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Anonymous Discussion Forums

Anonymous Discussion Forums


Instructors can create discussions that allow for posts to be made anonymously


Use Cases:

As an instructor, I want to create discussions in which participation is anonymous. This would free my students to share their thoughts without worrying about judgement / criticism by their peers or me. They'd take risks they might not otherwise.

transferred from the old Community

Originally posted by: Lynn McCarty
Thank you especially for contributions by: Rob Ditto, Allison Pyle, Renee Carney, Robert Jones

Community Team
Community Team

The Radar idea stage has been removed from the Feature Idea Process.  You can read more about why in the blog post Adaptation: Feature Idea Process Changes.


This change will only impact the stage sort of this idea and will not change how it is voted on or how it is considered during prioritization activities.  This change will streamline the list of ideas 'open for voting', making it easier for you to see the true top voted ideas in one sort, here.

Community Participant

I find it a bit mind boggling that such a simple and straightforward feature has not been implemented.  As a result, I am forced to use a third party discussion board.

Community Contributor

Saddened that three years of positive voting and comments has yielded nothing. Indeed, please implement this.

Community Member

This would be a useful feature. At my school professors are split between email and canvas discussions. People tend to choose email when they are worried about asking a "stupid question". Anonymous discussions would help resolve this. 

Community Member

An anonymous posting feature would help in the classroom significantly.  In elective classrooms where students skill levels very from special needs to IB / AP accelerated learners I am hesitant to create forums where students might be hesitant to post due to comparison.  I can create groups for students of like skill/ language level/ mastery to comment in, but that limits peer teaching.  It would be helpful to have feature which allowed me to see the comments and replies in the speed grader format so that proper assessment of understandings can take place with out student/ peer fears of posting.

Community Participant

It's great that this feature has been on the "radar" for the last two years.  However, I find myself frustrated.  There are three or four reasons for feeling frustrated.   The first reason is Canvas is an educational tool, so I feel that the team should be thinking about pedagogy before the users even complain.  An anonymous discussion option just seems obviously useful.  The second is a point I've expressed elsewhere before:  Whether a feature is eventually added should not depend on a scientifically invalid survey method (voting in this forum) which requires too much effort from busy users.  I know that the forum is not the only method that you use for gauging the validity of a  modification, but it's the only method of communication that we are given.  (For example, help desk personnel refuse to take suggestions and pass them on.)  The third reason is that I think that apart from the obvious usefulness of anonymous forums, to the extent that the proposal's value is gauged by what happens in this forum, the rationale for allowing anonymous forums has been and continues to be clear, not only because of the number of votes and comments, but because some of the uses described in some of the comments.  The fourth reason for frustration is a bit different. I understand that you have a lot of requests for changes, and that you have other changes you might want to make, and that Canvas is a complicated software product.  Because it's complicated, you have to be careful about making changes so that you don't inadvertently introduce a new problem.  I don't know your code, obviously--but I do have professional programming experience.  It seems to me that if the code was designed well in the first place, I don't see why adding anonymity to forums would require an inordinate amount of work.  It might not be trivial, but I wouldn't think it would be that hard.  I don't think your code is likely to be poorly designed, either, because given the complexity of what the product does, it's likely that would have had serious problems over and over again in the past if it were.  I'm not aware of such problems!  So I think the code is well designed.  This is all speculative on my part, obviously but if I'm right, the point is this: If a feature is clearly a good thing to add, and it's not that hard to add, it seems like it should be an easy decision to prioritize it.  Thanks. -Marshall

Community Member

Let me just add some comments on why this would be very valuable indeed to my own courses -- including face-to-face courses that have a Canvas site as additional support.

Even at a school with undergraduates who have exceptional background knowledge and skills, there is one area in which many, many students are extremely weak, namely, writing skills. In my experience, one of the best things one can do to improve student writing is to force them to do frequent writing that isn't itself graded (so, the stakes are low) but where their writing may be presented (in an anonymous form) to the entire class for critical review. I do this with or without Canvas, but the logistics of this would be greatly eased if anonymous posting were enabled. Just imagine requiring all students to write a response to a prompt that is then posted anonymously on one of those forums and then the instructor can select some for such critical examination in view of the entire class -- whether that critical examination is in person with the posts projected on the screen for everyone to see or that examination is done online with the instructor commenting (perhaps in writing, perhaps in audio recording) for all to see. Getting the other students in on the act is wonderful if you can get them to do it. So long as the instructor can track who actually posted what, that would be a fantastic tool.

I know nothing about the practicalities of site design, but I find it hard to believe that there couldn't be some relatively straightforward way to enable this feature. Maybe posting requires an associated name? Well, then let students be assigned pseudonyms for each post; surely some function can auto-generate such fake names for each student for each assigned discussion board.

Anyway, I think the considerable benefits of this feature make it imperative that it be developed. So we should keep pestering the Canvas Powers That Be.

Community Participant

My university would really enjoy this for discussion reflections.

Community Member

Yes! This!  I've been using Padlet for this purpose, but it would save time and energy to have this great feature of anonymity directly in Canvas (without having to embed)!  Anonymity allows students to ask "embarrassing" questions without shame!  

Community Champion

galit.stam‌ - Great idea about embedding a Padlet!  I still wish the anonymous discussion option was available.

Community Member

Great idea so that students can use their voice to express themselves about a topic even though they may be nervous about being correct or not. It would have to have a feature though where the teacher could see who is posting in case of misuse. 

Community Participant

Since we've been waiting so many years for this feature, I suggest to keep it simple and not let the teacher see who's posting even if there were misuse. If the misuse were serious e.g., harassment, the institution's IT department could trace the post's IP addresses; if it were not serious, it wouldn't matter.

When I had another LMS years ago that enabled anonymous posts, it was good that students could vent like "wow I hated today's lecture" with impunity ---not that they often posted that Smiley Happy

Community Member

I am quite surprised that this feature is not in the platform yet. 

Community Member

I am trying to get my faculty to the discussion boards in online and blended courses more often. This task would be easier if they had the option to make some discussion posts anonymous. Any chance this idea is finally going to be considered?

Community Member

I believe it is imperative to have anonymous submission in the discussion groups.  Please incorporate this simple feature ASAP.  

Community Participant

Currently the main reason for using Piazza is due to the anonymous posting option (students do not want to ask 'dumb' questions).

When can this be included as part of Canvas Discussions so it works natively within Canvas?

If there could be an option to allow anonymous posts enabled at Course Level it would give Teachers the option to use this for their class.

Community Member

Students are reluctant to post questions with name attached - fear of being judged i think?

Community Member

So long as the contributor's identity is only available to the instructor for assessment purposes, I am all-in on this idea. I teach political science and in this highly charged discipline where students are concerned about the potential for ridicule, it would allow for a freer exchange of ideas and opinions.

Community Participant

I think it would be more beneficial to encouraging participation if even the instructor could not see the poster's identity in the forum being discussed. There are already enough ways to assess students.

Community Participant

Because of FERPA laws this is a necessity

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In the Canvas Community Ideas space, you can share, converse, and rate idea conversations related to software improvements to Canvas products.