A Discussion Board is a place where you can discuss things with both your fellow students and lecturers. Discussion Boards are a great way to ask questions and find out about certain aspects of the course that you may like more help with, or to talk about your course in more detail. They are ideal for interacting with other students and engaging in conversation outside of the classroom environment.
Opening up a Discussion Board
The location of the discussion board tool may vary from one module to another, so you will need to check with your module leader where it is within the module. A discussion board is made up of forums, so your module leader may have created a link to a single forum or a link to the Discussion Board page which displays all of the forums in the module. The icon shown on the left identifies a link to the discussion board or an individual forum.
What is a forum?
A discussion board is made up of different topic areas – known as forums. The discussion board in a module can have multiple forums for different purposes. For example; there might be a forum about Self Introductions or a forum for General Help.
What is a thread?
Inside each forum are a series of threads. You can think of threads as different conversations that are all connected by the topic (or forum). When you want to say something you create a thread – this starts a new conversation. You can reply to existing threads inside the forum.
The Discussion Board Front Page
As mentioned earlier, the main Discussion Board page displays a list of available discussion forums. Here’s an example:
Forums containing unread posts appear in bold. There’s a description for each forum, telling you about the topic and what it should be used for. On the right, you can see information such as the total number of posts, the number of unread posts and the total number of participants. You can click on the number in the Unread Posts column to go straight to that forum’s unread messages. Click on the forum name to enter that particular forum. Note: Your module leader may have specified that you need to create a thread of your own before you can view other posts.
List View vs. Tree View
After clicking on a forum title, a page loads displaying all the forum threads. You can view the page in either List View or Tree View.
List View presents the threads in a table format and shows you information such as the author and how many posts have been made for each thread. This allows you to see the amount of activity that has taken place in each conversation.
Tree View shows you the first thread in a conversation and replies to that thread, but it doesn’t actively tell you the number of posts in each thread. The thread title will appear in bold if there are unread posts in that conversation. You have the option to expand and collapse threads to view replies by using the plus and minus icons next to the titles. You can also click Collapse All or Expand All to hide or view all posts included in all threads. Tree View also shows you whether or not an attachment has been made. This is denoted by the paperclip icon.
Reading a Conversation
Clicking on the title of a thread allows you to read that specific thread. All of the posts in a thread appear on one page. Threads grow as users respond to the initial and subsequent posts, constructing the conversation. User avatar pictures (if set by individual users) are displayed next to each post to help you easily identify the author. Posts by your module leader or other lecturers are denoted by the orange shield symbol, as shown in the image, right.
The number of posts in the thread is displayed at the top of the page, along with the number of posts you have unread. By default, all posts in the thread are expanded. You can use the Expand All and Collapse All buttons at the top of the thread to manage visibility of the posts on the page. You can also expand and collapse individual posts by hovering your mouse over the post until either Expand or Collapse appears and then clicking your mouse.
If enabled by your module leader, it is possible to rate posts. Overall Rating shows the average rating for a post. When you point to the rating area, it changes to show Your Rating. The indicators on the left-hand side of each post allow you to Mark As Read and Flag posts you want to review again later or indicate as important. Blue icon=unread. White icon=read.
How to Create a New Conversation (Thread)
To start a new conversation, click on the Create Thread button when you are in a forum. You will be asked to enter a Subject – this is like the subject in an email and should give people an indication of your conversation. You can then type in the Message of your thread. The text box editor provides various options for adding content. You can attach images and files, as well as inserting content from YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare using the Mashups tool. You can even record video using your webcam directly into the message box by clicking on the webcam icon. Using the Insert/Edit Image or Insert File buttons will embed images/files directly into the post. If you use the Attachments option, a link to your attachment is provided.
Click Submit once you have finished, or click Save Draft if you want to return later to finish your post.
How to Reply to an Existing Conversation
When viewing a thread, you can reply directly to the initial post by clicking Reply. You can reply to any of the subsequent posts on the page by pointing to the post with your mouse and clicking on Reply. You may also notice that a Quote button becomes visible. Clicking on the Quote button includes the original post’s text as part of your reply.
The page will expand to reveal the options for posting a reply so that you can still view the post you are responding to. You can change the Subject if you wish, otherwise it will default to “RE:” followed by the name of the thread you are replying to. Click on Submit when done.