1. Adding Forums
    1. General Settings
    2. Subscription and Tracking Settings
    3. Navigating to a Forum
    4. Tracking Forum Discussion Posts
    5. Subscribing to a Forum or Discussion Thread
    6. Setting up a Graded Forum
    7. Pinning a Discussion
    8. Locking a Discussion
  2. Posting to a Forum
    1. Embedding Media into Discussion Posts
    2. To embed media from MediaSpace using the text editor
    3. To embed videos from Youtube using the text editor
  3. Grading Forum Posts
    1. Grading using Whole Forum Grading
    2. Grading using Ratings
    3. To Search for a Student’s Post(s)
    4. Forum Display Options
    5. Moving Discussion Posts
  4. Facilitating Effective Online Discussions
  5. FAQ

The Forum activity allows instructors, TAs and students to communicate in discussion threads.  Forums can be set up for students to discuss course content in separate topic sections or discussion groups. Course members can subscribe to a discussion topic to receive an emailed copy of discussion posts. Files such as images or audio/video can also be embedded into discussion posts.

→Tips for facilitating online discussions

Adding Forums

  1. Log in to cuLearn using your MyCarletonOne credentials.
  2. Click on your course link.
  3. Navigate to the week or topic section in which you’d like to add a Forum.
  4. In the Add an activity drop-down menu, select Forum
    • NOTE: If you are unable to see the Add an Activity menu, your course editing may be turned off. To turn on course editing, click the settings gear on the top-right side of your course page, and select Turn editing on from the drop-down menu.
  5. On the Adding a new Forum page, customize your Forum settings under the General and Subscription and Tracking categories:

General Settings

  1. Provide a Forum Name.
    • NOTE: Checking the Display description on course page box (below the Description) will display the Forum’s description on your course homepage just below the Forum link.Enter the Description of the forum (optional). This description will be displayed at the top of the forum.
  2. Choose a Forum type:
      •  Standard forum for general use allows for the “standard” usage of a discussion forum with multiple topics arranged in a threaded conversation. Students may start new topics in this format.
      • Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format allows for the “standard” usage of a discussion forum with multiple topics arranged in a “blog’ style format with the first post prominent and comments behind a link. Students may start new topics in this format.
      • Single simple discussion allows for only one topic started by the instructor. This is best suited for short-term, focused conversations.
      • Each person posts one discussion allows each student to only start one new topic or conversation within the forum. Students are not limited in the number of replies they can post within those topics.
      • Q and A forum allows an instructor to pose a question to students. Students must post their response  before they can view other students’ responses.

Subscription and Tracking Settings

When a student is subscribed to a forum it means they will receive forum posts in their Carleton email inbox.

  1. You may set the Subscription mode for your forum to be one of:
    • Optional subscription (default) – Participants can choose whether to be subscribed
    • Forced subscription – Everyone is subscribed and cannot unsubscribe (everyone will receive email notifications when Forum posts are made).
    • Auto subscription – Everyone is subscribed initially but can choose to unsubscribe at any time
    • Subscription disabled – Subscriptions are not allowed (no one will receive email notifications when Forum posts are made).
  1. Enabling Read tracking for this forum allows students to track read and unread messages in the forum and in discussions.  The default is Optional (participants can choose whether to turn tracking off or on); you can always switch this option to Off.
  2. Click Save and Display (otherwise your changes will be lost).

Other notable settings include:

  • Post Threshold for Blocking: Blocking students from posting more than a given number of posts in a given time period; this can prevent individuals from dominating discussions.
  • Ratings: Forum posts can be rated by teachers or students (peer evaluation). Ratings can be aggregated to form a final grade which is recorded in the gradebook.
  • Attachments: By default, students can upload multiple attachments (up to 9 at once) to forum posts. There’s rarely any need to modify these default settings, but you can do so under Attachments and Word Count.  You may set the Maximum number of attachments and .  Word count (“Off” by default) simply displays the number of words in a particular post, which might be useful if you are using the forums for reading responses or similar assignments.
  • Discussion Locking: Forums are unlocked by default, but can be set to automatically lock after a specified period of inactivity.

Navigating to a Forum

Once you have added a forum to your course, you can access your forum by clicking on the forum link on your main course page, or by clicking on the forum link in the Activities block on the right side of your course page.

Example of a forum link on a cuLearn course page:

Example of forum link in the activities block:

Tracking Forum Discussion Posts

You can keep track of new discussion posts in your forums using the read tracking setting.  When read tracking is turned on, the number of unread discussion posts will be highlighted below the forum link on your main course page, as well as within your forum. You have the option to enable read tracking for all course forums in your cuLearn account settings, or you can enable read tracking for a specific forum in your course. In your forum Subscription and Tracking settings, you can control whether read tracking is automatically enabled/disabled for your students, or you can give your students the option to enable/disable read tracking for your course forums.

Example of a forum with read tracking turned on:

To enable read tracking for all course forums:

  1. Log in to cuLearn using your MyCarletonOne credentials.
  2. Click on your course link.
  3. Click on your name in the top-right corner of your course page
  4. In the drop-down menu, select Preferences.  You will be taken to the Preferences page for your cuLearn account.                                                                                                           
  5. Under User account, click Forum Preferences.                             
  6. Under Forum tracking, select Yes: highlight new posts for me in the drop-down menu.
  7. Click Save Changes.

To enable read tracking for a specific forum:

  1. Log in to cuLearn using your MyCarletonOne credentials.
  2. Click on your course link.
  3. Navigate to a Forum and enable read tracking in one of the following ways:
    • Click the forum link on your main course page (see the forum link example above). You will automatically be taken to the forum page. In the settings gear drop-down menu on the top-right side of the forum page, select track unread posts (see image below).               
    • In the Activities block on the right side of your course page, click Forums (see the activities block example above). You will be taken to a page that provides an overview of your course forums. In theTrack column, click the No button turn on read tracking. The button will automatically toggle to Yes and the number of unread posts will be highlighted under the Unread posts column.

Subscribing to a Forum or Discussion Thread

You can subscribe to a forum, or to a discussion within a forum, to receive email notifications when posts are added to the forum/discussion. In your cuLearn account settings, you also have the option to auto-subscribe to all forum discussions you participate in.  An example of a forum that would be useful to subscribe to is a Q&A forum where you will be replying to students regularly, such as an “Ask the Instructor” forum.

To Subscribe to a Forum:

  1. Log in to cuLearn using your MyCarletonOne credentials.
  2. Click on your course link.
  3. Navigate to the forum you want to subscribe to and subscribe in one of the following ways:
    • Click the forum link on your main course page (see the forum link example above). You will be automatically taken to the forum page. In the settings gear drop-down menu on the top-right side of the forum page, select Subscribe to this forum (see image below).                   
    • In the Activities block on the right side of your course page, click Forums (see the activities block example above). You will be taken to a page that provides an overview of your course forums. In the Subscribed column, click the No button to toggle to Yes.

To Subscribe to a Discussion:

  1. Log in to cuLearn using your MyCarletonOne credentials.
  2. Click on your course link.
  3. Navigate to a Forum by clicking on the forum link on your main course page (see the forum link example above), or by clicking on Forums in the Activities block on the right side of your course page (see the activities block example above)
  4. Subscribe to a discussion in one of the following ways:
    • To subscribe from your main forum page:
      • Click the grey toggle button to the right of a discussion thread. The button will turn blue to indicate that you are subscribed to that discussion. 
    • To subscribe from within a discussion thread:
      • Click on a discussion thread on your main forum page.
      • Click on the blue subscribe link on the top-right side of the discussion page (see image below). The blue subscribe link will now appear as a subscribed link.
    • To subscribe while replying to a discussion post:
      • Click on a Discussion thread on your main forum page and navigate to the discussion post you want to reply to.
      • On the lower-right side of the post, click Reply.
      • UnderYour reply, click the Discussion subscription checkbox below your message to subscribe to the discussion you are replying to.

To auto-subscribe to forum discussions:

  1. Log in to cuLearn using your MyCarletonOne credentials.
  2. Click on your course link.
  3. Click on your name in the top-right corner of your course page
  4. In the drop-down menu, select Preferences.  You will be taken to the Preferences page for your cuLearn account.                                                                                                           
  5. Under User account, click Forum Preferences.                             
  6. Under Forum preferences, click on the Forum auto-subscribe drop-down menu and select  Yes: when I post, subscribe me to that discussion forum.
  7. Click Save Changes.

Setting up a Graded Forum

You can set up a graded forum using Whole Forum Grading or Ratings.

  • Whole Forum Grading – Grade discussions using a forum grading interface that displays all discussion posts on a single page. You can search for a student’s name to review all of their posts before assigning a grade (see example below). Whole Forum Grading allows you to provide one holistic grade for forum participation or engagement.
  • Ratings – Grade discussions by assigning ratings to student posts. Ratings are assigned to individual posts within the forum activity and cannot be accessed through the Whole Forum Grading interface (see example below).

To set up Whole Forum Grading:

  1. Log in to cuLearn using your MyCarletonOne credentials.
  2. Click on your course link.
  3. From your course page, click on a forum you have already created, or add a new forum
  4. Click on the blue settings gear on the top-right side of page.
  5. In the drop-down menu, select Edit settings.
  6. Scroll down to Whole Forum Grading and select one of the following grade type options from the type drop-down menu:
    • Scale – If selected, you will need to choose a scale (5 star rating, Letter Grade, Pass/Fail, etc.) from the drop-down menu.
    • Point – If selected, you will need to enter a maximum grade for the forum (100 is the default).
  7. Customize the following optional grade settings:
    • Grading method – Select a grading method from the drop-down menu. Simple Direct Grading is selected by default, but you can also choose to grade using a Rubric or Marking guide.
    • Grade category – If you have set up categories in your gradebook, you can select the category in which the forum grades will be placed in the gradebook.
    • Grade to pass – Enter the minimum grade required to pass the forum assessment.
    • Default setting for “Notify Students” – Select whether or not you want your students to be notified when forum grades are entered in the grade book.
  8. Click Save and return to course or Save and display.

To set up Ratings:

  1. Log in to cuLearn using your MyCarletonOne credentials.
  2. Click on your course link.
  3. From your course page, click on a forum you have already created, or add a new forum
  4. Click on the blue settings gear on the top-right side of page.
  5. In the drop-down menu, select Edit settings.
  6. Scroll down to Ratings, and select an aggregate type from the drop-down menu (See screenshot below). The aggregate type defines how ratings are combined to form the final grade in the gradebook.  Choose from one of the following options:
    • Average of ratings – The mean of all ratings.
    • Count of ratings – The number of rated items becomes the final grade.
      NOTE: The total cannot exceed the maximum grade for the activity.
    • Maximum – The highest rating becomes the final grade.
    • Minimum – The smallest rating becomes the final grade.
    • Sum – All ratings are added together.
      NOTE: The total cannot exceed the maximum grade for the activity.

  7. Select one of the following grading types from the type drop-down menu:
    • Scale – If selected, you will need to choose a scale (5 star rating, Letter Grade, Pass/Fail, etc.) from the drop-down menu.
    • Point – If selected, you will need to enter a maximum grade for the forum (100 is the default).     
  8. Click Save and return to course or Save and display.

Pinning a Discussion

You can ‘pin’ a post so that it appears at the top of the discussion thread list.  A pinned discussion will have a black pin icon next to the discussion name (see example below).                                                     

You can pin a discussion in the following ways:

  • When adding a new discussion, you can select the pinned option below the attachment upload area.                                                                                                                                                                   
  • To pin an existing discussion: Click on the discussion thread, then select the grey Pin button
NOTE: If you later de-select the checkbox to ‘unpin’ it, it will display as a regular forum discussion that moves down the list when others are posted.

Locking a Discussion

You can lock a discussion thread so that students can no longer post replies. A locked discussion will have a red “locked” notice below the discussion name (see example below).

To lock a discussion:

  1. Log in to cuLearn using your MyCarletonOne credentials.
  2. Click on your course link.
  3. Navigate to a Forum by clicking on the forum link on your main course page (see the forum link example above), or by clicking on Forums in the Activities block on the right side of your course page (see the activities block example above)
  4. Click the three dots to the right of the discussion thread you wish to lock. 
  5. In the drop-down menu, select Lock this discussion.                                         
NOTE: You can unlock a discussion by clicking on the three dots and selecting “unlock this discussion”.

Posting to a Forum

To post to a forum, you can add a new discussion topic or reply to an existing post. As an instructor, you also have the option to reply privately to a student’s discussion post.

To add a new discussion topic:

  1. Log in to cuLearn using your MyCarletonOne credentials.
  2. Click on your course link.
  3. Click on the Forum name on your course page.
  4. Click Add a new discussion topic.                                                                               
  5. Under Your new discussion topic, enter a subject and message for your discussion topic. 
  6. You have the option to attach any related files to your post in the Attachment area.  You can attach a file in two ways:
    • Drag and drop your file into the designated area (see screenshot below). 
    • Upload your file by clicking the add file button (paper icon)  
  7. Click Post to forum.

Your discussion topic will now be listed on your main forum page (see screenshot below). 

To reply to a discussion post:

  1. Click on the Forum name on your course page.
  2. Click on a Discussion thread and navigate to the discussion post you want to reply to.
  3. On the lower-right side of the post, click Reply.             
  4. Type your reply in the Write your reply… text box (see screenshot below).
  5. You have the option to embed media or attach related files to your reply by clicking Advanced.  You can attach a file in the Attachment section in two ways:
    • Drag and drop your file into the designated area (see screenshot below). 
    • Upload your file by clicking the add file button (paper icon)  
  6. Click Submit or Post to forum.

Your reply will now appear under the discussion post you responded to.

To reply privately to a discussion post:

  1. Follow steps 1-4 above.
  2. Select the reply privately checkbox below the text area. 
    NOTE: Only instructors can send private replies. Students can view your private replies but do not have the option to respond.
  3. You have the option to embed media or attach related files to your reply by clicking the blue Advanced link below the text area.  You can attach a file in the Attachment section in two ways:
    • Drag and drop your file into the designated area (see screenshot below). 
    • Upload your file by clicking the add file button (paper icon)  
  4. Click Submit or Post to Forum.

Your reply will now appear under the discussion post you responded to with the message “This is a private reply. It is not visible to other participants.”

Embedding Media into Discussion Posts

When adding a new discussion topic or replying to a discussion post, you can embed media files into your post through the text editor toolbar. When replying to discussion posts, click the blue Advanced link to access the text editor.

An example of a cuLearn text editor:

Grading Forum Posts

Grading using Whole Forum Grading

  1. Set up a graded forum with Whole Forum Grading
  2. On your main course page, click on the forum.
  3. Click the grey Grade Users button below your forum name. 
  4. You will automatically be taken to the Forum grading interface within cuLearn. The interface displays all of the posts/replies for a specific student on the left-hand side of the screen.  On the right-hand side is the grader panel where you can enter a grade and navigate to a particular student.
    NOTE: If you see “NO POSTS” in the left-hand side of the screen, this means that there were no posts made by the particular student whose grading page you are currently viewing. When you launch the forum grading interface you will automatically be taken to a grading page for a specific student.  You can navigate to a another student’s posts using the arrow buttons or the search button.

  5. TIP: You can click View discussion or View parent post to open the discussion thread or parent post in a new window.
  6. Enter a grade in the Grade field on the right-hand side of the screen.  If you have set up your forum to be graded using a rubric, you will see your rubric displayed in the grader panel.
  7. Click the blue Save button in the top menu. 
  8. You will see a “grade saved” confirmation message at the top of your screen.   

Your forum grades will automatically be recorded in a “Whole Forum grade” forum column in your gradebook. 

Navigating to a student’s posts in Whole Forum Grading

You can navigate to a particular student in two ways:

  • Use the arrow buttons to navigate between the grading pages for each student
  • Use the search button to search for a student’s name

Grading using Ratings

  1. Set up a graded forum with Ratings
  2. On your main course page, click on the forum.
  3. Click on a student’s post in a discussion thread or search for a student’s post using the search field on the top-right side of the forum page.
  4. In the Rate… drop-down menu below the post, select your rating for the post.
    NOTE: You will see the aggregate type you selected in your forum settings next to the drop-down menu.  Once you have selected a rating, it will automatically be shown next to the aggregate type, along with the number of instructors/TAs who have rated the post in parentheses (see screenshot below).

Your forum ratings will automatically be recorded in a “Rating Grade” forum column in your gradebook. 

To Search for a Student’s Post(s)

  1. On your main course page, click on the forum.
  2. On the top-right side of the page, click search forums to access the advanced search page.   
  3. In the Choose which forums to search drop-down menu, select the forum you want to grade.   
  4. In the This name should match the author field, type the name of the student you want to grade.
  5. Click Search Forum.

Forum Display Options

You can customize how replies are displayed in your forum using the display replies drop-down menu at the top of each discussion thread.

To change your forum display type:

  1. Log in to cuLearn using your MyCarletonOne credentials.
  2. Click on your course link.
  3. Click on the Forum name on your course page.
  4. Click on a Discussion topic. (See example of discussion topics listed under the Discussion heading below)
  5. At the top of your discussion page, click on the Display replies drop-down menu and select one of the following display types:
  • Display replies flat, with oldest first – The discussion will be displayed on one line in chronological order from the oldest to the newest (See an example of the oldest reply displayed first below).
  • Display replies flat, with newest first – The discussion will be displayed on one line in chronological order from the newest to the oldest. (In the example below you’ll see the same forum as the example above, but with the newest reply displayed first)
  • Display replies in threaded form – The post that starts the discussion will be displayed in its full form and replies will be organized chronologically below the original post as headline links (including information about the post author and date). Replies will be shifted to the right so that only replies to the same post are on the same line (See example of threaded form replies below)
  • Display replies in nested form – All posts are displayed in their full forms and replies will be organized chronologically below the original post. Replies will be shifted to the right so that only replies to the same post are on the same line (See example of nested form replies below).

Once you have selected a display option, the discussion posts will automatically reorganize accordingly.

Moving Discussion Posts

You have the option to move discussion posts to different forum in the course.

To move a discussion:

  1. Log in to cuLearn using your MyCarletonOne credentials.
  2. Click on your course link.
  3. Click on your forum name on your course page.
  4. Click on a discussion topic (See example of discussion topics listed under the Discussion heading below).
  5. Click on the the ‘Move this discussion to…’ drop-down menu in the top right corner of the page and select a forum name.                                                       
  6. Click the grey Move button to the right of the drop-down menu.
NOTE: Moving a forum post will display incorrect results in the course participation report for the affected forums. For example, take a student who posted in forum A and had their post moved to forum B. In the course participation report the student will still be listed as having made a post in forum A, but will not be listed as having made a post yet in forum B.
NOTE: Discussion subscriptions are retained when a post is moved.

Facilitating Effective Online Discussions

  • Acknowledge first responses right away. Your first goal is to create an online learning community. As with most social interactions, first impressions are very important.
  • Foster a warm environment. You may need to help students feel relaxed. Use students’ names. Be outgoing, positive and visible. Encourage an informal, conversational style, stimulate a bit of social chit-chat to help build relationships.
  • Respond to comments that have not received a response. Help move the discussion along with questions for other students to consider and ensure that all contributions are validated. Nobody likes to be left hanging.
  • Model how to be a productive participant. Group members look to you to set the tone, style, frequency and depth of discussion. Be the first to post and say something provocative, or ask a probing question to get the ball rolling.
  • Model how to give feedback. Critiques of postings should say something positive first and end with suggestions for further thought.
  • Be present. A strong leader is checking in and making postings at least 2-3 times each week. But try not to dominate; let the group have a voice, too.
  • Encourage students to respond to each other. Watch for emerging patterns in discussions and stimulate debate, offer ideas, connect different students’ ideas, and point out contrasts.
  • Ask probing questions:
    • How are you defining the term….?
    • What reasons/evidence is there for that point?
    • Why do you agree/disagree with that point?
    • Could you clarify your comment?
    • What alternatives are there to your idea?
    • If you were to take the other side of the argument, what evidence might you raise?
    • If you were [name an influential figure discussed in class] what might you say?
  • Encourage reluctant participants. Find out what the problem is (e.g. technical issues, lack of interest or lack of confidence). Praise any efforts made and show them they are not anonymous. If lack of confidence is the issue, engage in a private email exchange about the topic until they make a comment that you can encourage them to post in the discussion. This takes time and effort – feel free to involve a TA in this process.
  • Focus dominant participants’ energy. Recognize the outstanding contributions and enthusiasm of vocal participants. Ask them to reflect longer before posting. Assign them as mentors to less active students.
  • Reward quality over quantity. Tell good contributors when they’ve done a good job. Encourage contributions that further the discussion and stimulate thinking, rather than number of postings.
  • Summarize discussion. Weave comments together regularly, refer to specific comments, interpret main points of view, and provide a general summary to give a solid feeling of one discussion ending before the next begins.

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