Canvas Spotlight

Get Started with New Discussions in Canvas

Last updated on May 29, 2024

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What do I need to know about the Discussions update?

  • There’s nothing you need to do to update your discussions at this time. This is just a change to Canvas’s user interface. The content of the discussions in your course will not change, and you do not need to make any changes to them. 
  • There are a few new features. For example, you can now view nested replies in two different ways: inline with the parent reply or in a menu off to the side. This will give you new ways to navigate through your discussions.
  • Grading discussions is essentially the same as it was before. The user interface in SpeedGrader has not changed.

What are discussions?

  • Discussions enable you and your students to engage in meaningful dialogue about a topic in your class. Using them appropriately is key to unlocking their educational benefit.
  • Avoid using Discussions when you’re looking for students to produce a specific end product. If, for example, you ask students to respond to a number of questions in the prompt, this is more appropriate for an Assignment or a Quiz. A Discussion prompt should encourage students to share and develop their ideas with one another.
  • Discussion prompts should be less structured than that of an assignment. Conversations will not develop organically if you insist upon a rigid structure or criteria for the responses.

What are some good examples of discussions?

  • Evaluative discussions are designed to promote higher-order thinking skills.
    • For example, you can ask students to evaluate the effectiveness of different marketing strategies used by a hypothetical company. Students would then post their evaluations and provide feedback on each other’s analyses, creating a conversation about what makes a marketing strategy effective.
  • Interactive discussions ask students to post their individual responses to a question and then respond to some other students.
    • For example, a professor might post a question about the ethical implications of artificial intelligence. Each student would post their thoughts, and then respond to at least two other students’ posts, fostering a dynamic and engaging conversation.
  • Collaborative discussions involve students working together to solve a problem or complete a project.
    • For example, a group of students might be tasked with developing a business plan for a start-up. They would use the discussion forum to brainstorm ideas, assign tasks, and provide updates on their progress.

Let’s walk through it together

  1. Log in to Canvas.
  2. Select the Course you’d like to work in.
  3. Click Modules in the left-hand course navigation menu.
  4. Locate the Module that you’d like to add a discussion to.
  5. Click the + icon in the top right-hand corner of the module.
  6. Select Discussion from the drop-down menu.
  7. Click Create Topic.
  8. Enter a Name for the Discussion.
  9. Click Add Item.
  10. Click the Discussion you created in the module.
  11. Click the More Options (3 Dots) icon in the top right-hand corner.
  12. Click Edit.
  13. Enter Instructions for the discussion in the large text box.
  14. Select Anonymity Settings.
    • Note: Anonymity settings cannot be changed after the Discussion has been created. Partial or Full Anonymous discussions cannot be graded.
    • When an anonymous discussion exists in the course, the Discussions page indicates that it is anonymous before a student opens the discussion.
  15. Select any Other Options.
    • Users must post before seeing replies will disable the ability for students to see other students’ submissions before making their own.
    • Enable podcast feed will provide a link that a podcast application can use. This is not recommended in most situations.
    • Choosing Graded will let you enter in a point value, due date, and availability dates. You can also enable peer reviews for graded discussions.
    • Allow liking will let students “like” another student’s comment. This can also be enabled only for graders.
    • Add to student to-do will populate an ungraded discussion on the student’s to-do list as if it were an assignment with a due date.
    • Group Discussions will create separate forums for each group. They will not see replies from students outside of their groups.
  16. Click Save and Publish in the bottom right-hand corner.

In the Discussion, you’ll have a number of different options for viewing and navigating the various posts.

  • The search bar in the top left-hand corner will allow you to search for a phrase or an author.
  • The drop-down menu next to the search bar can filter out posts that you’ve already read. 
  • The Sort button will arrange posts from newest to oldest, or vice versa.
  • View Inline and View Split Screen will change the way nested comments are displayed.