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Blackboard Discussions
Getting Started with Discussions


Even if you are experienced with online discussions, you should be aware of Blackboard's terminology and its ways of organizing discussions.


Note: There is no video tutorial for this lesson.

Continue to the next page to learn about Blackboard's terminology.  

Blackboard Terminology


Before we go too far into our consideration of discussions in Blackboard, we should be familiar with some basic terminology related to the organization of discussions. Although some of Blackboard's terminology agrees with terms used by other online discussions tools, there are a few differences. You should also keep in mind that Blackboard itself (like almost any large software) may not be 100% consistent in its use of terms. For example, Blackboard documentation may use the terms "message" and "post" interchangeably. The major terms used in Blackboard include the following.

The Discussion Board is a specialized page in Blackboard that serves as a home for all discussions. While discussions can be linked to other areas in the course, they are housed on the Discussion Board page. The Discussion Board is usually accessed by a link on the Course Tool Menu.

The Discussion Board can contain one or more Discussion Forums. A Discussion forum is the basic organizational unit for discussions. A forum can be thought of as a category dedicated to a single topic, chapter, or period of time.   For example, there may be a single forum for each chapter in the course.  The forum displays a title and a description to the students, so that they can quickly see what is included in the forum.

Each forum can contain one or more threads.   A thread is made up of a message posted to the forum along with all of the replies to the original message.   Messages are also referred to as submissions or posts.


Continue to the next page to learn about discussion organization.


Organization of Graded Discussions

The forum and the thread are the basis for the two ways that you can organize a graded discussion.

In a graded forum, students respond to the discussion assignment by creating a thread. Students and instructors then respond by replying to each thread.

The second option for organizing a discussion is to create a graded thread.   In this case, the instructor must submit the message that begins the thread, and students respond by replying to the thread.   Students cannot create new threads; they can only respond to the thread created by the instructor.

Which way of organizing discussions is better?   If you are going to have discussion assignments that generate a large number of messages and replies, you will probably do better to create a graded discussion forum. The forum keeps the discussion very organized and allows you to view each student's thread.

On the other hand, if you expect only a limited number of messages, you may do better with a graded thread. The problem with using a graded thread is that you end up with one thread which can be very long and challenging to navigate. In addition, some browsers may not display lengthy threads well.

Most of the time, creating a graded forum is a better option. This means that there will be only one graded discussion assignment for each forum.  However, the assignment is easily identified by the forum description.

One final organizational matter that you should be aware of is the division of discussions into pages. By default, Blackboard displays 25 threads at a time. If your forum contains more than 25 threads, additional pages will be added and a set of navigation buttons will be added. You can also change the pagination by clicking on the Edit Paging button at the bottom of the page.


Continue to the next page for the summary and self-test.

 Summary and Self-test

 A basic understanding of the organizational structure of Blackboard will help you use discussions easily and efficiently. Be aware of whether you are working at the thread or forum level as you navigate through your discussion board. Also, don't forget that you may not be seeing all of the threads in your forum if Blackboard has divided it into multiple pages.


Self test. Check your learning by taking the self-test (click on the Test Yourself link) and completing the drag-and-drop activity (click the DragNDrop Activity link to access).


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 Hyperlink to DragNDrop Activity