A discussion forum is a tool that allows students and educators to have an online written dialogue. Forums can form the basis of open discussions, or they can be used to facilitate activities where the tutor sets a task and students post their responses to it.
In both types of forums, you will typically see the original topic or question with all the responses grouped underneath in a nested discussion thread. These discussions can be left open for a long period of time, or closed and left as a resource for students to refer back to.
Discussion forums can be embedded directly into your Canvas course. There are a variety of reasons to use embedded discussion. Consider your own reasons and manage the expectations and conversations appropriately.
- Socialisation — Students can introduce themselves and continue conversations on their interests and knowledge.
- Research — Students can explore a concept or topic and report their findings back for others to critically evaluate.
- Analysis and evaluation — Instructors can ask students to critique a piece of research and offer creative evaluations.
- Share experience — Students can provide an overview and offer advice based on their own experiences implementing concepts and ideas.
- Problem-based learning — Instructors can pose a scenario or problem and ask students to respond with a solution or reaction.
- Revision — Students can use this as a space to clarify points of confusion or difficulty.
Discussion forums can be used in a variety of ways. As a course tutor you may wish to curate and contribute to discussions or set questions and allow conversations to grow organically and be managed by the students.
- Clearly outline the discussion topic and what is expected of student contributions
- If the discussion is assessed, explain the criteria clearly
- Ensure students know the longevity of a conversation. You may wish to close topics from further replies at set times.
- Recognise meaningful contributions and offer feedback where necessary
- Encourage students to think more deeply about their ideas
- Encourage students to review and respond to conversations
- Offer conversation summaries at appropriate points
What Discussion tools are available?
Discussion Forums are integrated directly into the Canvas course. Both instructors and students can start and contribute to conversations. These can be used formatively, or embedded into assessment practices as an assignment linked with the Canvas Gradebook.