Additional Filters, Reply Bugs, Expand/Collapse vs. Thread Tray

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni
4 11 1,201

Hi everyone, thank you so much for testing our latest release! Based on your feedback we are proposing the following changes. If you are not using Discussions redesign, please let us know what is missing before you are able to switch over. 

Additional Filter Options

These are not yet implemented. What are your thoughts on these proposed options for the View and Sort by filters? Please let us know which are very needed vs. not really needed.

View and Sort by OptionsView and Sort by Options

  • View
    • All displays read and unread replies
    • Unread Parent displays unread parent replies only
    • All Unread displays unread parent and child replies
    • My Replies will display your replies only
    • Needs Reply will display which parent replies you haven't replied to
    • My Drafts will display replies in a draft form in the RCE
  • Sort by
    • Newest Parent will sort parent replies newest on top
    • Oldest Parent will sort parent replies oldest on top
    • Recent Reply will sort parent replies by most recent Last Reply Timestamp on top
    • Most Replies will sort parent replies by most replies on top

Reply Bugs

These issues will be fixed shortly. Are there other issues around replying we need to address?

  1. Draft state is not saved automatically when replying. Clicking outside the RCE sometimes closes the Thread Tray. This fix will save your drafts in the RCE automatically.
  2. Sometimes reply does not appear immediately after clicking the submit button. This fix will ensure that you will not have to refresh the page to see your new reply.
  3. There are too many clicks to view a reply. See "Expand/Collapse vs. Thread Tray" below. 

Expand/Collapse vs. Thread Tray

We definitely hear you when you say you would rather scroll vs. click to view replies. We will still only show 20 parent replies per page. Questions for the group:

  1. Is there a need to have both Expand/Collapse threads in the topic page AND the Thread Tray, or would you only ever use Expand/Collapse in the topic page?
  2. Do you find any value in the Thread Tray

Thank you again for participating in this user group! Again, if you are not using Discussions redesign, please let us know what is missing before you are able to switch over. 

Best, Katrina 

Community Member

I think all of these options can be useful in different contexts... if I had to pick anything for our perceived uses to deemphasize it would be "View My Drafts" and "Sort by Oldest Parent".  The level of granularity of all of these options is greatly appreciated, though.

Community Coach
Community Coach

I am a Canvas admin for our College, and I don't teach courses.  Looking through the "View" list, I'm not sure that "Needs Reply" would be the best wording...though the description you've provided does help me to understand what the intended purpose is.  When I first saw "Needs Reply", to me that meant that an instructor is requiring a student to reply to someone's parent posting/reply.  This might not always be the case.  For example, I may read through several replies to a topic but not actually reply to every single one.  So, "Needs Reply" seems a bit misleading.  I've not really seen a similar filter on other non-education discussion boards I've participated in. I'm not saying that it should be removed as an I can see it being a benefit for people...but maybe different terminology should be used instead of "Needs Reply".

Community Participant
  1. Is there a need to have both Expand/Collapse threads in the topic page AND the Thread Tray, or would you only ever use Expand/Collapse in the topic page?
  2. Do you find any value in the Thread Tray

I am also a Canvas admin at a university, and we've taken a look at this and don't think our teachers will appreciate the thread tray - it takes up too much space and doesn't let them see the full overview of the comments.

Also, what's the deal with quoting a quote? Shouldn't there be two options - Reply and Quote? It's still confusing to me, and I don't think all of our teachers will understand it either.

In regards to the additional filter options, we love them all. But I don't think "Parent" is the correct term to use - not everyone understands what that means, and for users without English as their first language (my university) this could cause some confusion. What about calling them "Threads"?

Community Participant

A few more comments:

  • You could give users the option to choose between the thread tray and Expand/Collapse, as a user preference?
  • I'm sure you've already covered this thoroughly, so this might come a little late: When you want to respond to the main post in the thread users tend go to the end of the thread to reply (like Facebook and Teams). But in Canvas this creates a subthread, which can cause some confusion since users unfamiliar with the redesigned discussions won't necessarily know that, and there are not enough visual cues to indicate how you're replying - especially for large discussions where the blue Reply button is all the way at the top.
  • In regards to large discussions: Are the users supposed to scroll all the way up to the top to respond to the main thread (the topic), to avoid creating a subthread (by accident)? Here's where expand/collapse of threads can be useful.


Community Participant

I provided a demonstration of the discussion redesign to my instructors yesterday.  Here are some thoughts:

  1. The thread tray isn't necessary.  As others have mentioned, there are too many clicks required and the layout appears disjointed as the thread tray covers the main discussion thread.  An expand/collapse option is preferable and more intuitive to use.  Also, one of my instructors asked if this feature met accessibility standards.  How will having two walls of text (with one being partially covered) impact a user's experience if they rely on a screen-reader?
  2. I apologize if I missed this in a previous post, but why is the number of child replies limited?  Students are encouraged to reply back and forth in a conversational manner and limiting the number of replies would prohibit this kind of discussion - it seems to emphasize that replying to the teacher is more important than replying to one's peers. Also, right now, if I want to make a deeper level reply, the Quote button shows up, but the Reply button does not.  Is this an error?
  3. When I go into a discussion group and select Speedgrader, it breaks in the new tab that pops up in my browser and I get the "Whoops looks like there is nothing there...Page Not Found error". 

Thank you for soliciting feedback from the community as you work on the redesign!  It is greatly appreciated!

Community Champion

I appreciate the innovative spirit with the thread tray approach however to date the feedback I've received is there is preference for the ability to view the posts and yes, scroll, on the topic page. It is much less clicking that way.  So Expand/Collapse on the topic page will be used.

Re: pagination - for years I've used the browser search capability (Ctrl+F) and now that won't catch everything as there is invariably search hits present on page 2, 3, etc.  I am glad to see that the redesigned search tool works with the new pagination.  It is sometimes 'wonky' though.  I've experienced searching for a name, viewing the reply on the thread tray, then after clicking back off the tray the search results would change and show something I hadn't searched for.  Perhaps hard to explain and I cannot always replicate.

I welcome filters, especially the ability to filter for parent posts that I have not replied to.  That would be a very nice productivity gain.  😀


I'm using the redesign in the professional development class I'm running now, and it is a little frustrating not to be able to see all the replies to the parent post in the stream of posts.  It would be nice to have that expansion option while viewing the replies, but for our younger students it might be nice to preset it so they see it by default.

Community Champion

Hello - 

After viewing replies within the sidebar/thread tray I then select Mark thread as read and after a second or so then receive an error as shown here.

mark thread as readmark thread as read





And I can confirm that I do not see my replies after posting.  Reloading the page is required and of course that then causes the sort order of the posts to change which befuddles my tracking of where I was in the board.  


Community Participant

I would prefer expand/collapse in the topic page. That would be more like it is in the old discussion structure we are more used to.

As to what I need to see in the new version (if I am forced to use it as my only option):

Maintain the order of posts from oldest to newest based on the date of the PARENT post. It seems that the order is currently displayed based on the date of replies (which we cannot see until opening the thread tray). This is not helpful at all. I also need the replies to remain in the order in which they are posted (oldest to newest) as I do not give credit when students simply repeat what others before them has said. I do not want students duplicating topics of discussion. Students need to be able to identify what issues are already under discussion before they post and I need to be able to quickly see when a new post (lower down in the discussion) is duplicating a topic posted earlier. When discussion posts are not displayed in the order of parent posts, I cannot see what was posted first vs. later.

The way I use Canvas discussions with my students is to have them use the first line to identify the topic of their questions or issues they are discussing. So, what Canvas discussions can use is an actual SUBJECT LINE (e.g. what Blackboard provided). 

As to the new feature to "quote" a post we are replying to... Please allow the user to edit the quote (as we could do in Blackboard) so as to only focus on a small section of the other post that the user is responding to. This can be most helpful, especially if the previous post was lengthy. However, if a user can copy and paste any part of the post they are replying to, "quote" seems unnecessary. I typically do this and just <bracket> the section I am quoting from someone else.

I do hope that a course option remains to allow or disallow students to "edit/delete their own posts". Otherwise, students might edit posts I have already "marked as read" and I would not know they made any edits or what might have been changed that might or might not affect how I grade the post. It might be something substantial like an entire additional paragraph or something insignificant like fixing a typo. If students were to edit a post, will the discussion redesign now let us know it was edited? Will a previously read post now show up as "unread"? Will we be able to see the original version as well as the new version, so we can see what has changed?

Community Participant

Why can't I reply to the replies here?

I wanted to add to what  said:

< I don't think "Parent" is the correct term to use - ...What about calling them "Threads"?>

I might call them "initial post" 

In fact, I'd suggest that instead of "reply" for the top (parent) level posts (for "reply to discussion topic"), call that "initial post" (or "new thread") so as to better distinguish it from lower level "replies" 


Community Champion

I am reading and grading discussions due last evening. One student replied to the question prompt and that post received six replies. Then those six replies received six additional replies via the quote link.

As structured it is quite challenging to follow the discussion as I cannot clearly see the delineation of who is communicating. When the quote link is used for a reply, when that is posted the first 150 characters of the prior reply are depicted and then the new reply appears below. As you cannot see the full post being replied to, you then have to scroll up on the sidebar to read the full reply so you can then follow the conversation. This takes time.

In addition, the twelve posts do not all load when the sidebar is opened. I am required to click 'Show older replies' to load the first six replies.