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Tips for Students Writing Discussion Posts

snugent
Community Champion
9 5 7,417

The rich content editor is a useful tool in Canvas but often students lose content when they accidentally hit a wrong key that wipes out their almost written post. This can be extremely frustrating for students and those who support them. Update: The new rich content editor is now available and will soon be the default. See upcoming changes to learn more about when it will become the default. Auto-save is part of the new rich content editor. See the March 21, 2020 release notes to learn more. This will greatly improve students' experience using the editor in discussions. Most of the tips below are still relevant with regards to writing and can be helpful for students.  

Use Google Docs

If you have a Google account, start writing your posts in Google Doc. The document will be saved in your Google Drive account regardless if you manually save it. Once you edit the document it will automatically save your changes. This will also be useful as backup should you have technically difficulties posting the reply in the discussion. You could also use the Word web app in OneDrive if you prefer it over Google Docs. 

Once you have finished writing your post in Google Docs select all the text and copy it. Go to the Canvas discussion topic and create a new reply. In the rich content editor place the cursor in the text box and paste the text from your Google Doc. Reformat as necessary. Be sure to click Post Reply when done and check to make sure your reply was posted before leaving the page. View this Canvas guide for details on posting a reply

Use Shortcut Keys

Shortcut keys can save you time. Below are the some shortcut keys you can use in Google Docs or rich content editor. 

Select All Text - CTRL (CMD) + A 

CopyCTRL (CMD) + C

Paste - CTRL (CMD) + V

Undo last command - CTRL (CMD) + Z 

Slow Down to Reduce Errors

Many instructors will impose editing restrictions once you have posted in the discussion topic so take the time to compose your thoughts in a meaningful way while you are writing your post in Google Docs. Remember Google will save all your writing. You can always go back to previous versions of what you wrote in Google Docs. Write a first draft of post. Then step away from your writing and go do something else for a while. Come back to your writing and revise where necessary. Read your post slowly to catch errors in spelling and grammar. View this excellent post by laurakgibbs where she shares her students' writing experiences in her courses.  

Adding Media

In some cases your instructor may require that you post media (video/audio/images) to your discussion. Canvas makes this easy but you may feed intimated by technology. Review these Canvas guides for tips on recording video and audio messages. If you prefer, you can record your audio and video content in another program. Just be sure you can export the content to a web friendly format that you can upload to Canvas. View the guides below for details on some other options you can use to record video content and upload it to Canvas. 

Below are the guides for the new editor. 

If your institution is using the Studio integration, you can also create and upload video content with Studio to embed in discussions. Review the following guides. 

You can also embedding images in discussions. Select the picture icon when you are creating your post in the discussion topic to upload a new image. View the following guide for details on posting images. 

Below is the guide for the new editor. 

Use the Canvas App 

While I wouldn't recommend writing longer discussion replies on your phone, it can be useful for shorter posts. Please note discussion posts with media embeds must be done in the mobile web browser. If you don't already have the Canvas app, view these guides for details on how to download it. 

Below are iOS guides for posting in discussions. 

Below are Android guides for posting in discussions. 

Have Fun and Be Nice

One of the great things about the discussion topics in Canvas is that it allows all students to communicate with each other to share ideas and thoughts about a wide range of topics. In some of your courses you may be discussing difficult topics that may of touched you personally or current events that you have strong opinions about these topics. Remember that your fellow students will also have experiences and opinions about the same topics that may not be the same as yours. Just be respectful of each other views and remember there is a person at the other side of the keyboard.

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