Blackboard Ultra: Discussion Boards

This guide introduces the use of discussion boards as a teaching, learning and assessment tool.  The guide will demonstrate how to add a discussion board to a Blackboard module and explore the various configuration settings available.

Discussion boards provide a space for students to interact academically and socially with their peers.  Discussion boards can greatly enrich the educational experience by fostering engagement, encouraging diverse perspectives, and improving communication skills.  Discussion boards can also be graded and therefore used as part of a final assessment.

This knowledgebase article includes the following sections:.

  1. Benefits of using discussion boards
  2. Supporting students in the use of discussion boards
  3. Creating a discussion boards
  4. Creating your discussion
Benefits of using Discussion Boards


From an academic perspective, discussion boards can lead to greater cognitive and exploratory learning. They allow students to think critically about their coursework and interact with each other’s ideas.

  1. Facilitates Active Learning: Encourages students to engage actively with course materials and each other, fostering a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
  2. Supports Inclusivity: Allows instructors to create an inclusive learning environment where all students, including those who may be hesitant to speak in traditional classrooms, can actively participate.
  3. Encourages Reflection: Provides a space for reflective learning, as students can express and refine their thoughts in a written format.
  4. Promotes Flexibility: Provides a flexible platform for instructors to deliver content and interact with students, accommodating various learning styles and schedules.
  5. Increased Participation: Encourages consistent participation by providing a platform where every student has the opportunity to contribute, fostering a sense of shared responsibility for learning.


Discussion boards can help foster a sense of community and encourage peer-to-peer interaction. They provide a platform for students to expand upon and clarify their understanding of key ideas. Furthermore, they offer a place for students to keep pace with their peers and see who the other people are in the class.

  1. Enhanced Engagement: Encourages active engagement by providing a platform for students to share opinions, ask questions, and interact with peers beyond the constraints of the physical classroom.
  2. Diverse Perspectives: Exposes students to diverse perspectives and ideas, enriching their learning experience by facilitating interactions with peers from various backgrounds.
  3. Supports Shy or Reserved Students: Provides a comfortable space for shy or reserved students to express themselves without the pressures of public speaking, promoting inclusivity.
  4. Develops Communication Skills: Enhances written communication skills as students articulate thoughts and engage in meaningful written discussions.
  5. Encourages Critical Reflection: Promotes critical reflection on course content, allowing students to think deeply about topics and express their understanding in a thoughtful manner.
  6. Increased Participation: Encourages consistent participation by providing a platform where every student could contribute, fostering a sense of shared responsibility for learning.

Both staff and students in UK higher education can benefit from an enriched learning experience that goes beyond the boundaries of traditional classroom settings.

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Supporting students in the use of Discussion Boards

To support students and allow them to feel comfortable interacting with discussion boards, provide them with guidelines on how you wish them to participate in discussions. The following are four general steps to developing successful discussion boards to help build community and fulfil assignments:

  1. Define participation requirements: Share your expectations. Create a discussion where students can read about etiquette and access grading information. Model proper online interaction and reinforce appropriate behaviour with public recognition.
  2. Craft an effective question: Incorporate multimedia resources into your questions to reduce the monotony of purely text-based interactions. Using sites like YouTube, you can ask students to view a clip and ask for responses.
  3. Encourage new ideas: If discussion posts contain too much agreement and not enough questioning of ideas, assign students with the last names A-M to support one side and N-Z to support the other.
  4. Moderate: Establish your presence. Ask for clarification, resources, or input from silent participants.

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Creating Discussion Boards

Create your discussion on the course content page 

This option allows you to specify the location within the module content that you want the discussion board to be accessible from.

Locate where you would like to add the discussion board and select the plus sign > Create.

Image showing how to create a new object in Blackboard Ultra.

On the Create Item panel, select Discussion.

Image showing how to create a new object in Blackboard Ultra.

For help creating your discussion, see the ‘Create Your Discussion’ section below.

To create your discussion on the Discussion page:

Using this creates a discussion board that is only accessible via the Discussions menu item listed on the top-level menu.

Select Discussions on the navigation bar at the top of your Blackboard page.

Image showing how to access Discussion in the Blackboard interface via the top navigation menu.

At the top right of the page, select the New Discussion button.

Image showing how to access and configure additional settings when setting up a discussion board in Blackboard.

Select the settings cog (above image) to enable the ‘Allow students to create discussion topics’

Image showing the 'Allow students to create discussion topics' of their own in Blackboard.

Once you have selected how you want to create your discussion board, you will now need to follow these instructions to generate the discussion board content and activity.

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Creating your discussion

On the New Discussion page, enter a meaningful and descriptive title.

Image showing the newly created discussion board and the default name it is given, we recommend updating the name to a more intuitive name.

In the Text Editor, enter the discussion topic as well as any other relevant instructions.

image showing the text editor that can be used to add text and apply various formatting configurations.

Remember that, like all new content created in Blackboard, new discussions are hidden by default. Select Hidden from Students (top-right corner) to make the discussion visible to students.  A drop-down menu will appear, and you can select Visible to students.

Image showing how to configure the visibility settings on the newly created discussion board in Blackboard.

*NOTE Release conditions can be applied to items in Blackboard, so they are released based on meeting a condition or conditions.  Conditions can include a specific date/time or a performance (such as completing an assignment or scoring above a threshold on a test).

Set the discussion settings by selecting the settings icon (top-right corner). The Discussion Settings panel will open on the right.

image showing the discussion board settings cog Image showing the configuration options that are available in Blackboard.

Discussion settings cog

Available Discussion settings

1. Display on Course Content page: This option will allow you to include the discussion board alongside other course content.

2. Post First: Select ‘Post First’ to hide the discussion activity from students until they respond to the discussion. This is an excellent technique to ensure students engage in the discussion activity; however, remember that students can add any content as a post to circumvent this.

3. Prevent Editing: Prohibits the students from modifying or removing content once posted.

4. Mark Discussion: You can make the discussion count for a grade. When you choose to grade a discussion, Blackboard will prompt you to choose a due date, the grade format, and the maximum points.

*NOTE: When you enable grading for a discussion, a column is automatically created in the Gradebook.

‘Additional Tools’ include the Group Discussion option, which is used to assign students to discussion groups.

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Contact Us

If you would like to discuss any of the above in more detail, please don’t hesitate to contact the Digital Learning Specialists, who are more than happy to arrange bespoke coaching and mentoring sessions. They are contactable at