How do I get started with Discussion Boards in Blackboard?

Discussion boards are an asynchronous communication tool in Blackboard. What this means is that students can come onto the discussion boards to read and respond to them when it is convenient for them. They are similar to emails in this regard.

Some of the positives around using discussion boards are that they allow students more time to think about their responses, allow all students to contribute, and are popular among students who are shy about speaking, including international students. However, they can take longer than face-to-face discussions and they often need to be facilitated. There is a greater potential for misinterpreting humour, sarcasm, etc. with written words.

How do discussion boards work in Blackboard?

If you want to use discussion boards in Blackboard, you need to first ensure you have added the Discussion Board tool to your Blackboard site, and that it is set available to students.

Then you need to create at least one forum for your students to write posts in. Forums are spaces for particular types of discussions. They are a useful way of subdividing the conversations to help users know where to start or find a particular conversation. For example, there might be forums called 'Questions about the assessments', 'Ethical considerations discussion', or 'Week 5 online seminar'. You can make whatever forums you need for your module.

When creating a forum you have options around how you want it configured. For instance you can turn on the option for anonymous posting if there is a particularly personal topic of conversation (though generally we don't recommend this), set options for if students can remove posts and the conditions under which they can create or reply to posts.

Once you have a forum established then you and your students should be able to create a thread in the forum. A thread is a conversation about a particular topic or question and is made up of a series of posts. Posts are like emails - they have a title, message body and can include attachments. Once you make a post it shows up in the thread, visible to all users in the Blackboard site. As users reply to posts, the thread grows, displaying the replies like the branches of a family tree. Users can also jump to posts they have not read yet quite easily from either the Home Page or any area of the discussion boards.

Can I have a discussion for just a particular group of students?

Yes, you can set up a group discussion board which only students in that group can access. To do this you will need to set up a group with those students and enable the discussion board in that group. Note that group discussion boards have a forum set up by default so students can begin posting immediately.

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