Add more distinction between discussion forum posts to distinguish them from each other.

(7)
It would be very helpful if discussion forum posts could be darker around the edges to show a distinction of the post as well as the reply to a post being more indented.  It would also be helpful if there was more space between the replies, because it can be difficult for users to separate the discussions in their mind to know which post they are in fact responding to.  A student mentioned having a hard time separating out which post is separated, and I can see how it could be hard for someone with eye problems as well.  If students could "name" their reply to the original post that would be great, as a way to mimic the thread style forums.

 

Thanks for your consideration!

🔎 This idea has been archived. While this idea isn't open for comments, it is an important part of Instructure’s idea conversations and development process. Contributions like this are valuable as Instructure prioritizes work on new or existing features.

86 Comments
amcc
New Member

Yes this is definitely needed. Many students reply to the last post when what they really intend (and what I want) is to start a new thread. See also: https://community.canvaslms.com/ideas/11499-make-discussions-navigation-tools-always-available?sr=se...

otterom
New Member

I would append this by allowing collapse and expand features for discussion forums.  At the grad level, discussions are an essential part of coursework and having to navigate a multitude of lengthy posts can become taxing, particularly when participating in group discussions and multiple courses.

But, overall, allowing different color schemes would be helpful.  The little blue dot used to indicate read/unread posts is pretty useful, but highlighting an entire unread comment in dark gray or something would make it easier to distinguish.

Basically, the discussion forums have a lot of room for improvement.  Not to say they're horrible now, because they definitely function well, but some basic features would make them leagues better.

amcc
New Member

Actually this functionality already exists, but the expand/collapse button is only accessible at the top pane of the discussion. I have previously suggested making discussion tools always visible, and allowing users to set the default expand/collapse state of discussions. Check it out:https://community.canvaslms.com/ideas/11500-allow-users-to-set-the-default-collapseexpand-state-of-d...

kfairbanks
Community Member

More differentiation between initial posts and replies is still needed. I would also suggest highlighting instructor replies to make it easier for instructors to track their replies and not miss any posts unintentionally.

pfau
Community Member

I'm absolutely distraught that so many years have passed (since 2015 at least) and there has been no improvement in the readability of the discussion board. It's the absolutely worst discussion board layout that I've ever seen in my 35 years of using discussion boards. Canvas should be ashamed of forcing such a horrible format on their users. 

johsarjl
New Member

I share this perspective!!! There are several things I like about Canvas, but the whole discussion infrastructure is a MESS! It is 2019 and there are more robust tools on social media everywhere!  There needs to be better differentiation of replies on threads, there needs to be subject line, there needs to be an option for a tree or grid view, there needs to be an ability to @ people, to get a notification specifically when someone has replied to something you have posted, to be able to tag or hashtag posts with key words, to be able to "flag" a post in some way so that if I want to read everything in the discussion and know that later I want to go back to reply to 3 posts, I can find my way back, there should be better options for sorting and collapsing posts (hence why a grid or tree view post would be helpful). 

I teach a graduate course where the discussion used to be the lifeblood of the course.  We are 1 week in on this new platform and it is simply awful, to be perfectly frank.

I like my pedagogical approach and technology is supposed to be a tool, not drive the pedagogy, but the tools to support the pedagogy just are not there.  Having poked around on this idea page, I notice the discussion framework on this page has several of the ideas I just mentioned (except the grid/tree view option or subject line) - so there must be some developed infrastructure or at a minimum appreciation for the value of these features.  How can we change this?  I was at a faculty retreat and practically every person said they really liked Canvas but the discussion tool had significant limitations.

I'm pretty sure my students would happily sign a petition to beg for better discussion navigation features if I offered them the chance.  Can students log in to this site an upvote ideas along with faculty? The fact that many of the discussion-related threads I've seen here are years old with little change seen is seriously depressing Smiley Sad Should I start a new idea thread that includes a suggestion for a complete discussion tool overhaul rather than separate one-at-a-time feature ideas? 

James
Community Champion

 @johsarjl , 

Yes, students can vote. In some cases, hearing from students has more impact than what teachers have to say.

No, you should not start a new idea thread. As this one is in the top 10%, a new one would get redirected to this one and archived. Kitchen-sink requests are similarly archived as it becomes difficult for people to vote for it (a person may favor three of the four things but really not want the fourth one). See How do I create a new feature idea in the Canvas Community?  for more information.

I will add that when I visited Instructure headquarters in April 2017, they were looking at totally reworking communications. That included discussions, conversations, submission comments, and probably some other things. They have a some other major projects going on (Quizzes.Next has been underway for more years than I want to think about) that they will want to get some of those done before they tackle more. If you have too many big things, then nothing gets accomplished. If you're looking to redo discussions as part of a major overhaul, you don't want to spend resources tweaking it now. 

You can see a list of the major projects that are in the works by going to the Canvas Studio and scrollling down a little. Even though a communications reworking may not be on the list, that doesn't mean that Canvas isn't thinking about the best way to handle it.

kona
Coach Emeritus

I’ve heard that Assignments is next on their list - Priority: Assignments 2.0‌ and then after that it will be on to discussions! I’m super excited for discussions to get some love and attention! 🙂

lewisale
Community Champion

Hi  @pfau ‌ and  @johsarjl , I wanted to mention the Canvas Admin at my University was able to create a workaround where our discussion forums now have more distinction.  I am not sure what specific coding they used, but the overall appearance of the discussion forums look similar to  some coding shared by Ephraim Ross on May 25, 2016 on this page.  Your Canvas Admins may be open and willing to implementing these enhancements.

lewisale
Community Champion

Hi  @kfairbanks ‌, I like your suggestion of ways to highlight Instructor replies.  I see comments within discussions in the Canvas community where there are icons that are included by the names of posters.  I wonder if there is a workaround someone has created to add icons next to our names as Instructors, similar to how there are icons next to posters in the Canvas Community discussions.

latunya_carr
New Member

Adding the "indent reply" feature to an original post can add distinction in the discussion forum.  

aroyal9
Community Participant

Yes, being able to name replies (like we could in BB) would be tremendously helpful, especially if there are lots of posts and responses.  Additionally, the ability to name replies is critical if the instructor doesn't allow students to edit or delete their own posts and replies.  I took online graduate level math courses that were set up that way (ridiculously locked down), and it was the most horrible experience being required to do discussion boards with equations, mistakes, and corrections spread all over the place.  The insanity went up exponentially whenever someone accidentally posted "problem number 5" in the similarly-named thread for "problem number 3" and the mistake couldn't be undone (and created a torrent of attempted corrections and apologies that everyone had to read through).

Gwinn

jsee
New Member

Yes, subject headings for top level discussion replies would make the tool much more useful and align with other LMS discussion forum features.

hwalder
New Member

Given the huge transition to online learning in Spring 2020, I hope that Canvas is prioritizing the much needed improvements to the discussion boards (more distinct original forum posts, subject lines, clearer threading). Is there any hope of updates before fall?

richard-jerz
Community Contributor

Heather, it's been a while since I provided my thoughts on this issue because as you can probably seem, this feature request is approaching 5 years old.  But your post has made me want to say a few more encouraging words.

If you look at this discussion tool in this Canvas Community, it presents threaded posts much better than the Canvas product.  Still not the best (white against very light grey) but better than what the Canvas product provides.  I don't see why this need for improvement is not obvious to the Canvas/Instructure folks. And I agree, that as many schools have had to move to online instruction, and "discussions" are extremely important to education, that the priority of this feature request should be very high.  There is even some parallel discussion in another topic, Indenting discussion replies, which began nearly 4 years ago.  Around four months ago, my university's lead Canvas admin mentioned that improving discussions was going to be the top project for Unizen to try to push.  But that was around four months ago and I have not heard anything more.

So even if this feature is not here, yet, it would be nice if some could at least give us an update.

johsarjl
New Member

I'm going to jump on to echo Rick's comments, in today's environment this is more important than ever before.  I agree that the design of the discussion tool here would at least be a step in the right direction-both in terms of the visual aspects and the ability to @ and # items could be a workaround to helping students/instructors to sort/find/follow various thread chains within a single discussion. This tool here is BETTER but still lacking in what a true discussion overhaul should include.

I've been hearing from our instructional designers for a couple years, that Discussion Tool improvements are "in the works" from Canvas, and would love to hear an update as to whether this is true (and would love to serve in a focus group to make suggestions/give feedback if there is!).

richard-jerz
Community Contributor

For instructors at my school who want something better, my instructional designers recommend third party products, such as Piazza.  But why should we have to keep going outside of Canvas for recognized functionality?  And how about adding emojis to the editor for discussions.  This is important for expressing "emotion."  Well, that has been on the list for a while, too.

japhill
New Member

I just cannot understand why there is such resistance from Instructure to improve this feature. We use it heavily and it's one of the main features we miss from Bb. Using third party products didn't work for us, and I agree that we shouldn't have to go outside Canvas.

richard-jerz
Community Contributor

Yes, Julia, I understand.  I too used BB (wow, maybe 15 years ago) and even that old BB's discussion tool was better than what we have in the current Canvas.  I also used D2L, which was better.  And the best of the major LMSs is Moodle.  I seem to recall that there is a way to incorporate Moodle components as an LTI into other LMSs.  Maybe Canvas should do something like that, meaning incorporate Moodle components, since Moodle is open-source (free!).  This is kind of what I think my school is doing with Piazza.  Or maybe as a stepping stone, they should incorporate whatever product they are using in the Canvas Community!  (But of course, using the Canvas forum tool here, for the Canvas Community, would be a disaster.)

It would seem to me that Canvas, being relatively new, would have looked at all the other software product's discussion tools and would have said "Let's build ours using the best features from all these other products" and would have offered a superior tool, instead of an inferior tool.

Perhaps our comment can reopen this idea to have a better discussion tool.

hwalder
New Member

Hoping that all the recent activity on this very old thread can draw some attention to the idea.  But given that the last contact from any admin on this page seems to be in 2018, it feels a bit like screaming into the void.