Shining a Light on Blackboard Discussion Forums

Discussions Forums GraphicAsynchronous discussions are a powerful tool in the online/supplemental/hybrid course instructor’s toolkit.   In previous posts we’ve covered best practices and why these discussions are important.  In this post we will take a look at how the discussion tool works and where it lives in the context of the Blackboard LMS.

As the course instructor you have three different ways to present discussion forums to your students:

  • Discussion Forum Links in your Course Content (Units/Modules)
  • A Discussion Tool link in Your Course Navigation Menu
  • Discussion link in the Tools Menu

Discussion Forum Links in Your Course Content

If you are teaching your course across topics, units, or chunks of content, you might find it beneficial to place links to specific Discussion forums in the area of your course where you are dealing with that specific topic, chapter etc.  You do this by using the action bar inside the content area and click the Tools button then choose Discussion Board.  From there you link to a already created forum in your Discussion area or create one specifically for this spot in your course.

*Note:  Copy your forum instructions into the Tool link description so that the students can read them in advance of entering the forum.  Also typing the words “Click to Launch” in your link Title will remind the students what to do to access the discussion.

Discussion Link in your Course Navigation Menu

Another great way to give students ready access to course discussions is to place a Discussion Board link directly in your course’s Navigation Menu.  You do this while by using the “+” Add button on the top of your navigation menu and choosing Tool Link and then selecting the Discussion Board from the drop-down and giving it a name. The only thing to remember is that this link provides a student access to all discussion forums and not just one.

Discussion Link in your Tools Menu

The least used scenario in that many instructors choose not to make their Tools area available is the Discussion Board link in your Tools menu (a link in the Course Navigation menu).    This adds a few clicks for the students in terms of gaining access and it provides a link to all forums instead of just one.


It is key to remember that when you have different paths to your discussion forums that just hiding a link in your content DOES NOT make that forum unavailable to your students in some cases.  The best way to be sure that students don’t have access to a forum is to change the availability of said forum.  You can do this in the Discussion Board area from your Course Tools section of your Control Panel or via the Discussions link your your navigation menu if you have one.

We hope this helps shine a light on what can be a powerful weapon in your arsenal of student-engagement tools for your online course.  As always contact your college’s instructional designer,, Jacob Spradlin or comment on this blog post if you have any questions!

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