The basics of using a discussion board

In your module you might have access to a discussion board. In some modules, you might even be expected to contribute to a discussion board. Check with your module tutor if you are unsure.

Forums vs Threads

A discussion board can be thought of as being made up of forums and threads. Forums are topics, threads are parts of that topic. For example, a forum might be used to introduce yourself. You create a thread when you create your own introduction. Other students can then comment on your thread if appropriate.

The link to a discussion board will typically look something like this:


Click the title to access the discussion board.

List View vs Tree View

A discussion board can be viewed in two distinct modes – List view and Tree View.

List View will show you the starting thread title. It will also show you the total number of posts in each thread. In addition, it will break it down so you can see how many unread posts as well as the total number of posts.

Tree View gives you the option to view all posts at once. By default you will only see the initial post for each thread, but by clicking the Expand All button you can see all the thread titles.

You might want to experiment with the different views to see which works best for you. You can find the option to switch views in the top right hand side of the screen.

Creating Threads

As mentioned previously, threads are the individual items within a forum. Clicking on the Create Thread button will allow you to create your own thread. When you click Create Thread you are taken to a new page where you need to give your thread a title. You can then enter the text in the message box and attach any files that are appropriate. If you want to come back to a thread and adjust it later without anyone seeing it click Save Draft. If you are happy to publish it so everyone can see it click Submit.

Replying to others

A discussion board allows for “threaded” discussions. This means you can post a reply to the original thread item or reply to specific comments that have been made. When you are reading the discussion board, if you press Reply to the initial thread that is replying to the main thread topic. Alternatively you can click Reply on any of the other comments that might have been made to reply specifically to that comment.


Discussion boards allow you to collect a group of threads for easy reading. They function differently depending on what view you are in. If you are in List View, try clicking on the small box to the left of any one thread. Then click Collect. You will be presented with all the threads made under that initial post. If you are in Tree View, you need to click in the small box next to each and every thread to “collect” it. You might find using collections is effective if there are lots of threads being made.

The best advice is to experiment with the different options to see which works best for you. The above tips should give you enough to get going with the basics of using a discussion board. With a little bit of practice you should find navigating and reading discussions become easier and easier.