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Sakai Tutorials

Discussion and Private Messages

For optimum performance it is very important to have a clear layout for your Discussion and Private Messages.  Keep in mind what will be considered a Category, Forum, Topic, and Message.  A Category is going to be a broad term comprised of multiple Forums.  In most cases, the instructor will create a Topic providing instructions and expectations.  The Topic can be “Sticky” so that it always displays at the top of the list.   Then students reply to the Topic, which is called a Message.  It is still possible for students/instructors to reply to Messages.  Another thing to keep in mind is how to set up your grading.  Instructors can grade at multiple levels, such as at the Category level, Forum, Topic, and individual Messages.  In most cases grading occurs based on Messages, which are replies to the instructor's original topic with instructions.

Download detailed guide to using Discussion and Private Messages. To view an outline of what this guide contains, click here.


Image showing hierarchy of categories, forums, topics and messages.

If you want your Discussions to be for the whole class then the Category might simply be “Discussions.” If you intend on using small group discussion boards then you might have multiple Categories such as “Group 1,” “Group 2,” “Group 3,” etc. etc..

Create a New Forum:

1.  Navigate to Discussion and Private Messages.
2.  Select Manage.

3. By default you will land on the Manage Forums panel. Click Add.

4.  Provide a name for your Forum.
5.  Select a Category from the drop-down menu.
6.  The description is usally brief.  Instructions and expectations for the Forum will usually be provided by the instructor in the Description area.
7.  Modify the settings as necessary.
8.  Forum Type: "Reply only" allows the instructor to create a Topic and students can only reply to the topic. In most cases, that will allow the instructor to keep an organized structure for their discussions and make it possible to see students' contributions in a threaded view vs. having multiple Topics created by students and having to "click around" to view their contributions.
9.  Click Save.


Return to Menu

Modify Forum Settings

1.  Navigate to Discussion and Private Messages.
2.  Select Manage.

3.  By default you will land on the Manage Forums panel. Click the name of the Forum to modify its settings.

4.  Once settings have been changed, click on Save.

Return to Menu

Reorder Forums

1.  Navigate to Discussion and Private Messages.
2.  Select Manage.
3.  Change the number in the drop-down menu to adjust the appropriate Forum order.

Return to Menu

Create a Topic

Please note: Instructors will usually create the first Topic and provide instructions along with attaching a rubric for student expectations.  It is also useful to make the instructions “Sticky,” which means it will always display at the top for students to see first.

1.  Navigate to Discussion Home.
2.  Click on a Forum title.
3.  Select New Topic.

4.  Create a title, add content, attachments if necessary, and modify settings.
5.  Set topic as Sticky so that it will always display at the top.
6.  Click on Submit to post topic.

Return to Menu

Guide Outline

  1. Introduction
    1. Comparing Forums to Discussion and Private Messages
  2. Layout
    1. Navigation
    2. Legend
  3. Creating Discussions
    1. Create a new forum
    2. Delete a discussion
    3. Modify forum settings
    4. Reorder forum
    5. Export discussions for other courses
    6. Import discussions from other courses
  4. Managing Groups
    1. Create a new category
    2. Create a group forum
  5. Contributing to Discussions
    1. Create a topic
    2. Reply to a topic
    3. Send a private message
    4. Send a private message to multiple recipients
    5. Read a private message
    6. Paste from Word
    7. Mark as read
    8. View only recent topics
  6. Grading
    1. Enable grading by category
    2. Enable grading by forum
    3. Assigning grades and feedback in context
    4. Assigning grades to all users with posts
    5. Assigning grades to all users individually
    6. Viewing grades
    7. Viewing students total number of posts
  7. Custom Profile
    1. Edit profile
    2. Add profile image
    3. View profile(s)