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Using Canvas for Discussions

Using the Canvas Discussion Tool with Remote Learners

The discussion tool in Canvas provides a way for students to have primarily text-based conversations with each other and with instructors. One of the advantages of this type of discussion is that they can happen on a flexible schedule, they are not dependent on a certain place or time. 

Discussions do not replace the face-to-face conversations that take place in the classroom but they can help augment other forms of instruction and give students a chance to communicate their ideas, to build community with their peers and to reflect on the readings and lectures assigned to the class.

The discussion tool provides both focused discussions and threaded discussions. Focused discussions are typically used in situations where the goal is for students to respond to a prompt generated by the instructor. Threaded discussions are used where the goal is to encourage more student to student interaction. 

Discussions can be set up for an entire class or for a small group and can be either graded or ungraded.

Discussion How-Tos

The following guides from the Canvas Community outline the basic “how-tos” for setting up discussions in your Canvas course:

What are Discussions? This guide provides an overview of how the Canvas discussion tool works and what it was designed to do.

How Do I Create a Discussion? This guide takes instructors through the basic steps to set up the different kinds of discussions in Canvas

How Do I Create a Group Discussion in a Course? This guide explains the steps to set up a small group discussion in a course.

Discussion Tips and Strategies

As instructors rapidly adapt their courses to teach remote learners, it is important to be intentional about when and how to best use the technology tools that are available. The following resources are designed to provide guidance for instructors on how to use the discussion tools for effective teaching practices. 

Discussion Tips and Strategies: This excellent guide by the Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning provides tips for instructors on effective teaching strategies to use when incorporating discussions in their course. 

Best Practices for Online Discussions: This short companion video to Columbia’s  “Discussion tips and Strategies” guide takes a look at some essential best practices as instructors rapidly move to remote course delivery. (3:49 mins)

Making the Most Out of Canvas Discussion Boards: This Instructurecon 2019 presentation given by Denise Ann Bodman, PhD and Bethany van Vleet, PhD from Arizona State University provides some very practical tips on increasing student engagement and creating richer, more meaningful online experiences. (39:37 mins)


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