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How To: Add a Forum Activity in the BFCA Education Portal
Instructors and students can communicate and collaborate using the BFCA Education Portal Forums. Instructors can create discussion topics or, depending on the forum type, allow students to originate topics. Course members can then post replies, and subscribe if they want to receive an email copy of each post made to a particular forum.
There are multiple forum types in the BFCA Education Portal. Some forum types allow only the instructor to start a new topic, and others allow students to start new topics. Choose the type of forum that makes sense for the activity you are asking your students to do:
- Single simple discussion – Only one topic, started by the instructor, is allowed. This is best suited for short-term, focused conversations.
- Each person posts one discussion – Each student may start one new topic. Students are not limited in the number of replies they can post within those topics.
- Q and A forum – An instructor posts one topic, for example, posing a question to students. Students must post their response before they can view other students’ responses.
- Standard forum for general use – Allow multiple topics arranged in a threaded conversation. Students may start new topics in this format.
- Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format – Allow multiple topics listed with the most recent topic at the top of the page and replies behind a link. Students may start new topics in this format.
- Individual student journals – the BFCA Education Portal does not come with a preset option for student journals, but you can set one up using a forum to create either a private journal where only instructors can read student posts, or blog-like individual journals that everyone in the course can read.
- Announcements – This unique forum is automatically created in each course for instructors to post announcements. By default, comments are not allowed, only instructors and TAs can post to the forum, and all course participants receive an email copy of each post.
Add a New Forum to Your Course
- On your course page, click Turn editing on (green pencil icon, top right). Editing icons and links will appear.
- Locate the course Section where you plan to add the forum. (If you are using the Collapsed topics format, open the Section.)
- At the bottom-right of the Section, click + Add an activity or resource. The Activity chooser will open.
- In the Activity chooser, select Forum and then click Add. The Adding a new Forum page will open.
- On the Forum page, configure settings for the forum.
- Click Save and return to course.
Configure Forum Options
When you add a Forum activity to a BFCA Education Portal course, you can choose from a number of settings. Click particular headings to view those settings, or Expand all (top right) to view all settings. This section describes each setting.
- Forum name (required) – This name displays as a link to the forum on your course page. Use something unique that clearly identifies this forum from other course activities. We also recommend keeping the name short.
- Description – We strongly recommend that you use this space to explain the purpose of the forum to your students. For example, you might describe how often students should post, how many posts and replies they should make, and/or the expectations about post content. The Description will be visible to students when they click the forum link.
- Display description on course page – Select this option to display the description underneath the assignment link on your course page. (This works best if the description is very concise).
- Forum type – Select a forum type from the drop-down menu. The default is Standard forum for general use.
Attachments and word count
- Maximum attachment size – Each attachment cannot exceed this file size. (If a student can attach multiple files, and attaches files at different times, the total can exceed the set size.)
- Maximum number of attachments – Each student will be able to upload up to the maximum number of attachments for their submission.
- Display word count – This setting specifies whether the word count of each post should be displayed or not.
Subscription and tracking
- Subscription mode – Subscription mode allows students to choose to subscribe to the forum and receive an email copy of each post made. The subscription choices include:
- Optional subscription by default (recommended).
- Forced subscription – Everyone is subscribed and cannot unsubscribe (not recommended in most cases).
- Auto subscription – Everyone is subscribed initially but can choose to unsubscribe at any time.
- Subscription disabled – Subscriptions are not allowed.
- Read tracking – If enabled, participants can track read and unread posts in the forum and in discussions. By default, this is set to Optional, and forum tracking is controlled by individual users. If set to Off, read and unread posts are not tracked.
- RSS feed for this activity – RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds in the BFCA Education Portal enable people to stay up to date with forum posts. Select Discussions or Posts from the drop-down menu to choose what content will be included in the feed.
- Number of RSS recent articles – If the RSS feed is enabled for this activity, this setting specifies the number of articles (either discussions or posts) to include in the RSS feed. Between 5 and 20 is generally acceptable.
Post threshold for blocking
- Time period for blocking – This setting limits the number of posts students can make in a period of time. Choose the time period within which to block students from posting from the Time period for blocking drop-down menu.
- Post threshold for blocking – If a time period for blocking has been set, this setting specifies the maximum number of posts which a user can post in the given time period.
- Post threshold for warning – Students can be warned as they approach the maximum number of posts allowed in a given period. This setting specifies after how many posts they are warned.
- Grade category – Select a Category in your gradebook under which you would like the assignment grade to be placed.
You can grade your students’ posts using Ratings. Instructors and TAs can rate each post a student makes, and the ratings are aggregated into a single grade in the gradebook.
- Roles with permission to rate – Once the forum activity has been saved, you will be able to see the roles the BFCA Education Portal users must have in order to submit ratings. The list of roles may be amended via the permissions link in the Actions menu.
- Aggregate type – The aggregate type defines how ratings are combined to form the final grade in the gradebook. Choose from one of the following options in the Aggregate type drop-down menu:
- No ratings – If selected, then the activity will not appear in the gradebook.
- Average of ratings – The mean of all ratings.
- Count of ratings – The number of rated items becomes the final grade. Note that the total cannot exceed the maximum grade for the activity.
- Maximum ratings – The highest rating becomes the final grade.
- Minimum ratings – The smallest rating becomes the final grade.
- Sum on ratings – All ratings are added together. Note that the total cannot exceed the maximum grade for the activity.
- Scale – If an aggregate type has been selected, you may select the type of grading used for this activity. If Scale is chosen, you can then choose the scale from the Scale drop-down menu. If using Point grading, you can then enter the maximum grade available for this activity.
- Restrict ratings to items with dates in this range – If this check box is selected, you can set a specific date range during which a post must be made in order to receive a grade.
Common Module Settings
- Visible – Set whether or not an assignment is visible to students. By default, new assignments are set to Show. (This is comparable to using the Hide/show icon for the activity on your course page.)
- ID number – Setting an ID number identifies the activity for grade calculation purposes.
- Group mode and Grouping – These options let you restrict the assignment to particular groups of students you have already created in the BFCA Education Portal.
To add restrictions on accessing the activity, click Add restriction. The Add restriction window will open, containing the following options:
- Date – Prevent access until (or from) a specified date and time.
- Grade – Require students to achieve a specified grade.
- User profile – Control access based on fields within the student’s profile.
- Restriction set – Add a set of nested restrictions to apply complex logic.
If you have groups in your course, you will see the following additional options:
- Group -Allow only students who belong to a specified group, or all groups.
- Grouping – Allow only students who belong to a group within a specified grouping.
Add a New Topic to a Forum
Depending on the type of forum, students may be able to add topics as soon as the activity is available, or the instructor may need to initiate the discussion by posting a topic. For example, instructors must post a question to a Q & A forum before students can post.
To add a new topic to a forum:
- Click the link to the forum activity (not the edit icon, but the link to open the forum). The Forum page will open, showing the description you provided when you set up the activity. If no topics or posts have been added, you see “There are no discussion topics yet in this forum.”
- If working with groups in the forum:
- To make the posts visible only to a particular group, set the Group mode for the forum to Separate (on the Settings page for the forum). Then, to post a topic on the Your new discussion topic page, from the Groups drop-down menu (at top of page), select the group name.
- To post a topic that will be visible to all groups to read, but to which only a particular group can reply, set the Group mode for the forum to Visible (on the Settings page for the forum). Then, to post on the Your new discussion topic page, from the Groups drop-down menu (at top of page), select group name.
- To post the same topic for all groups, leave the Groups menu set to All participants.
- To sort posts that have been posted, on the Forum page, from the Groups drop-down menu (at top of page), select the group name.
- Click Add a new discussion topic (for a Q & A forum click Add a new question). The Your new discussion topic page will open.
- On Your new discussion topic page enter a subject and a message (both required).
- If the subscription is set to Optional in the forum’s settings, select the Discussion subscription checkbox to receive email copies of posts made to this forum. (This will affect you, not your students.)
- You may choose to add an attachment.
- Select the Mail now checkbox if you do not want the standard 30-minute delay before subscribers receive an email.
- Click Post to forum to post your message.
- You will be returned to the forum page with a confirmation message.
- Once replies have been made, click the link to the topic to view replies or add additional replies to the thread. (If read tracking is enabled, the number of unread posts will be indicated and links highlighted.)
Close a Forum and Prevent Further Student Posts
To prevent further student contributions to a forum, change the Permissions for the activity to make it “read-only.”
Note: Unlike Restrict access settings, this method of closing a forum does not hide the grade for the activity from students, and allows them to read posts made before the forum closed.
- On your course page, click the link to the forum. The Forum page will open.
- On forum page open, select the Actions menu a drop-down Actions menu will open.
- From the Actions menu drop-down list select Permissions (not Check Permissions). The Permissions in Forum screen will open.
- In the Advanced role override drop-down menu, choose Student.
- Under the bold heading Activity: Forum, select Prevent for the following:
• Reply to posts
• Start new discussions
Do not change any other permissions.
- Scroll to the bottom of the list of permissions and click Save changes. (Students will immediately lose their ability to post, but will still be able to read what has been posted on the forum.)