Using Discussions for Activities & Assessments

Community Champion
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Discussions that engage students in course content and with each other promote student satisfaction and retention. 

Canvas discussions are commonly used for class discussions and group discussions, but can also be used to engage individual students with course content. Students can also create their own discussions within groups and create discussions in the course.

Some ideas to engage students using the discussions tool in Canvas:


  • Students reflect on their learning
    Reflecting on readings, videos, tutorials, exercises, web activities through text, video, audio, or visual (i.e. flyer, infographic). Using the Discussions tool for reflections allows students to view and learn from the reflections of others and encourages them to respond to each other, even though they are not required to respond. 
  • Students brainstorm, draft, research, create lists, tables, charts, concept maps, timelines, post current events
  • Students journal about readings, videos, tutorials, exercises, web activities


  • Students share their individual results from the Learner-Content interaction. 
  • Students share research, assignments and presentations
    Ask students to share research about the weekly course topic(s) by posting and discussing internet or library resources, descriptions, comparisons, and current events. Students sharing academic research located within the  school library encourages use of the school's library and use of academic references. Also have students share their assignments and presentations to allow students to learn from each other. 
  • Students answer open-ended questions 
    Asking questions that allow for more than one correct answer avoids repetitive student responses and provides opportunities for discussion. Ideas from Designing Effective Discussions, Stanford Teaching Commons.
    • Peer reviews to evaluate/critique ideas, research, drafts, final assignments, presentations, projects
    • Small-group discussions, assignments, projects
  • Student practice course topics without worrying about a grade
    Students work together, share work before and after it is assessed, and provide feedback to each other without worrying about a grade: brainstorming, ideas, goals, drafts, research, critiques, final projects, papers or presentations. Instead of jumping directly from learning to assessment with no opportunities to practice: nongraded discussions provide students with practice and feedback before submitting work for a grade.
  • Students create and share possible test questions for others to answer, flash cards or games for others to use to study / ask questions


  • Instructors provide feedback on results from the Learner-Content and Learner-Learner interactions.
  • Instructors encourage critical thought and extend discussions through asking questions and providing real-world examples.


Learner interaction may include image, video, audio responses

Images: Embedding Images.
Recording Video, Uploading Video
Recording Audio, Uploading Audio

Some of my previous research into promoting learner interaction
Learner-Learner Interaction 

OER: Designing Quality Discussions

Student Engagement Surveys and the Quality Matters Standard for Learner Interaction and Active Learning

National Survey of Student EngagementCCSSE BenchmarksQM Standard 5.2