Tips for Using Online Discussion Tools

Discussions are versatile, asynchronous communication tools. Instructors add prompts or questions, and students post responses using text, images, or videos.

You can use discussion tools for:

  • class discussions, as a supplement to live sessions
  • sharing work with peers for feedback
  • logistical or technical questions (e.g., a Q&A forum)

Tips for Creating and Facilitating Discussions

  • If discussions are a primary method of interaction in the course, consider making participation required and graded
  • Add expectations to the syllabus and the discussions (e.g., how often students should post each week, post quality and length, whether cited resources are required, guidelines for respectful behavior and communication, etc. - in Canvas, this can be done with Rubrics.)
  • As an instructor or TA, try to be present but not overbearing in discussions

Technical Tips for Using the Canvas Discussions Tool

  • Use threaded replies to keep the discussion organized
  • Subscribe to a discussion to be notified immediately of new posts in a specific forum
  • If asking students to include media in discussion replies, have them use Kaltura

When you are ready to try out Canvas Discussions, visit Setting up and assessing Canvas Discussions for more tips, considerations, and instructions.

Accessibility Tips

  • Rather than using one discussion for the whole class, create a separate discussion forum for each week or topic
  • Use descriptive text for links, instead of long URLs or “click here.”
  • Keep instructions concise; avoid long sentences and paragraphs