The forum tool is an activity where students and teachers can exchange ideas by posting comments. Instructors may allow files to be attached to posts, attached images will be displayed inline. There are five basic forum types within GauchoSpace, for most purposes the standard forum for general use works the best.
To get started, add a forum activity to your course, and read on below for information on Forum Settings.
Note: The “Instructor’s Announcements” forum is a simple discussion forum that is pre-programmed into every course site. Only the instructor and editing TAs may create posts for this forum, and students are not able to respond.
Note: This article now includes the upgraded features with GauchoSpace 3.9.
- Forum name: Required. What the students will see when selecting the link from your course's homepage and the name in the Gradebook, if you plan to grade the forum.
- Description: Required. This is where you tell your students what they need to know to complete work in the forum.
- Display description on course page: Select this if you want the full description (above) to also appear on your course page under the name of the forum.
- Forum Type: Use this drop-down to select the type of forum you would like to create. Choices are:
- A single simple discussion: A single discussion topic that everyone can reply to (cannot be used with separate groups).
- Each person posts one discussion: Each student can post exactly one new discussion topic, to which everyone in the class can then reply.
- Q and A Forum: The instructor posts a question for students to answer. Before viewing other students' posts, students must first post their own responses. After students submit their posts, they receive an additional 15 mins to revise or polish their response before it is published. Students cannot view any other responses within this 15 min window.
- Standard forum for general use: An open forum where anyone can start a new discussion at any time.
- Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format: Like the Standard forum for general use, this is an open forum in which anyone can start a discussion. Each discussion is displayed on one page with a discuss this topic link instead of reply.
If you are looking for a forum that enables anonymous posts or a forum that enables students to rate each other's answers, please instead refer to the Question2Answer Forum guide.
Subscription and Tracking
Subscription: When a user is subscribed to a forum they will receive notifications via email approximately 15 minutes after someone has posted to the forum (Users can change their email preferences through their profile on their GauchoSpace home page). There are four different subscription options an instructor may choose from:
- Optional Subscription: Participants can choose whether to be subscribed.
- Forced Subscription: Everyone is subscribed and cannot unsubscribe.
- Auto Subscription: Everyone is subscribed initially but can choose to unsubscribe at any time.
- Subscription Disabled: Subscriptions are not allowed. This prevents users from subscribing to a forum.
Tip: Any subscription mode changes will only affect users who enroll in the course in the future, and not existing users. Therefore, changing the setting from “forced subscription” to “optional subscription” will not unsubscribe existing users; it will only affect those who enroll in the course in the future.
Tracking: "Read tracking" for a forum allows users to track read and unread forum posts. There are three options for this setting:
- Optional: Students can turn tracking on or off for the forum via their profile 'Forum Tracking' option.
- Off: It is not possible to track unread forum posts.
- On: Tracking is always on in this forum, regardless of user preference or setting.
Post threshold for blocking
Sometimes you may want to limit the number of times users may post to a particular forum during a given time period. The time period for blocking setting establishes the time period during which posts are limited, while the post threshold for blocking setting allows you to set the number of times a person may post during that period (see the image below). You may also set a warning to let users know that they are about to be blocked.
If you have enabled ratings (see below) then your forum will appear in your Gradebook. This setting enables you to choose the category in your Gradebook in which this forum will appear.
It is possible to rate forum posts within GauchoSpace. Instructors and editing TAs are given this permission by default. If you want to give students permission to rate a forum see instructions here: Forum Permissions.
It is important to understand how GauchoSpace calculates Forum grades. Ratings have the same weight for all entries--GauchoSpace does not differentiate original discussions from Forum replies, and it does not automatically grant points based on the number of posts. Teachers will have to rate each entry and GauchoSpace will calculate the final grade based on the select aggregate type. You will need to first select an aggregation type.
Aggregate Type: This is how all the ratings given are combined to form the final grade in the Gradebook.
- No ratings (default): You will not be able to rate posts, and the activity will not appear in the Gradebook.
- Average of ratings: This is the mean of all the ratings given.
- Count of ratings: Counts the number of rated entries which becomes the final grade.
- Maximum rating: The highest rating is returned as the final grade.
- Minimum rating: The smallest rating is returned as the final grade.
- Sum of ratings: All the ratings for a particular user are added together.
Scale: This is the type of grading used for rating. You may choose point or scale.
- Point (Recommended): Rate by giving points on a scale of your choosing. Enter the Maximum grade, which is the highest amount of points possible when rating forum posts.
- Scale: Choose from a variety of scales for ratings. We do not recommend using Scales because they are very difficult to incorporate with the Gradebook.
This section, in all activities, refers to settings that are common across multiple, different activities. For forums the Group settings will be the most useful. If you enable Groups in your forum, then you can restrict which participants are able to view and post to the different discussions that you create within a single forum. For example, you may set up a single forum, but restrict different discussions within the forum to predefined groups, such as your discussion sections. Note: Group mode will not work in “single simple discussion” forums because only one discussion is allowed.
- Visible: If the assignment is hidden, students will not see the assignment. This is the same as using the "Hide/Show" eye icon on your course page.
- ID Number: A way to identify the forum in the gradebook, but can be left blank.
- Group mode:
- Visible Group:
- In this setting, instructors are given the option of adding a new discussion topic for all participants to respond, post a copy to all groups to respond separately, or post a discussion to selected group only. If a teacher adds a new discussion topic and posts a copy to all groups, or posts for a selected group, then only group members can reply to it.
- Students can only start discussions for their own group, but can also see other groups using the "Visible groups" dropdown menu. The other groups' work is read-only.
- Students can only reply to discussions started by other group members or their instructors if the instructor posts to "All people".
- Separate Groups:
- If an instructor adds a new discussion topic for a selected group, or sends a copy of the post to all groups, only group members can reply to it.
- If a teacher adds a new discussion topic for all participants, students can NOT reply to it. Students can only start discussions for their own group.
- Students can only see or reply to discussions started by their group members or discussions started by the instructor for their own group.
- No Groups (default): There are no sub groups, and each user can see all other users’ activity and interact with them.
- Visible Group:
- Grouping: If you have groupings, you can select a grouping here to assign the activity to a specific grouping, which is a group of groups. You can use this setting to make a resource available to particular students.
You can limit access (i.e., ability to see) to an activity by adding conditions. More information on conditions can be found in the help page on restricting access to specific users.
When viewing a specific forum post, users will see the option to request a "permalink" to that post. Once the permalink button is clicked, a suffix will be appended to the page's URL in the browser's address bar. If this new URL is accessed in the future, it will direct the user to the specific post in question. This is helpful for referencing specific posts in busy forums.
Specifically, only for Q&A forums, Gauchospace has a fifteen-minute delay in posting messages; this feature helps prevent plagiarism and allows to students to change any error in their posting. Until that amount of time has passed, students will see a message like the one below:
After the initial delay has passed, students should be able to view their classmate's responses.
Timed Posts (for instructors only):
On the same page that is used to draft a forum post, instructors can scroll down to find the option to specify a time window during which the post will be displayed. This can be a useful feature for instructors if they know they would like to launch a discussion on a certain date in the future.
Anonymous posting can be turned on for Forums which will allow students as well as instructors and TAs to post anonymously. This can be helpful to elicit student questions about course content.
- Grade Type
- Point (recommended): This will allow you to assign a point value for forum grades and set a maximum grade (i.e., how many points the forum is graded out of).
- Scale: This will allow you to use a scale when grading. Please note that scales do not readily translate into percentage grades in the gradebook so this advanced feature should only be used for those with experience with the scale function.
- Grading Method
- Grade Category This allows you to assign the forum grade to an existing category in the gradebook.
Note that with the update to 3.9, grading does not require ratings to be enabled.
To access the Forum Grading Interface for grading forum posts, click ‘Grade users’ on the Forum page (see screenshot).
This will take you to the Forum Grading Interface with a forum viewer on the left and a grader interface on the right.
In the forum viewer you can see posts by individual students (highlighted in gray) along with links to the ‘parent post’ (the post to which the student’s post is a response) and the full thread through ‘View discussion’. The posts will be available for all of the student’s posts in a forum whether they are adding new discussions, posting responses to questions, or responding to other students’ posts.
In the grader interface you can (A) change the student, (B) enter grades, (C) save grades, (D) toggle display modes, and choose to notify students.
Entering grades here will assign students a single grade for the forum that will automatically be input into the gradebook.
For quantitative information on student responses you can also look at the Forum Summary Report located in the ‘Administration’ block for the forum (see screenshot).
This will produce a searchable and exportable table of student responses (see screenshot).
You may set a Due date as well as a Cut-off date for a forum, similar to an assignment. The Due date will be reflected on the calendar for the course but students will still be able to post after the due date and posts made after the due date aren't marked as late. The Cut-off date can be used to prevent posts from being made after a specific date. Students will still be able to view the forum and the posts within it but won't be able to post in the forum after the Cut-off date. This can be useful for grading to ensure that students have posted before a specific date.
In the forum activity you have access to three discussion options: (1) Star Discussion, (2) Pin Discussion, and (3) Lock Discussion. You can access discussion options by clicking on the three vertical dots at the right of each thread (see screenshot below).
- Star Discussion: Starring the discussion allows individuals to select personal favorite threads that will appear at the top of the list (underneath pinned discussions). You may also star the discussion by clicking the star icon on the left of the discussion thread (see screenshot).
- Pin Discussion: Pinning the discussion thread will cause it to appear at the top of the list and all other posts (starred or unstarred) will appear beneath the pinned discussion(s). The order of pinned, starred, and unstarred can be seen below:
- Lock Discussion: Locking the discussion allows you to manually prevent future posts in a single discussion thread. To lock the forum entirely, you can use the ‘Discussion locking’ section of forum activity settings. Locked discussion threads will display a red label beneath the discussion title (see screenshot below:
The Export function allows you to download forum information for classes and individual students. To export class information, select ‘Export’ from the ‘Administration’ block located on the right side of the forum activity page (see screenshot below).
On the ‘Export’ page, you may filter by (1) User Name, (2) Discussion Thread Name, and (3) Post Dates Range. Under ‘Export options,’ check the boxes for (4) Remove HTML to ensure that messages are shown in plain text and (5) Human-readable dates to ensure dates are shown in the proper format in the spreadsheet.
After selecting the filter criteria, click export to download the file.
You may also export forums for individual students through the ‘Forum Summary Report’ (see section above).
In order to view grades and feedback as a student, navigate to the Forum by clicking on the link on the course page (as you would for posting to the forum). On the Forum activity page, there will be a button to 'View grades' (see screenshot).
When you click the 'View grades' button you will be presented with a pop-up window that includes grading and feedback information (see screenshot).
Note: Individual grade scores for forums can also be accessed through the 'User report' in the student's grades page, but feedback must be viewed through 'View grades' in the forum itself.