This page covers the basic introduction to using Discussions Plus (powered by Harmonize) inside a Canvas course.
Why Use Discussions Plus in Canvas?
Discussions Plus offers several advantages over the default discussion tool in Canvas, such as:
- Engaging visual organization of posts within a discussion
- Multiple due dates ("milestones") possible within a discussion activity (e.g., post > comments > responses)
- Video posts include automated closed captions
- Anonymous posts possible in non-graded activities (and anonymous grading in Canvas is respected)
- Easy creation of student journaling activity
- Easy SpeedGrader integration for grading a discussion activity
Below is a brief video that describes some of the features of Discussions Plus and how to start using the tool in Canvas. For additional information, consult the other information on this page or browse the full documentation.
How to Use Discussions Plus
Discussions Plus is available to every course – it just needs to be selected as part of an assignment.
1. Create a Graded Activity
Discussions Plus is an "external tool" in Canvas (akin to VoiceThread, Panopto, Turnitin, McGraw Hill, etc.). To use it for a graded activity, it must be configured using the Assignment tool in Canvas.
Step 1: Configure Canvas Assignment
- On the Assignments home page, click +Assignment to get started.
- Provide a name for the activity and provide instructions to the students.
- Specify total points for the entire activity (leave at 0 if grading via rubric).
- For Submission Type, choose "External Tool" and then click Find.
- Select "Discussions Plus" from the list of tools and click Select.
- In the pop-up window that appears, select "Discussion" (the pop-up may take a few seconds to load...)
- Configure a Due Date for the entire activity, add an Available From date, and, optionally, an Until (cutoff) date.
- Click Save (do not publish yet!).
The Discussions Plus interface will load automatically, allowing you to configure that portion of the activity.
Continue with the guide: Creating a Graded Discussion (note: in the instructions, our external tool is labelled "Discussions Plus".)
Some of the settings you can configure in Discussions Plus:
- Create Milestones (a.k.a. multiple due dates)
- Hide posts until a student has contributed
- Set the visibility of posts for the class (e.g., everyone, limit to section or groups, limit to instructor only)
Step 3: Publish the Assignment
The Canvas assignment for the Discussions Plus activity is a regular item in Canvas. Pubish it and add it to a module in your course so students can find it.
2. Student and Instructor Participation
To participate in the activity, everyone goes to the assignment in Canvas. There, they'll see the Discussions Plus interface to make new post into the discussion, as well as seeing the other posts.
- Posts can have different components to them ("rows"), such as text, media, video recordings, URLs, etc.
- Posts can consist of just an image or another content type. Written text isn't required.
- Posts that have media attached will display that media as the thumbnail for the post. This is an easy way to make the activity landing page visually engaging. Posts that are just text will use the student's avatar as the thumbnail.
- Authors have full control to edit or delete their posts
- Instructors can participate in the activity in the same way that students do.
- In Group activities, instructor posts are posted into all the group discussions at once.
Student Progress Through an Activity
Students are shown their progress through an activity that contains milestones. After all the milestone requirements are satisfied, the assignment is automatically "submitted" for grading but is not locked. In other words, students can continue to participate in the activity after they've satisfied the requirements.
3. Grading the Activity
Discussions Plus is connected to Canvas's regular SpeedGrader tool. To grade students, simply open the assignment and click the SpeedGrader button on the right.
- In SpeedGrader, the instructor is shown an overview of the student's participation in the activity. They're primary posts are shown at the top. Various other data are also displayed, such as the total posts and comments, the dates the milestones were satisfied, etc.
- At the bottom, the overview shows which threads the student has participated in. Expand each thread to see the specific comments/replies the student has made.
- After reviewing the activity, input a score in the SpeedGrader grade field on the right and include a grade comment if desired.
- Activities that have a rubric attached can be graded using the usual point-and-click grading method to create the overall score for the activity.