Susan Nugent

Tips for Students Writing Discussion Posts

Blog Post created by Susan Nugent Expert on Jun 22, 2017

The rich content editor is a useful tool in Canvas but often students lose content when they accidentally hit a wrong key that wipes out their almost written post. This can be extremely frustrating for students and those who support them. As we wait for autosave feature request to become a reality, here are a few tips for students on writing discussion posts. 


Use Google Docs

If you have a Google account, start writing your posts in Google Doc. The document will be saved in your Google Drive account regardless if you manually save it. Once you edit the document it will automatically save your changes. This will also be useful as backup should you have technically difficulties posting the reply in the discussion. You could also use the Word web app in OneDrive if you prefer it over Google Docs. 


Once you have finished writing your post in Google Docs select all the text and copy it. Go to the Canvas discussion topic and create a new reply. In the rich content editor place the cursor in the text box and paste the text from your Google Doc. Reformat as necessary. Be sure to click Post Reply when done and check to make sure your reply was posted before leaving the page. View this Canvas guide for details on posting a reply


Use Shortcut Keys

Shortcut keys can save you time. Below are the some shortcut keys you can use in Google Docs or rich content editor. 


Select All Text - CTRL (CMD) + A 

CopyCTRL (CMD) + C

Paste - CTRL (CMD) + V

Undo last command - CTRL (CMD) + Z 


Slow Down to Reduce Errors

Many instructors will impose editing restrictions once you have posted in the discussion topic so take the time to compose your thoughts in a meaningful way while you are writing your post in Google Docs. Remember Google will save all your writing. You can always go back to previous versions of what you wrote in Google Docs. Write a first draft of post. Then step away from your writing and go do something else for a while. Come back to your writing and revise where necessary. Read your post slowly to catch errors in spelling and grammar. View this excellent post by Laura Gibbs where she shares her students' writing experiences in her courses.  


Adding Media

In some cases your instructor may require that you post media (video/audio/images) to your discussion. Canvas makes this easy but you may feed intimated by technology. Review these Canvas guides for tips on recording video and audio messages. 

If you prefer, you can record your audio and video content in another program. Just be sure you can export the content to a web friendly format that you can upload to Canvas. View the guides below for details on some other options you can use to record video content and upload it to Canvas. 

Embedding images in discussions can be tricky for students. It requires several steps that can be hard to remember. Upload your image content to your personal files in your Canvas account first. Then when you are creating your post in the discussion topic use the picture icon in the rich content editor toolbar to access your images. View the following guide for details on posting images. 


Use the Canvas App 

While I wouldn't recommend writing longer discussion replies on your phone, it can be useful for shorter posts and adding media. If you don't already have the Canvas app, view these guides for details on how to download it. 

Below are iOS guides for posting in discussions. 

Below are Android guides for posting in discussions. 


Have Fun and Be Nice

One of the great things about the discussion topics in Canvas is that it allows all students to communicate with each other to share ideas and thoughts about a wide range of topics. In some of your courses you may be discussing difficult topics that may of touched you personally or current events that you have strong opinions about these topics. Remember that your fellow students will also have experiences and opinions about the same topics that may not be the same as yours. Just be respectful of each other views and remember there is a person at the other side of the keyboard. I will leave this post with Josh Coates' 2015 keynote for InstructureCon where he talks about empathy. I think the world needs more empathy! Note: He starts talking about empathy about 20 minutes in if you want skip to that part.