Have you ever been at home at night thinking about one of the day's lessons and had a thought that would have been great to share with others? Or, maybe you'd like to remember what someone said in class, but weren't able to write it down. Well, that's exactly how the Blackboard Discussion Board can help. It's meant to enhance communication between everyone when used along with a traditional course, and can replace a class discussion for full distance learning courses.
Online Discussions: An Overview
During your course, you may be asked to use the Discussion Board to introduce yourself, to respond to teacher questions and reply to others, to formulate answers to case studies, or as part of a peer writing and review process. You may even be asked to lead a discussion.
Online discussions provide you with the opportunity to "think before you speak." You have time to reflect on what you want to say before you enter your response in the system. You are also able to view the responses and perspectives of all your classmates, which is not easily accomplished in a real classroom setting.
You can access the Discussion Board through the Tools link on the Course Menu. Some teachers place a link to the Discussion Board directly on the Course Menu. Other times there may be a Course Link inside a Learning Module or on a content page that leads to the Discussion Board.
All about Discussion Forums
The main Discussion Board page displays a list of available discussion Forums. A Discussion Board can contain one or more Forums. A Forum is an area where a topic or a group of related topics are discussed. For each Forum, the page displays the total number of posts, the number of unread posts, and the total number of participants.
Click on the Forum Name to enter it so that you can read the posts and make posts of your own.
Different ways to view a Forum
A forum can be viewed in one of two contexts: Tree View or List View. This choice remains in effect until you change it, and it can be changed at any time. These choices are available at the top of the Forum page.
The List View presents the list of posts in the forum, called Threads, in a tabular format. The Threads can be sorted by clicking the carat at the top of each column.
The Tree View presents the first post, or Thread, and all related responses. The initial Thread and related posts can be expanded and collapsed by using the plus (+) and minus (-) icon next to each message. Unread Threads and posts are displayed in bold type.
(Note: If an initial Thread has unread responses, then the initial Thread is displayed in bold when collapsed.)
All about Threads
Within a Forum, a list of posts called Threads is displayed either in Tree View or List View. (List View is pictured here.) To enter a Thread to review related responses, click on the Thread name. To create a new Thread, click Create Thread. To manage which Threads you see, make a selection from the action menu of the Display button.
- Date: The date that the Thread was created.
- Thread: The name of the Thread.
- Author: The person who created the Thread.
- Status: The status of a Thread determines whether is can be seen, read, or replied to. Instructors set the Thread status (except draft), but students can select which kind of Threads to display. Use the Display action menu to select which types of Threads to display.
- Published - other people can read and respond to the Thread.
- Hidden - the Thread is hidden from view, usually to make room for the most recent posts in an active forum. Hidden Threads can be read but not replied to.
- Locked - the posts can be read, but not replied to.
- Draft - The Thread has not been published, but saved so that it can be edited in the future.
- Unread posts: Number of posts in the forum that you have not yet accessed.
- Total posts: Includes both read and unread posts.
Creating a new thread
Forums have many settings that control who can post, and what other types of actions users can take, such as editing their own Threads, posting anonymously, or rating posts. Depending on which forum settings your teacher has selected, you may be allowed to create a new Thread. To create a Thread, access the forum.
- Click Create Thread.
- Enter a Subject and Message.
- Attach a file if desired and if the attachment setting has been turned on.
- Click Submit.
If you are not ready to post your Thread, click Save Draft. A copy of your Thread will be saved. To go back and edit it, select Drafts Only from the action menu of the Display button. Click the message subject, and then click Edit.
Inside a Thread
After you've posted your initial Thread, you will most likely reply to others in your course, as you would during a regular classroom conversation. Let's take a look at the Thread Detail page, and then we will discuss how to reply to your fellow participants and classmates.
The Thread Details page can be viewed in several different ways. Use the Collapse All/Expand All on the right side of the screen to display the page the way you want to see it.
The Thread Details page has different ways you can mark and classify your messages. Use the check boxes to select messages. Next, use the Message Actions action menu to set messages as "Read", causing messages to appear in normal font. You can set messages as "Unread", causing messages to appear in bold font. You can also "Set Flag" as a way of marking the message for action, and "Clear Flag" to delete the flag.
Replying to a Thread and Post
Once you've accessed a forum and have entered the Thread, you can reply to anyone who has posted to that Thread to carry an online discussion. To reply to a post, follow the steps outlined here.
- Click the post to which you want to reply. It will open in a page.
- Click Reply.
- Enter a new Subject, or leave unchanged. Then enter your reply in the Message area. Include attachments if allowed and desired.
- Click Submit.
How to include a quote in a reply
When responding, click Quote (if enabled) to include the item to which you are responding. The text of the item to which you are responding will automatically appear in your reply. The quote will be indicated with a line to the left.
Organising Discussion Board Posts
Collecting Threads gathers their posts into a printable, sortable format. Collections are a good way to organize posts for quick reading. Once collected, you may notice that the teacher or Discussion Board Manager has "tagged" items. When tags are being used, they will appear at the bottom of the posts. Posts can be filtered and sorted using these tags.
Check the boxes next to the Threads to include in a collection, then click Collect. You can see what the Threads will look like printed by clicking Print Preview. Sort the Threads by date in ascending or descending order. Use the Filter button to open search criteria to locate specific messages.
Best Practices Using Discussions Boards
Now that you've learned how to use the tools within the Discussion Board, let's review a few best practices. Communicating online is different than communicating in person. For instance, you cannot see the other person's facial expressions or hear the inflection in their voice. As such, we must rely on the conventions of the written word to relay our message and to understand what other people are saying. In addition to any requirements your teacher may publish, below are some helpful considerations when participating:
- Treat others and their points of view with respect.
- Use proper grammar, spelling and complete sentences.
- Avoid using ALL CAPITALS. That can signify you are yelling.
- Avoid using shortcuts such as "cu l8tr" for "see you later."
- Think before you type. Provide thorough and thoughtful responses.
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