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Creating discussion forums and threads


Blackboard 9.x Essential Training for Instructors

with Patrick Crispen

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 an asynchronous or not live discussion on a variety of topics usually chosen by the instructor. What normally happens is the instructor initiates the conversation, students then chime in, and the instructor jumps in from time to time to offer feedback and to guide the conversation. Before we start, let me give you some best practices that you may want to keep in mind.
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  1. 7m 51s
    1. Welcome
      1m 9s
    2. Using the exercise files
    3. What is an LMS?
      4m 15s
    4. Understanding Blackboard 9.X versions and campus customizations
      1m 52s
  2. 28m 38s
    1. The new graphical user interface
      5m 53s
    2. Exploring course-to-course navigation
      2m 20s
    3. Using course themes
      2m 15s
    4. Looking at course structures and the Quick Setup Guide
      6m 56s
    5. Using new and improved assessments
      7m 24s
    6. Looking at temporary obstacles and workarounds
      2m 36s
    7. Finding more Blackboard information
      1m 14s
  3. 26m 27s
    1. Logging in to Blackboard
      2m 9s
    2. Accessing your course and uploading files
      5m 40s
    3. Creating announcements
      4m 15s
    4. Sending emails
      4m 57s
    5. Viewing your roster
      3m 50s
    6. Downloading the Grade Center
      3m 17s
    7. Setting course availability
      2m 19s
  4. 14m 8s
    1. Understanding the tabs and sub-tabs
      5m 51s
    2. Working with modules
      3m 24s
    3. Personalizing the My Institution page
      1m 40s
    4. Editing the My Courses module
      3m 13s
  5. 12m 38s
    1. Understanding the course layout and breadcrumbs
      5m 13s
    2. Toggling the Edit Mode
      1m 26s
    3. Hiding and unhiding the Course Menu
      1m 9s
    4. Touring the Control Panel
      4m 50s
  6. 23m 53s
    1. Renaming, reorganizing, and deleting
      4m 58s
    2. Adding new menu items
      6m 4s
    3. Managing tools
      3m 40s
    4. Customizing a course
      9m 11s
  7. 16m 15s
    1. Viewing the course roster
      4m 54s
    2. Enrolling students and others
      7m 31s
    3. Why not to unenroll
      3m 50s
  8. 53m 34s
    1. Organizing content into folders
      5m 24s
    2. Uploading files
      11m 49s
    3. Using the Text Editor
      6m 19s
    4. Inserting a multimedia file
      9m 56s
    5. Linking to an external web resource
      4m 25s
    6. Linking to an internal course file
      6m 3s
    7. Making content available to students
      2m 2s
    8. Using the Content Collection
      3m 35s
    9. Copying and moving content
      4m 1s
  9. 24m 24s
    1. Exploring how students view course grades
      4m 1s
    2. Optimizing the Grade Center
      1m 36s
    3. Changing the default letter grading schema
      4m 24s
    4. Creating score columns
      6m 37s
    5. Entering grades
      5m 19s
    6. Viewing grade histories
      2m 27s
  10. 56m 19s
    1. Creating text columns
      3m 1s
    2. Managing columns
      4m 52s
    3. Creating grading periods
      5m 34s
    4. Creating categories
      5m 42s
    5. Dropping scores in the Grade Center
      9m 3s
    6. Weighting grades in the Grade Center
      6m 4s
    7. Downloading grades and editing in Excel
      7m 51s
    8. Uploading student grades
      4m 29s
    9. Changing grades
      3m 37s
    10. Changing a final grade
      6m 6s
  11. 16m 26s
    1. Creating assignments
      6m 22s
    2. Downloading assignments
      5m 16s
    3. Grading assignments
      4m 48s
  12. 37m 51s
    1. Best practices for using online assessments
      4m 21s
    2. Creating an empty test and choosing the Question Settings
      5m 29s
    3. Creating multiple choice questions
      7m 57s
    4. Creating true/false questions
      2m 48s
    5. Creating essay or short answer questions
      4m 5s
    6. Creating fill-in-the-blanks questions
      3m 39s
    7. Creating opinion scale/Likert questions
      5m 51s
    8. Reusing questions
      3m 41s
  13. 30m 27s
    1. Setting test availability and deploying the test
      13m 13s
    2. Assisting students with common testing obstacles
      8m 16s
    3. Viewing the student results
      6m 40s
    4. Reviewing the differences between surveys and tests
      2m 18s
  14. 16m 43s
    1. Sending emails
      6m 20s
    2. Creating announcements
      7m 14s
    3. Using the Course Calendar
      3m 9s
  15. 33m 15s
    1. Creating discussion forums and threads
      13m 1s
    2. Facilitating discussions
      9m 32s
    3. Moderating forums
      3m 36s
    4. Rating posts
      2m 47s
    5. Grading discussions
      4m 19s
  16. 9m 1s
    1. Creating groups
      7m 56s
    2. Adding members to groups
      1m 5s
  17. 4m 32s
    1. Next steps
      4m 32s

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Watch the Online Video Course Blackboard 9.x Essential Training for Instructors
6h 52m Beginner Jun 30, 2011 Updated Oct 09, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this course, Patrick Crispen teaches the ins and outs of Blackboard 9 so that educators and trainers can get up to speed in the system quickly—even if they've never used Blackboard before. The course explores customizing a course site, managing users, and adding and organizing content, including multimedia. It also shows how to perform student assessments in the Grade Center, as well as how to communicate with students and encourage participation and collaboration.

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 an asynchronous or not live discussion on a variety of topics usually chosen by the instructor. What normally happens is the instructor initiates the conversation, students then chime in, and the instructor jumps in from time to time to offer feedback and to guide the conversation. Before we start, let me give you some best practices that you may want to keep in mind.

First, do not assume that your students know how to participate in a scholarly online discussion. You are going to need to show your students the mechanics of how to use Blackboard, but you are also going to have to show the students how to participate in a scholarly conversation. Your students have experience posting things to Facebook, but this isn't Facebook. They need to be more reflective in what they post. In fact, you need to set your expectations at the beginning of the term and let the students know how many posts per week you are going to expect from them and what you consider to be a substantive post.

In other words, you need to let your students know that "I agree" or "me too" is not acceptable and that other rules of Internet netiquette are going to apply here. For example, you don't want to do LOL or ROFL or any of those other abbreviations. You want to actually follow real scholarly writing examples in this case. Finally, in the beginning of the term, you are going to need to model the behavior. What that means is, as you go into the discussion board, you are going to show your students through your example what reflective writing actually looks like.

So let's get back to Blackboard. How do you access Blackboard's discussion board? Well, there are multiple ways to do it. Let me get into our Educational Technology course and I am going to scroll down here. One way to do it is there maybe a link on your course menu to Discussions. That's there by default. If you don't see a link to Discussions on your course menu, you can add one by hand just by clicking on the plus sign on the top of the course menu adding a tool link and then linking to Discussion Board tool. Let me also scroll down and notice that students can click on Tools and then scroll down and click on Discussion Board.

They can access the discussion board that way as well, and as an instructor under Course Management in Course Tools you have a link to the Discussion Board. There is one thing different about this link than the other two. If a student clicks on Discussion Board, they're taken into the class discussion board. So I clicked on Discussion here as well. It takes me to the same place. As an instructor, down here in Course Management under Course Tools, if I click on Discussion Board, it's not going to take me to that page yet.

It's actually going to give me an option and say, okay, which discussion board do I want to click on? I have my class discussion board, but as I create groups, groups could have discussion boards. As the instructor, I need to be able to get into those as well. So you are going to see a list of all the discussion boards going on in your class. Not only your class discussion board, but your group discussion boards as well. In this case, let's get into the class discussion board and you are going to notice it's pretty much the same. So what we're going to do right now is we're going to set up a discussion board and it turns out that creating a discussion board or creating a conversation is actually a two-step process.

Step number one is we need to create a forum or a room in which the conversation is going to take place, and step number two is then to create a thread or conversation on a particular topic. So what we're going to do is we're going to create a forum and my recommendation is you should create at least two forums in your class. You're going to create a scholarly forum and a non-scholarly forum, sort of one forum that counts and one for the students to be able to post other things.

By giving the students a parking lot in which they can add non-scholarly, non-class related information, you actually make sure that you have a place for students to express that information that doesn't pollute your scholarly conversation. So I am going to create a forum here. It's going to ask me for a name. I can type in a description. If you have access to the exercise files, on the desktop I've got a text file that I created called discussion.txt.

In this case, I am just going to cut and paste. You can type whatever you want here. In this case, I just made it earlier, because I'm such a terrible typist. So we've got the weekly class discussions, and I am going to give the information to the students. Now it says that this is actually a description, but realistically I treat this as the instructions. I am going to tell the students that whatever they post in here, that counts. You're actually going to get a grade for this, and you need to submit two substantive posts each week, one in response to a question that I post and one in response to something that a fellow student has posted.

So even though it says Description, put your instructions here. I am going to scroll down. Forum Availability is, will students ever be able to participate in this forum? Yes. I can turn on Date and Time Restrictions if I wanted to. Now, let's go through the settings for this particular place where students are going to be able to communicate. Do I want my students to be able to post things anonymously? Well, no, because I'm going to be creating this, and do I want the students to be able to delete their own posts? A student could post something and then come back and say, "Gosh, I want to take that back," and I can say Yes.

If I do, I have two options. I can have them delete their own posts, anything they make, or only posts that somebody hasn't replied to yet. In this case, I am going to kind of say no, I want this to stay up and running all the time. Do I want my students to be able to edit their posts after they make it? No. Again, once you turn it in, I want you to stand behind what you're saying. Post Tagging is just a way of saying do you want you and your students to be able to sort of put a "personal" flag on any post and say ooh, I want to come back and read that later.

That's what Post Tagging is. So I will turn that on. Do I want the users who read a post in a discussion board to be able to click on a button that says Quote and pull a quote out of the original post and include it in theirs, sort of a reply? Yeah, I actually like that approach. So I will say yes. Do I want users to be able to attach files? This actually is a neat idea. Earlier versions of Blackboard had something called a Digital Dropbox. The Digital Dropbox allowed students to drop files into a particular area.

If you allow file attachments, you can actually use your discussion board as a replacement for the Digital Dropbox. The students could go into the discussion board and just attach files. Now the issue with this is any student can see any file that's been submitted to the discussion board. It doesn't go just to you. it goes to everyone in the course. So Allow File Attachments is a way for students to attach files, but it's files that will be viewable by everybody. And do I want members, in this case students, to be able to create a new thread? Remember, a forum is the room in which the conversation takes place.

A thread is that topic that starts that particular conversation. It's up to you. Many instructors basically will initiate threads themselves. Students can then reply. Others will allow the students to create their own threads. Remember that if you uncheck this, nothing can happen in your discussion board until you go in and initiate the conversation. If I check this, the students can go in and start the conversation right now.

Subscription is a feature that allows students to receive an email message whenever something new has happened in a particular room or a forum. You can also do this as well. So you can actually allow people to subscribe to the room itself, the forum, or to individual conversations that are going on here. Then what is going to show up in the email message whenever there's a change? You can have a link to the post or you can actually have Blackboard email you the discussion board post and you can have it show up in your email inbox.

Remember, make sure your email address is correct. Completely up to you. I usually say no, but it's up to you on whether or not you want to allow this. Next thing is, do you want to allow members to rate posts? This will actually put a series of stars in each post and the students can then grade it from one to five stars and we have a movie that shows you more about that. So I am going to turn it on. Force Moderation means that whenever a student posts something, before it shows up on the discussion board it comes to an inbox only visible to you or somebody that you choose and then that person chooses to either accept or reject that post.

If you're concerned about your student posting inappropriate materials, you might want to turn on Force Moderation. We'll talk about that in an upcoming movie. Last thing is you have the option here of grading the forum or grading the threads. In other words, you can actually assign grades for students' participation within a room or within a particular conversation. Two things to keep in mind. Grading Forum when you do this will automatically create a score column in the Grade Center.

If you've gone into your Grade Center and changed your Total column or your Weighted Total column, you need to go back to the Total column or Weighted Total column and then make sure that this new column is counted. Grade Threads sounds like a great idea, but it's going to create a new Grade Center score column for each and every thread in your Discussion Board and this could be really, really big. It could adversely impact your Grade Center, because say that you have two conversations a week over an 18 week course. By clicking on Grade Threads, you've just added 36 columns to your Grade Center.

My recommendation is grade the discussion forum. In this case, I am going to give it 100 points. Remember, make sure that if you've gone and edited your Grade Center to have a Total and Weighted Total column that is anything other than the standard set, you want to go back and add this to those columns as well. I am going to click on Submit and I have now created the forum. Let me do one more. I'll do this really quickly. I want to create the parking lot that I was talking about. The parking lot is just a free-for- all where students can post on anything.

However, you do want to have rules for your parking lot. So in this case I'm going to go here and the rules are post non-class related questions or comments. It's optional. It does not count to your final participation grade. That said, I expect you to be professional in comment and to nurture an environment of mutual tolerance and respect. Am I going to make it available? Yes. Am I going to allow anonymous posts? No. Do I want to let people delete their posts? No. I might want to allow somebody to do the editing.

I am going to allow reply with quotes. I won't allow file attachments. In this case, I do want people to create their own threads and that is all I am going to do to create that. So I've now created two discussion board forums. One last thing I need to do now that I've created the forums, this one, the students can start their own conversation. This one, students can start their own conversation. My recommendation is since I want to model the behavior, I'm now going to create a thread. So I've accessed this forum, this room, and now I am going to start the first conversation.

And you are going to notice that this box looks an awful lot like what we've seen before. I am going to cut and paste the prompt. I can, if I want to, attach a file here. In this case, I am just starting the conversation. Pretty simple settings here, Subject and a Message, click on Submit, and I've now created the conversation. So in my discussion board I now have in my room two forums, a Weekly Class Discussion, I've got a Parking Lot.

I can actually see that there's now one post. In our next movie we're going to talk about how to manage Blackboard discussions.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Blackboard 9.x Essential Training for Instructors .

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Q: This course was updated on 10/09/2012. What changed?
A: This update adds 7 new movies in the "What's New in Blackboard 9.x SP8 and SP9," on topics such as course themes, new and improved assessments, and other new features found in service packs 8 and 9.
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