Blackboard Essential Training
Illustration by Richard Downs

Creating discussion forums and threads


Blackboard Essential Training

with Patrick Crispen

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Video: Creating discussion forums and threads

Blackboard's discussion board like other online internet forums or message boards is a tool that allows students to participate in asynchronous discussions on varieties of topics usually chosen by you, the instructor. Usually the instruction initiates the conversation, students then chime in and then you jump in from time to time to offer feedback, correct misconceptions and guide the conversation towards your curricular goal. Before we start, let me give you three best practices I've picked up over the years.
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  1. 8m 1s
    1. Welcome
    2. Using the exercise files
    3. What is an LMS?
      4m 12s
    4. Understanding Blackboard 9.1 versions and campus customizations
      2m 27s
  2. 24m 42s
    1. Logging in to Blackboard
      2m 9s
    2. Accessing your course and uploading files
      5m 10s
    3. Creating announcements
      3m 41s
    4. Sending emails
      4m 59s
    5. Viewing your roster
      3m 9s
    6. Downloading the Grade Center
      2m 52s
    7. Setting course availability
      2m 42s
  3. 22m 43s
    1. Navigating Blackboard
      4m 12s
    2. Customizing Blackboard
      3m 29s
    3. Understanding the course layout and breadcrumbs
      4m 37s
    4. Exploring course-to-course navigation
      2m 21s
    5. Toggling the edit mode
      1m 35s
    6. Hiding and unhiding the course menu
      1m 36s
    7. Touring course management
      4m 53s
  4. 22m 7s
    1. Renaming, reorganizing, and deleting
      4m 54s
    2. Adding new menu items
      4m 36s
    3. Managing tools
      2m 31s
    4. Using course themes
      2m 57s
    5. Looking at course structures and the Quick Setup Guide
      7m 9s
  5. 11m 51s
    1. Viewing the course roster
      4m 2s
    2. Enrolling students and others
      5m 10s
    3. The pitfalls of unenrolling
      2m 39s
  6. 56m 30s
    1. Organizing content into folders or structures
      4m 34s
    2. Attaching files
      9m 29s
    3. Using the content editor
      5m 31s
    4. Inserting a multimedia file
      7m 49s
    5. Recording webcam videos with Video Everywhere
      7m 47s
    6. Linking to an external web resource
      5m 22s
    7. Linking to an internal course file
      3m 0s
    8. Making content available to students
      5m 39s
    9. Copying and moving content
      7m 19s
  7. 25m 43s
    1. Exploring how students view course grades
      3m 52s
    2. Optimizing the Grade Center
      2m 17s
    3. Changing the default letter-grading schema
      5m 29s
    4. Creating score columns
      6m 41s
    5. Entering grades
      5m 5s
    6. Viewing grade histories
      2m 19s
  8. 39m 26s
    1. Color coding the Grade Center
      3m 54s
    2. Adding columns to the Grade Center
      2m 54s
    3. Managing columns in the Grade Center
      4m 57s
    4. Creating grading periods
      5m 54s
    5. Creating categories
      3m 32s
    6. Dropping scores in the Grade Center
      5m 26s
    7. Weighting grades in the Grade Center
      3m 38s
    8. Downloading grades and editing in Excel
      4m 12s
    9. Uploading student grades
      1m 22s
    10. Changing grades
      3m 37s
  9. 18m 46s
    1. Creating assignments
      8m 23s
    2. Downloading assignments
      3m 43s
    3. Inline grading
      6m 40s
  10. 49m 18s
    1. Best practices for using online assessments
      2m 51s
    2. Creating an empty test
      4m 0s
    3. Choosing the question settings
      5m 55s
    4. Creating multiple choice questions
      8m 0s
    5. Creating true/false questions
      4m 4s
    6. Creating essay or short answer questions
      5m 11s
    7. Creating fill-in-the-blank questions
      7m 23s
    8. Creating opinion scale/Likert questions
      6m 19s
    9. Reusing questions
      5m 35s
  11. 36m 54s
    1. Setting test availability and deploying the test
      10m 27s
    2. Assisting students with common testing obstacles
      5m 47s
    3. Creating mobile compatible tests
      5m 43s
    4. Viewing the student results and question item analysis
      5m 58s
    5. Regrading tests
      4m 2s
    6. Reviewing the differences between surveys and tests
      4m 57s
  12. 18m 3s
    1. Sending emails
      5m 50s
    2. Creating announcements
      4m 21s
    3. Using the Course Calendar
      7m 52s
  13. 24m 5s
    1. Creating discussion forums and threads
      9m 23s
    2. Facilitating discussions
      7m 18s
    3. Moderating forums
      2m 40s
    4. Rating posts
      1m 57s
    5. Grading discussions
      2m 47s
  14. 13m 34s
    1. Creating groups
      9m 15s
    2. Creating group assignments and assigning grades
      4m 19s
  15. 8m 17s
    1. Using Blackboard Mobile Learn
      6m 53s
    2. Next steps
      1m 24s

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Watch the Online Video Course Blackboard Essential Training
6h 20m Beginner Sep 19, 2013

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Get the Blackboard training you need to quickly enroll students and start creating assignments. Patrick Crispen shows teachers how to customize their course sites, manage users, and add and organize course content, including multimedia and online assessments. He also shows how to enter scores, create grading periods, and more in the Grade Center. Plus, learn how to communicate with students and encourage participation and collaboration on forums and between groups. Existing users will also appreciate the last-minute guide to working with the latest version of the program, Blackboard 9.1 service pack 13, in seven easy steps.

Topics include:
  • Accessing a course
  • Creating announcements
  • Viewing the roster
  • Working with modules
  • Adding new menu items
  • Enrolling students and others
  • Making content available to students
  • Entering grades
  • Downloading and editing grades in Excel
  • Creating assignments and collecting papers
  • Creating online tests
  • Adding discussion forums and groups
Education + Elearning
Patrick Crispen

Creating discussion forums and threads

Blackboard's discussion board like other online internet forums or message boards is a tool that allows students to participate in asynchronous discussions on varieties of topics usually chosen by you, the instructor. Usually the instruction initiates the conversation, students then chime in and then you jump in from time to time to offer feedback, correct misconceptions and guide the conversation towards your curricular goal. Before we start, let me give you three best practices I've picked up over the years.

First, don't assume that your students know how to participate in an online discussion. You will most likely need to teach your students the mechanics of how to use the discussion board, how to access it, how to post, how to reply. It is a good bet that your students don't know how to do anything of these things yet. You need to teach them. The second best practice I want to share with you is to set your expectations at the beginning. How many posts per week? What constitutes a substantive post? What ettiquete rules you want your students to follow.

In other words, in addition to teaching your students the mechanics of using Blackboard's discussion board. You're also absolutely going to have to teach your students how to participate in a scholarly conversation. Your students may have extensive experience using Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, but their posts on those sites have been anything but scholarly. You're going to need to scaffold how to write high-quality, deliberative, scholarly discussion board posts. That actually leads to the third best practice.

In the beginning, model the behavior you're looking for. Your students will look to you for guidance. Your posts, their frequency, their content will set the stage for all subsequent discussion. So, those are my three best practices. How do you access Blackboard's discussion board? Well, the easiest way is on the course menu. Just click on Discussions. It's usually a default link. If it's not there, remember that you can add it by going an adding a Tool Link, and then choosing Discussions.

We talked about that in an earlier chapter. You can also go to Course Menu > Tools, and then scroll down and click on Discussion Board. And as an instructor under Course Management>Course Tools you also have access to this discussion board here. And this gets you into the discussion board, although you have to choose the course if you go through that way. One other thing I really strongly recommend you do this, is go to one of the content areas of your course and if you want your students to participate in a discussion, during a particular week or unit, add a link to that discussion by going to Tools and choosing Discussion Board.

So, let's get into the discussion board. And, how do you set this up? Well, it's a two-step process. First, you have to create a forum, a room in which the conversation will take place and then second, you have to create a thread or conversation on a particular topic. Both are required. To create a forum, what you're going to do is click Create Forum. By the way, a tip, create at least two forums. A scholarly forum, and a non-scholarly forum, which I usually just call the parking lot.

The parking lot gives students a place to post off topic contents, insuring the posts in your other forum, and other forums. Stay on topic. An alternative is you can create forums by topics, units, or weeks. So let's create this first forum. We're going to have this as a scholarly forum. And I'll call it weekly class discussions. The name is required. And the description actually isn't the description. I count on a description as being the instructions.

And if you have access to the exercise files, I've got some text here that you can copy, if not, you can just copy this off the screen or type whatever you want. So, I'm giving the students the instruction and sort of framing the experience for them before they even get into the room of what I want my students to do, how many posts I want pert week. And, what I expect them to do. going to scroll down, is the forum going to be available, in other words, are the students ever going to be able to participate in this.

I'm going to say yes. I can do date and time restrictions, I'm not going to worry about that here. I'm going to scroll down, and then something new in service pack 12. Instructors can now require students to first post to a forum before they can see other students' posts. If you want to make sure that the students are actually engaged, this might be a smart idea. I'm going to leave in a standard view for now, though. So I also have the ability here to grade it. In other words, do I want to grade my forum or not.

Well, it's up to you. My recommendation is, if you're going to have lots and lots and lots of posts in a forum, I would grade the forum, not the threads. And I can sit here and say, grade discussion forum points possible. We'll make this worth ten points. What this does is it turns on a couple other options where I can say there's a needs grading status that's going to show up within my grade center and also under needs grading in the grade center subset view.

And I can have it remind me. I can set a due date. It's actually a really smart idea as we saw in the calendar to have a due date of when you're going to do it. I'll turn it off though in this case. Subscription allows students to subscribe to a particular forum or thread. It kind of gives them a message saying new information has been posted here, go back. It's completely up to you, I will leave it on and allow members to subscribe to the forum. And do I want to include the body of the post? In other words, the message that was posted to the discussion form or a link back to the course.

I kind of want my students coming back to my class as many times as possible, so I'm actually not going to do, include body of the post. I'm going to include a link to the post. Because this is a graded forum, I'm not going to allow anonymous posts automatically, by the way if I go back and turn no grading in forum back off, then I can actually do anonymous posts, but because it's graded, well, no anonymous posts. I'm not going to allow my students to delete their own post. If they submit it, I'm going to grade it, you can change that if you want.

Do I want the students to be able to edit their posts after they put them to the discussion board? No. I think you've, you submit it you're done. Do I want the students to be able to create new threads? This is actually a philosophical debate. If you uncheck this, your discussion forums are dead until you create the first post. And then students can reply to your post, but you're kind of running the shop. If I check this, then students can come in and create their own new threads.

I kind of leave this on, but it's up to you. Do I want my students to be able to attach files? Yes or no? Do I want students to be able to quote? Force moderation. I'll come back to that in a later movie. And we'll talk about post tagging and rating also in a later movie. So I'm going to click on submit. And that creates the first forum, but remember I recommended that you have two forums. You want to have a parking lot as well where students can do off topic content. So, I'm going to create a second forum.

Call it the Parking Lot and post a description here and clean that up. And in this case, I'm just going to leave the default settings. I'm not going to change anything here, I'll just click on submit. So now I've got two forums. Again, I can rearrange this. And we're ready now to go to the next part. What I need to do is there's no discussion that can take place in this until a thread has been started. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to access my forum.

I click on the name of the forum, and now I have to click on create thread, and what I'm doing is I'm starting the conversation. Students won't see this button unless you allow students to create threads in the forum settings. And when I click on create thread This should look familiar. We've seen this pretty much every time we've had to do anything within our course. So, I'm going to go back here. I've already created what my first forum thread is going to be. I'm going to copy the Week One, paste it and go back and I'm going to copy the question, the prompt That I have for my students.

And I'm going to click that, and paste it in here. So I've created a forum, and now I'm creating a thread. Within that, I can attach something, and I'm going to click on Submit. So, how do you set up the discussion board? It's a two step process. First, you have to create a forum, or a room in which the conversation will take place. Second, you have to create a thread or conversation on a particular topic. With the forums and threads now in place, we're now ready to look at ways we can facilitate discussions and that's the topic of our next movie.

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