The Discussion Board is a tool for creating and managing internet forums that allow for threaded, asynchronous discussion. These discussions are typically topic-driven and class-centered (e.g., a forum for discussion of the reading assignments in a course's third week).

You can think of the Discussion Board as an online version of a classroom discussion. Differently from a classroom, however, an online discussion takes place asynchronously (i.e., users do not have to be using the Discussion Board at the same time to communicate with one another). Users submit messages, other users read and respond to them, and then the original poster or another student can in turn reply to those replies. The conversation is presented in a tree-like diagram (see Fig. 1).


Fig. 1, Instructor's view of a sample Discussion Board forum


Discussion Board structure

Discussion takes place within forums. Only instructors and TAs can create forums; students cannot. So, for discussion to take place, an instructor needs to create at least one forum. Ideally, you will create one forum per topic (e.g., to discuss the week's readings; or to respond to a provocative question, vignette, or case study).

A forum contains threads. Threads are individual conversations. In Fig. 1 above, test3 is a thread, and Meet Laura is a separate thread. Both instructors and students can create new threads and post to existing threads. Every post in a thread can be responded to; thus, a student can respond to the first post in a thread, or he or she can respond to post responding to the initial posting, etc. The "depth" of a post within a given thread is indicated by the levels of indentation in the tree diagram (see Fig. 1 above).


Creating new forums in the Discussion Board

  1. Choose Discussion Board from the Course Navigation in your Blackboard site (see Fig. 2).

  2. Fig 2., Course Navigation menu, including the Discussion Board button.

  3. Click the Create Forum button in the upper-left corner of the page. The Create Forum page will display.
  4. Name the forum by typing a name in the Name field.
  5. In the Description field, type a message to your students indicating how you want the forum to be used. Here, it is appropriate to ask a leading question, to introduce a vignette or scenario, or to begin a discussion of a topic or reading assignment.
  6. Under Forum Availability, click Yes in the Available field if you want students to have immediate access to the forum. If you want to configure date and time restrictions for the forum, you may do so in the fields immediately below.
  7. Configure other options as desired. For most instructors, the default settings are ideal.
  8. Note: If you wish to grade the forum, click Grade Discussion Forum, and type a point value for this forum in the corresponding text field. This adds a column for the forum to your Grade Center, and you will need to provide a score for every student once the discussion is over.

    Note: Clicking Force Moderation of Posts prohibits student posts from appearing in the forum until an instructor has approved them. This is highly time-intensive.

  9. Finalize any configurations, and click Submit. Your forum will now appear in the list of forums on the main Discussion Board page.

The following video will walk you through more of the basics of using discussion boards in Blackboard: