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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 Member

Dear all

Please note that in BLACKBOARD learning platform, this Anonymous discussion forum has been there for many years. I hope that CANVAS developers really need to look at what competitors are offering and supporting.

I strongly support the use of this Anonymous Discussion Forum in Higher Education (University and Adult learning). There will be a SWITICH so that teachers in Primary School and High School (Secondary School) to turn off this Anonymous Discussion because they need to keep the progress of individual students under very close monitoring.



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Community Participant

This features needs to happen quickly. 

Community Participant

Yes, I used Blackboard in 2008 and the anonymous discussion feature was very useful, for all the reasons explained above. I've been using Canvas for 4 years and none of the features added in that time were as useful as this one would be. Disappointing.

Community Member

I was thinking this would be a good idea for my class.  People have been suggesting this for 4 years and no action?  How much are colleges paying for this system?

It's clear that those behind Canvas have no interest in making this a feature, despite the interest put forth by educators.  

If Canvas is this unreceptive to customer suggestions, next steps for those serious about this would be to appeal to decision makers at their institutions and suggest taking their money to a learning management system that might better meet their needs.

Community Member

Harmonize Discussion is an external tool that you can plug in to Canvas and supports anonymous discussions. 

Edu App Center 

Community Member

It looks like there's a fee for this beyond one term, so this wouldn't be a good long term solution for me.  I do appreciate the suggestion.

Honestly, this is something Canvas should support.  How hard would it be?  When a student posts now, there's got to be part of the code on Canvas that says something like

print StudentName


so why not add a checkbox "Enable Anonymous Reply" that functions as a boolean variable and alter the code to say


if !Anonymous {

print StudentName



I can't imagine it'd be much more complex than that.

Community Member

Our faculty use Piazza for anonymous discussions, and while it works, another extraneous external integration isn't exactly the ideal solution.  Not to diminish the value of LTI integrations.  They serve a purpose, but often add unnecessary layers of complexity for faculty and students in the process. 

For something like this, a native solution for this makes much more sense than using yet another LTI which will, ultimately, take students outside of the Canvas environment, defeating the whole point of the LMS.



Community Member

I think anonymous discussion forum is a vital tool for any teacher who believes in social constructive teaching approach; one of the best teaching practices. It would be great if canvas could adopt a feature like this. 

Community Champion

We have Ask the Professor discussion forums that allow students to ask questions. In D2L we could make those discussions anonymous, allowing students to ask questions they might be embarrassed to ask otherwise.

We could also use this to post anonymous writing samples. 

Community Member

Really?  It has been suggested more than 4 years ago, and we still do not have this function?  As a matter of fact, I did not know the existence of this forum until now.  I think we need to spread the words around.  

Community Member

Hi, Tricia, 

I looked for this app you suggested in ELMS, but did not find it.  So I wonder how I can incorporate it. Is it COMPLETELY an external tool to ELMS?

Community Member

I teach public speaking and utilize discussions to do audience analysis for speeches.  When students want to give a speech on a personal topic, this becomes difficult.  For example good speech topics may include safe sex, but to do this you would want to know the sexual habits of the students in the class and I wouldn't want them to feel they have to reveal personal information publicly.  

Community Participant

We currently use Piazza due to the lack of anonymous posting on Canvas discussions.

With the recent changes in Piazza requiring students to register it would be great to see anonymous posting as an option in Discussions. Where possible I would prefer to use out of the box functionality.

Community Member

So this has a huge implication for Special Education Students so instructors can do online discussions while still keeping confidentiality as defined by FERPA. Please change this so I can have discussions with my students. 

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.  I don't know your code, obviously--but as someone with professional programming experience, 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 also don't think your code is likely to be poorly designed, in fact, 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.  This is all speculative on my part, 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.

Community Participant

I just have to add one more comment on this suggestion that I made five years ago, that gets a positive comment every few months, and that has not, I believe every gotten a negative comment, and that I think is obviously a good feature.  I am in the middle of running an in-person course that suddenly had to become an online course because of COVID-19.  In the last few weeks of the semester, we normally discuss readings giving arguments for different views on the morality of abortion.  In a normal semester, I help students understand the arguments in class, and there is discussion involving some of the students.  Not everyone is willing to discuss the ideas, but as long as a student is in class, they get the benefit of hearing other students challenge and discuss the reading.  In this case, I have substituted Canvas discussion for the discussion part of my class meetings.  I require students to participate in discussion in order to get credit for "attendance", because otherwise there would be no way to verify that they were engaged with the discussion at all.  I have been using Canvas discussions for a couple of weeks now, on other topics, and it's not ideal, but it works acceptably, and for some students it has been a very good experience.  Now we are covering moral issues concerning abortion, and some of the students are very uncomfortable.  I have less participation, and two students said in one of the discussion forums that they are uncomfortable saying anything definite because it is a "touchy" subject (their word).  I need anonymous discussion to properly teach this topic online.  That is a real loss, in my opinion.  It doesn't need to be this way, and I am saddened that some of my students will be losing out on a deeper engagement with an interesting topic because Canvas does not support the option of anonymous discussions.  It's not a sufficiently good tool for this purpose.

Community Member

With COVID-19 moving my in-person courses to online adult students were unwilling to ask questions if their name was associated with the post. If online instruction needs to continue for much longer, I desperately need an anonymous way for them to ask questions while in the system. Fine to make it optional, but I would really love a button to click to remove user associated information from posts.

Community Member

Canvas does not care to address. this. They easily could.

I'd work not to use their platform again.

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On Tue, Apr 28, 2020 at 8:11 AM <

Community Member

Harmonize and Instructure are covering how to handle this feature in our upcoming webinar - Taking Online Discussions Beyond the Basics | Webinar  We hope you can join us!

Community Contributor

This is a hugely popular feature request... meaning "something that we would like to see developed in Canvas, the platform that brings us all here together".

That should not need explaining, but frankly, teaming up with a 3rd party (and the inherent financial costs, GDPR/FERPA, and/or procurement implications) to "cover how to handle this feature" is nothing short of a kick in the teeth from Instructure.

For shame.