3 Tips for Managing Your Discussion Board

Best Practices Blackboard
Discussion: The Life of the Online Course
Discussion boards are excellent tools for facilitating conversations in your online courses.

Used in online and blended course environments, a discussion board can become a great resource for building a sense of community, sharing ideas, and creating a pool of knowledge that everyone in the class can use.

When students regularly contribute to a forum, it can become a lively arena for public discourse and social interaction, just bustling with information. To make managing a busy discussion board a little easier for instructors and students alike, we recommend implementing the following techniques.

Discussion: The Life of the Online Course
Instructors can enable or disable Post Tagging on a forum at any time in the discussion's Forum Settings.

Tip #1: Tag Discussion Posts to Make Finding Conversations Easier

Wouldn’t it be great if you could search a discussion forum by topic or sub-topic? Or organize all related content in a forum on one page for easy comparison? Dream no further; instructors can add customized “tag bookmarks” to threads by enabling the “Post Tagging” setting in a discussion forum’s settings.

Although the instructor is the only one who can make and apply customized Tag labels to a course’s discussion posts, both the instructor and student can use these Tags to read, filter, and search for content in the discussion board. To learn more about this feature, please see our illustrated step-by-step tutorial.

Tip #2: Print from Your Discussion Board for Offline Reading

Did you know that course members can print the content added to a discussion board forum for offline reading? It’s done by collecting a forum’s threads into a Collection and then printing the Collection.

Building a Collection
To print discussion threads, build a Collection. Then, click the Collection's Print Preview button.

A Collection can contain all of the forum’s threads or specific threads the course member has chosen. Selections of threads can be made either through direct selection or the forum’s “Filter” search form.

Creating a Collection is as simple as 1-2-3. Simply, enter a forum, select the threads you want to collect, and then click the “Collect” button. Once you do this, a Collection page containing the full text of each selected thread will appear in your Web browser.

To print the contents of the Collection, click the Collection page’s “Print Preview” button. This should launch a new window, displaying a preview of the threads to be printed as well as the Print dialogue box. If you are using Internet Explorer and these windows do not appear, right-click your mouse anywhere within the body of the Collection page and select “Print” from the context menu that appears.

Creating printed Collections can be useful to instructors and students. If the instructor would like to work on grading discussion posts offline, or generate a printed record of evidence regarding a particular portion of the forum, this feature is ideal for this purpose. When Post Tagging is enabled, a Collection’s results can be sorted and filtered according to a particular topic before they are printed. This can be useful for students who would like to use information shared in the forum as study notes.


Tip #3: Enable Forum Subscription to get E-mail notices when New Posts are Added

Enabling Subscription
Instructors can enable post or thread subscription through the discussion board's Forum Settings.

“Subscription” means receiving automated e-mail notifications whenever new content is added to a forum by a course member. It can be a useful tool for keeping abreast of conversations as they occur in the forum.

When you create or edit a forum’s settings, the instructor has the option of allowing yourself and your students to subscribe to the forum or to threads in the forum. Instructors can also choose what content will be included in the body of the e-mail notification, such as the full text of the new addition as well as a link to post a reply in the course’s discussion board. Once these settings are enabled by the instructor, course members can choose to subscribe and receive e-mail notifications at his or her MATC e-mail account whenever there is new content added to the forum.

To learn more about enabling subscription and how course members subscribe to forum, please see our step-by-step tutorial.

If you enable subscription in your discussion forums, there are a few things to be aware of:

  • Subscription is not a substitute for participating in a course’s discussion board. Course members must visit the course’s forum to participate and evaluate posted content.
  • Notification messages are sent automatically by the Blackboard system (Blackboard@matc.edu). Do not directly reply to the notification e-mail, as the reply will not be received.
  • Use the “To Reply” link that is listed in the body of the e-mail notification to initiate a reply to the author of a post. The link will take you to the Blackboard course’s forum. You may be prompted by a login screen if you are not already logged into Blackboard.

Using one or all of these handy techniques can help you and your students make the most out of your course’s discussion board.