Parts of a Discussion: Forums and Topics
In Pilot, every discussion has to have at least two parts: a Forum and a Topic. A forum is like a folder. It organizes things, but it’s what’s inside the folder that counts. A topic is what goes inside the forum. Topics are where discussions actually take place. If you don’t have topics, you won’t have discussions.
Every topic has to be in a forum. A forum can have as many topics as you want, but must have at least one.
If you seem to have discussions set up, but your students say they don’t see them, chances are you have made forums but have not included topics.
Create a Forum
To get started, click “Communication” on your course navbar, then click “Discussions.”
Click the blue “New” button and choose “New Forum.”
On the “New Forum” page, add a title for your forum. A “Description” is optional, but can be a good place to include instructions for discussions.
Video: Create a Forum
Options you apply for the forum will affect all the topics within that forum.
The four options beneath the description box explain themselves. A popular option is to check “Users must start a thread before they can read and reply to other threads in each topic.” In short, that requires students to post their own work before they can see others’.
Availability vs Locking Options
Further down the page when you’re creating a forum, you’ll find two sections that determine students’ access to the forum—and all the topics in it:
- Availability lets you set a period of time during which students can see the forum. Outside that range, the forum disappears to them. You will still see it, but your students won’t. You can also hide the forum and make it visible manually. You don’t have to choose a date range.
- Locking Options let you prevent students from making new posts or editing existing posts. They can still see a locked forum and read everything there. But they can’t change anything.
Video: Lock a Discussion
For forums, the “Restrictions” tab lets you make a forum available based on “Release Conditions,” such as whether the student has viewed a specific content topic, posted in a particular topic, etc.
Under “Group and Section Restrictions,” you can limit access to a forum to only the students in a group or section. This is especially helpful when you want students to do activities in small break-out groups.
There is a speedy way to create topics for groups. At the time that you create the groups for your course, have Pilot also create discussion items for the groups.
A forum is useless without a topic. To create a new topic, do one of the following.
- When you create a new forum, there is a checkbox to “Create a new topic in this forum with the same title.” With that checked, you will create a topic in your forum automatically.
- Go to “Discussions,” click the “New” button and choose “New Topic.” You will be able to choose what forum to place the topic in.
- When viewing the “Discussions” page, click the downward-pointing arrow next to a forum’s name. Choose “Add Topic.”
- In “Content,” click “New” and choose “New Discussion.”
- When you create groups, you can choose to have a topic created for each group.
For more on Topics, see the Create Topics page