Instructor Training

Engage Students with Discussion Boards

Discussion boards give students the chance to participate in peer discussions using the online discussion board feature in Turnitin. The class discussion board allows students to suggest topics for approval by the instructor, reply to topics posted by the instructor, and reply to the posts made by students or instructors in a moderated discussion environment.

Accessing Class Discussion Boards

The class discussion board is available from the class homepage discussion tab. The account administrator for the institution may disable this feature or the feature may not be in use. If the "discussion" link is not available it has been disabled.

If the discussion board tab is available, access the class discussion board by clicking on the "discussion" tab.

Posting a Discussion Topic

Before students are able to use the discussion board, the instructor must create and post a discussion topic. Students may also submit discussion topics, but these discussion topics only become active or visible to other students if the instructor approves these topics.

How to post a new discussion topic:

  1. From the discussion board page click on the "post a new topic" button
  2. Enter the topic information:
    • topic title (required)
    • topic description (optional)
  3. Choose a start and end date for the topic. Students will not be able to post to a discussion before the start date or after the end date
  4. Choose whether the topic will be moderated. If so, the instructor remains the moderator or may appoint a student enrolled in the class as moderator for the discussion
    Warning: When a discussion is moderated, students cannot read new posts until they have been approved by the moderator. Refer to the section Moderation in this chapter for more information
  5. Choose whether replies will be anonymous or attributed. If "yes" is selected for anonymous reply, only the instructor will be able to see the user information of the person who made a particular reply
  6. Click "submit" to add the new topic to the class discussion board. The discussion will not accept student posts until the start date

Once the start date of the topic has been reached, students can log in, view the topic, and begin discussion by posts to the discussion board.

Discussion Page Overview

The discussion page lists all discussion topics for a class. From this page the user has a quick overview of all the discussions that are ongoing or previously active in the class.

The "status" column displays if a topic is active or inactive. Active discussions still allow student posting. Inactive topics do not allow any student posts to be made unless the instructor reactivates the topic.

The "replies" column shows the total number of replies to a topic.

The "new" column shows how many replies, if any, have been posted since the user last viewed the discussion topic.

If the user has selected a moderator for a topic, the pending column shows how many replies need to be moderated. Refer to the Moderation section in this chapter for more information on moderating a discussion topic.

The "last" reply column shows when the last reply was posted in a topic.

The "moderator" column displays the moderator for the topic, if any. If no moderator has been selected, "none" is displayed in this column.

The tabs on the discussion page lets the user choose to view "all topics," "active topics," "pending topics," or "inactive topics." By default the view is set to "all topics."

Updating a Discussion Topic

To make changes to an existing discussion topic, the instructor can access the discussion topic by clicking on the edit icon to the right of the topic on the discussion board.

The instructor can change the topic’s title, start and end date, and add or remove the anonymous reply feature. The instructor can also change the moderator status of the topic by adding, replacing, or removing the moderator from the discussion topic.

An instructor can also delete the topic by clicking on the trash can icon to the right of the topic on the discussion board.

Posting a Reply

To access a discussion and view the responses in the discussion, click the title of the topic listed on the discussion board page. This will bring the user into the detailed view of the topic. The topic is listed at the top of the page, and any responses are listed beneath the topic.

To post a reply to a topic:

  1. From the discussion board page click on the name or title of the topic to reply to
  2. Click on the "Reply to this topic" button next to the discussion topic
  3. Enter the response in the reply box provided. By default only the latest reply is shown. To display the entire thread, use the pull down menu at the top of the form and select "entire thread"
  4. Once the reply is entered, click on the "submit reply to topic" button to add the reply to the discussion

Tip:Responses that will take more than a few minutes to type should be written in a word processor software and then copy and pasted into the reply box for the discussion board. This prevents loss of internet connection causing a lost reply to the discussion board, especially in the event of complex replies.

No images or formatting is accepted by the reply box - only text will be entered into a discussion board reply thread.

Responding to Previous Replies

Users may also respond to the replies left by other users, either instructor or student, within the same class. This encourages discussion and can help students to polish opinions and ideas with the assistance of their peers. To respond to a reply rather than to the discussion topic, use the "reply" button below the specific reply instead of the "reply to topic" button.

Deleting or Editing Responses

A response may be edited or deleted by the user who created the response, or by the instructor for the class.

To edit a posting, click on the "edit" button below the post on the view of the topic.

To delete a posting, click on the "delete" button below the post on the view of the topic.

If a reply has been added to a post, it cannot be deleted or edited by a student. Only the moderator or instructor will be able to modify or delete the response.

Discussion Board Views

The discussion boards feature two main viewing styles - a flat view and a threaded view. These views use one basic structure but differ in other ways.

A topic thread might look like this:

Topic

  1. First response to topic
    1. Response to reply 1
  2. Second response to topic
    1. First response to 2
    2. Second response to 2

Flat View

The default discussion board view is the flat view. This view shows responses flat in thread order, like the example above.

With the flat view, users can view responses with or without threads. By default, the thread is shown.

For example, the following is posted:

I agree with this topic

and the student user replies with:

Why do you agree with this topic?

The posting order will show up as:

I agree with this topic.
Why do you agree with this topic?

The flat view with nested threads is the default viewing method. To view only responses and see no referenced thread, use the "show replies as" pull down menu to select "flat view with no thread" on the discussion page.

Threaded View

The second primary view type is the threaded view. To use the threaded view, use the "show replies as" pull down menu and select "threaded view."

When viewing a discussion using the threaded view, only the top response of each thread is shown. For example, if the discussion has this structure:

Topic

  1. First response to topic
    1. Response to reply 1
  2. Second response to topic
    1. First response to 2
    2. Second response to 2

the threaded view will appear as:

Topic

  1. First response to topic
  2. Second response to topic

Additional replies will be accessible by clicking on the "replies" link under the replies column for the selected response. The user can drill further down, opening additional layers of the thread, by following the reply links.

Viewing Replies by User

Replies can be sorted by user via use of the show "replies" pull down menu. To only view responses from a specific student user, select the name of the student from the pull down menu. Student users can also view their own responses by selecting their own name from the menu.

Sorting Replies

Replies on a discussion board can be sorted by status, author, reply number, date posted, and number of replies. This is accomplished by clicking on the column header for the sorting method. A single click of the column header "author" will alphabetize the reply list from A-Z. A second click of the "author" column header will organize the list from Z-A. The default organization is listed in the organizational examples earlier in this chapter.

Moderation

An instructor may choose to appoint a moderator for a discussion, or may moderate the discussion directly. The role of the moderator is to approve any and all replies made on a discussion board. Typically, this approval is used to ensure that only acceptable content is posted, that the discussion stays on topic, and that no inappropriate language is used.

If the instructor sets a student user as the discussion moderator, an e-mail is sent to notify the student of this assignment. As moderator, the student user is responsible for approving pending replies. An indicator of the number of pending replies in each discussion topic that the user is moderating is visible from the discussion board main page. If a discussion topic has pending replies, these can be viewed by clicking the discussion topic title. Pending replies will be listed at the top of the discussion.

How to moderate discussion topic replies:

  1. To edit a reply before approving it, click the "edit" button below the pending reply.
  2. Edit the reply for content if necessary. After making any edits, click on the "submit reply to topic" button to edit the reply
  3. To approve a reply, click the "approve" button below the pending reply. The pending reply will be shown
  4. Use the "approve?" pull-down menu at the top and select "yes" to approve and post the reply, or select "no" to reject the reply
  5. After selecting from the "approve?" pulldown menu "yes" or "no," click on the "submit reply to topic" button to approve the reply or delete it
  6. If the reply was approved it will be posted to the discussion. If the reply was rejected, the moderator is prompted to delete the reply or save it for later
  7. The moderator can also delete a reply or a pending reply by clicking on the "delete" button below the reply
  8. A prompt will appear. To delete the reply click "Ok."
    Warning: If a reply is deleted that has replies to it, all replies underneath the deleted reply will also be deleted.

Once the reply has been approved it will be assigned a number and added into the discussion thread.

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