Discussion Board Improvements

It Looks Better, Thinks Better, and Copies Better

The old discussion board got a new look for the Fall 2014 semester, but lost none of its functionality. In fact, it gained another game-changing option: You can now require students to submit their own posts before viewing the posts of their peers. And best of all? Blackboard now allows you to copy last semester's forums without bringing over the previous students' discussion threads. Thank you, Blackboard!

The upgrades to the Discussion Board changes the user interface in two primary ways:

1. The thread detail page has been thoroughly redesigned while maintaining all of its current functionality.

Discussion board updates include:

  • All posts on one page: All of the posts in a thread are now visible at the same time on one page. Just keep scrolling--Facebook style.
  • Instructor highlighting: Posts made by forum managers and moderators now contain the user's course role and forum role.
  • Inline replies: When replying to a post, the content editor used to write a response appears on the same page, in the context of the discussion.
  • Improved screen reader experience: Reading a thread is so simple to consume with screen reader technology. Blackboard also removed clutter on the page, so screen reader and keyboard-only users have less to sift through as they navigate the interface.

To see some of these changes in action, please see the diagram below.

  1. The action bar (Grading, Moderation, Alignments, Subscribe/Unsubscribe, Search, and Refresh buttons) has been relocated to a new layer that appears when the user hovers over the body of the page. This change was made to increase the amount of vertical screen space available for viewing posts.
  2. Two new functions are now available at the top of the page: Expand All and Collapse All. These buttons help the user manage the visibility of the posts on the page with a single click. Note that the existing batch actions are still available as well.
  3. The number of unread messages is prominently displayed at the top right, along with the total number of posts. Clicking on this takes the user to all unread posts in the current thread.
  4. The user's course role and forum role are displayed for users whose forum role is either manager or moderator.
  5. The ability to reply in-line is available to all posts.
  6. There is a new Marked as Read icon. When this icon is blue, this indicates that the post has not yet been read; conversely, when the icon is white, the post has been read. Posts are marked as read automatically as the user scrolls down the page. Only posts that are viewed on screen and expanded get automatically marked as read, and only after a slight delay (i.e. users will not automatically mark all posts as 'read' by quickly scrolling down the page). The user may choose to manually override a post that is marked as read automatically.
  7. Post dates are now displayed as relative dates. When the user hovers, a layer appears that provides the absolute date of creation and edit, as well as the number of views.
  8. The rating displays the average rating for a given post, if the Rate Posts feature is turned on. When the user hovers, this changes to show the rating provided, or to be provided, by the user.

2. Instructors now can require students to first post to a forum before they can see other students' posts.

Something that you'll really like is the new "Post First" feature. This forces students to write their own post before seeing what their classmates have written, which encourages critical thought and student engagement. Be sure to keep the box "Allow author to edit own posts" unchecked.

When creating a forum, you can use the Participants must create a thread in order to view other threads in this forum setting, which will require students to post to a discussion before seeing other students' posts.

Extra: Discussion Boards and Course Copying

In addition, Blackboard has also updated the Discussion Board Course Copy options. Previously, if you wanted to copy a course site's Discussion Board, all posts in each thread would also get copied over. There wasn't a way to copy only the forums without student replies.

The Course Copy feature now includes two new options for copying Discussion Boards:

  • Include starter posts for each thread in each forum (anonymized): This copies over all discussion board items, leaving only the initial post in tact. All responses after this first post are not included.
  • Include only the forums, with no starter posts: This allows you to copy all discussion board items without posts.
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  • 18-Nov-2015