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Blackboard Help

Discussion Board

There is an optional update available for the discussion board. To learn about the update and whether or not your school has installed it, see Discussion Board Updates.

Building a sense of community among students is crucial for a successful online experience. With the discussion board tool, course members can replicate the robust discussions that take place in the traditional classroom. Discussions can serve a range of purposes, such as:

  • An online meeting place for social interaction among peers.
  • An additional medium for collaboration and the exchange of ideas.
  • A medium to pose questions about homework assignments, readings, and course content.
  • A way to demonstrate the understanding or application of course material.
  • A record of discussion that members can review at a later point.
  • A graded activity that demonstrates understanding or application of course material.

After you determine what you need, you can create asynchronous interactions occurring over extended periods of time. This allows for more flexibility, as well as reflective communication.

Asynchronous communication offers convenience and flexibility to all participants. Some benefits include:

  • Participants do not need to be in the same location or time zone.
  • Participants can carefully consider and reflect on the initial message before responding. Hopefully, more thoughtful conversations can occur.
  • You can accommodate different learning styles. For example, students who are shy about speaking in class may feel more comfortable responding to discussion threads.

For smaller course groups, you can also offer the group discussion board tool, available only to the members of the group. To learn more, see How to Enable the Group Discussion Board Tool.

Your school controls whether this tool is available. If this tool is not available, you can contact your school to discuss its status.

Developing Successful Online Discussions

The most common form of interaction in an online course is through the discussion board using forums established by an instructor. Participation and interaction in the discussion board does not occur naturally, but must be intentionally designed into your courses. To encourage engaging, quality discussion, craft discussion questions carefully and create inquiry.

If you want to encourage participation, consider allowing students to post anonymously. Also, allow students to create new threads. This flexibility may encourage members to post their ideas and questions. You can also provide incentive by grading the discussion or adding exam questions based on discussion content.

You can help your students feel comfortable and provide them with guidelines as they begin to use the discussion board.

The following table lists four steps for developing successful online discussions to help build community and fulfill assignments.

Using the Discussion Board to Build Community
Steps Examples
Define participation requirements Students need to be aware of your expectations. Create a forum where students can read about etiquette and access grading rubrics. Model proper online interaction and reinforce appropriate behavior with public recognition.
Craft an effective question Avoid questions that students can answer with a yes or no. Instead, phrase the question so it provokes thought and research. Discussion questions need to be open-ended to promote critical thinking. A carefully worded starter question can be the most important factor for more productive discussions.

Incorporate multimedia resources into your questions to reduce the monotony of purely text based interactions. With the popularity of services like YouTube™, you can ask students to view a clip and ask for responses. Use the mashups feature to include images, videos, and slide presentations to your questions. If you add a mashup to a forum, it appears in the description on the Discussion Board page. Students can also add mashups to their replies.

Encourage new ideas If discussion posts contain too much agreement and not enough questioning of ideas, try assigning students with the last names A–M to support one side and N–Z to support the other.
Moderate Establish your presence by asking for clarification, resources, or input from silent participants.

Understanding Discussion Forums and Threads

Just as it is critical to plan and structure your course content, you need to provide structure for online discussions. Forums allow you to group related discussions and help your students stay on task. Before anyone can start message threads, you need to create one or more forums.

The main discussion board page displays a list of forums. A forum is an area where participants discuss a topic or a group of related topics. Within each forum, participants can create multiple threads. A thread includes the initial post and all replies to it.

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Accessing the Discussion Board

You can access the discussion board in several ways. You can add a customized link to the course menu and to a course area. When you provide a link to the discussion board in a course area, students can access the tool alongside other course content. To learn more, see How to Add a Link to the Discussion Board in a Course Area. A new Blackboard Learn course offers two default options for accessing the discussion board tool.

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On the course menu, create a tool link to the discussion board.


On the course menu, click the default Tools link. On the Tools page, select Discussion Board.


On the Control Panel, expand the Course Tools section and select Discussion Board. From this link, access the course discussion board and the group discussion boards for the groups in your course.

How to Include a Discussion Link on the Course Menu

If you want students to access the discussion board often, you can include a link on the course menu for one-click access to the tool. You can also customize the name of the link.

  1. Change Edit Mode to ON and point to the plus sign above the course menu. The Add Menu Item drop-down list appears.
  2. Select Tool Link.
  3. Type a Name for the link.
  4. From the Type drop-down list, select Discussion Board.
  5. Select the Available to Users check box.
  6. Click Submit.

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The new tool link appears last in the course menu list. Press and drag the arrows icon to move the link into a new position. Access the link's contextual menu to rename, delete, or hide the link from students

You do not intend to use the discussion board until week three. You can create all the forums you need at the beginning of the term and hide the link until you need it.

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