Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Canvas needs a discussion board where within it students can start their own topics

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

Canvas needs a discussion board where within it students can start their own topics

I teach Earth Sciences and have large class sizes.  Threaded discussions currently in Canvas will not work for what I do for my students participation requirement.  The reason is each "Discussion" in canvas only allows for one question/topic to be posed, and I am the only one posing it.  It doesn't allow for my students to start multiple topics each week as well that then could be easily replied to by anyone in the class.  I read somewhere that students can be given the option to start discussions, but this is not the same as a true discussion board/forum where topics can be chosen by the students, allowing them to truly guide what they are interested in within the Earth Sciences, with me as a moderator and participant.


The image below is from one of my courses last Spring at San Francisco State University.  I usually run one discussion board per module/topic and each board runs for a week.


189765_File Jul 04, 9 45 39 AM.jpegFile Jul 04, 9 45 39 AM.jpeg



Below is the image of the discussion board that becomes visible by clicking on the link "Forum 1 (20 points)" in the image above. You can now see some of the topics my introductory geology students chose to talk about all week that week.  My students started these topics on their own (which they cannot do in Canvas), and when you click on each of those topic links below, you will then see the "threaded discussion" on that topic that my students are guiding and participating in - again, completely on their own (with moderated guidance and participation from me at times).


189767_File Jul 04, 9 53 15 AM.jpegFile Jul 04, 9 53 15 AM.jpeg


There are so many learning benefits for my students (and me also!) from running participation in this way.  I do realize that not all subjects taught would benefit from this format, which may not make this a popular "fix" for some, but Earth Sciences is one of those that do need this approach, and being that this is such a tremendous learning platform that my students have told me time and time again for almost a decade that they enjoy and learn from, I would hate to go backwards in how my students learn simply because my college moved our LMS to Canvas.  This doesn't need to be something everyone is forced to use.  I only ask that it be made an option, so that those who really benefit from this format have the option to use it.


This technically is a request to add a feature.  However, truly, I see this as a feature that is sorely missing and will be a gaping hole in your LMS until it is added.  It may not be that "gaping hole" for some, but I cannot be the only one who sees the real benefit of what I do here for my students in their learning of the earth sciences.  Please fix this so that my community college students can still truly enjoy an open learning environment where they can still communicate asynchronously in a very valuable, open and thoughtful way.  Please do not force my big class sections to be stuck to either one topic per week to discuss, or a discussion thread that is so terribly messy that their enjoyment goes away and their learning goes out the window due to lack of wanting to deal with a chaotic discussion mess.



Lamplighter, was submitted for Community consideration in an earlier voting period, but did not receive a high enough vote total to move forward to the next stage. I don't think it's exactly the same as yours, however, inasmuch as your request is specific to students' ability to start graded sub-topics within a graded discussion (Canvas doesn't have "forums") that a teacher has created. Is that correct?

In any event, since archived ideas that haven't received a comment from the product team can generally be resubmitted for new consideration, and since I wasn't able to find an idea similar to yours that's currently open for voting, I would expect your idea to be moved forward for voting in the coming voting cycle.

In the meantime, to generate support for your new idea, you might want to post a link to it in the comments section of the archived idea and elaborate on the different nuances that accompany yours. Last, I, for one, have used numerous LMSs in the past, but I've never used Moodle, and I suspect many other participants here haven't either--so I suggest that, in order for Canvas voters to be able to gain a clearer understanding of what you're hoping to accomplish with this feature idea, you might want to take out the legacy-LMS nomenclature and replace it with terms with which we here in the Community are familiar.

Community Member

Thanks for the wonderful suggestions above.  I have modified the message above to an audience who may not know how I normally deal with participation in my classroom.  Once the changes are accepted, I'll link to it in the forum you recommend.

Thanks again, Stefanie!

Community Member

This is kind of interesting! I would maybe add that the teacher has the ability to approve the student discussion topic before it has approval to publish.


Thank you for the comprehensive rewrite, I can see this feature being a very useful addition to Canvas Discussions, one that promotes student engagement and, not incidentally, makes it easier for an instructor to manage larger classes.

Community Member

That would be a great idea, as I don't have that option right now in my SF State courses!  I haven't had any issues with students posting anything out of hand in the almost ten years I have run forums this way (as I have had on public boards - too many times), but that doesn't mean it can't happen. 

However, where I see an even a better benefit for this feature is sometimes a student will post something off-topic (like a purely biology post instead of a earth science post) and to prevent that from showing up on the board and confusing other students who see it and believe it's okay, I can do something about it immediately by informing the student of their error so they have the chance to correct and re-post AND no other students see the off-topic post at all.  Right now, I have to catch it after it's posted, and sometimes it's there for hours before I can correct it. 

Thanks for the great suggestion!

Community Member

This idea has moved to the next stage and will be open for voting among the Canvas Community, from Wed. July 6, 2016 - Wed. October 5, 2016.

Check out this doc for additional details about how the voting process works! Smiley Wink

Learner II

One of the things I like best about this idea is that it adds a functionality in Canvas that many faculty are currently seeking outside solutions for. I prefer to keep my students in Canvas for many reasons, and this idea would further expand one of my favorite LMS features - the discussion.


Community Member

I am moving from Blackboard to Canvas and I am disappointed this feature is not already part of Canvas.  They are called threads in Blackboard, and worked very well for guiding discussions.  I often have students summarize or offer analysis of various topics and require students to post a new thread, and then reply to a different thread to encourage discussion.  Please add this feature! It is hugely helpful!


Most of our teachers also want to have better organized Discussions.  Canvas has the threaded discussion option in settings, but there is no Subject line to give new threads a title.  Makes it hard to work with,

From a user perspective, It's also important to use the collapse replies button so you only see a summary of replies to the original discussion posted by the teacher.  Then you can expand just one reply to view its thread.  But the lack of a subject to the thread makes it difficult to find the thread you want to read.  When the replies are collapsed you see the person who wrote the reply and the first words in it which may not be helpful.  Could this view be the default in a threaded forum?

I can see two ways to go, either give every reply to the first post in a discussion a new subject line (when allow threaded replies is set), or else introduce the concept of Forums, a level up from discussions, that organizes multiple discussions into main topics.  We could choose to let students create new discussions  but not new forums.

There must be other ideas out there!  Would be great to have this feature improved.


I have mentioned elsewhere in the Canvas community how much I would support the ability to have subject lines in threaded discussions.  This would also be useful in speedgrader so that I can read student responses for the week and also have an idea about to whom the student was replying.  As is I have to have two monitors to grade discussions. I have the actual discussion on one and speedgrader on the other.  I definitely make use of the Ctrl +F shortcut to locate the student responses.