among students via “threads” and “replies.” Canvas (Cornell’s Learning Management System - LMS) includes a discussion board functionality called Canvas Discussions, but there are other products available as well. Piazza, for example, works independently from and extends the basic functionality of the LMS discussion board tool to create more dynamic student experiences. See our comparison of Canvas Discussions and Piazza.

Why Use Discussion Boards?

Discussion can encourage reflection, engagement, and collaborative peer-to-peer learning surrounding course content in in-person, blended, and online courses. They allow students to solidify their understanding of course content through conversation, or by posing and answering questions to peers.

Considerations for Using Discussion Boards

Discussion board use should be clearly defined in the course syllabus to set expectations with learners. In Canvas, posts can be attached to the grade center for participation points. Piazza can reduce the amount of emails sent to teaching assistants and instructors but does not feed into the grade center of the LMS. Students should know that opting-in to Piazza’s Career tool will make portions of their data available to prospective employers.

Getting Started with Discussion Boards

Discussion boards in Canvas are available to any course. Piazza is free to use and requires instructors to create an account and set up a class site. Students will need to sign up for an account independently, however, instructors can share a class link to help facilitate. Piazza is not meant to distribute course content. Contact the Center for more information on using discussion boards or explore the Resource Library items on your own.