Discussions in OWL

Discussions are used in OWL to facilitate communication between the students and the instructor, as well as to provide a collaborative writing space for the students. The following guide will cover:

Adding a Discussion to Your OWL Course

There are two ways that you can add a Discussion to your OWL course.

  1. Make sure that you are under the BUILD tab and cilck on the ADD CONTENT LINK at the top of the page. A drop-down menu will appear. Click on DISCUSSIONS. The window that appears within the drop-down menu allows you to either create a new discussion topic by clicking on CREATE DISCUSSION TOPIC, or to select one that has already been created from your Discussions inventory.

  3. You can also create a new Discussion Topic by clicking on the DISCUSSIONS tool from the left-hand navigation bar, and then clicking the CREATE TOPIC link found at the top of the page.

Choosing a Discussion Topic

There are three different types of Discussion Topics you can add to your OWL course: Threaded Topic, Blog Topic, Journal Topic.

Threaded Topics offer a more traditional online discussion area where students can post and reply to messages. Replies to messages are grouped together in threads that can be expanded and collapsed. Clicking on CREATE MESSAGE opens a window that allows you to type your message and add it to the discussion.

Journal Topics provide each student with a personal writing space. The instructor is able to determine whether the section will remain private, shared between the student and instructor, or visible to all students.

Blog Topics provide a collaborative space where students can post entries in chronological order on a specific topic. Participants are able to post comments in response to blog entries.

Choose the Topic that is most appropriate for what you would like to achieve with the Discussion.



Setting the Parameters

Once you have chosen the type of Discussion Topic you would like to use, you must specify the parameters for your Topic. First, enter a title for your topic, and a description if necessary. Choose whether you would like the Discussion to be visible or hidden. You can unhide the item later if you would like to hide it at this time. These are the basic parameters that need to be set. Below you will find explanations for the advanced parameters.

Categories, Grading and Goals

You are able to organize your Discussion Topics into course-wide categories by selecting a previously made category from the CATEGORY DROP-DOWN MENU in the Discussion Properties, or selecting CREATE NEW CATEGORY from the same list.

Discussion Topics can also be graded. You can either choose to set a numeric grade, an alphanumeric grade or use a Grading Form that you have previously created. Additionally, you can enter a Grde Book column title, as well as choose whether or not you would like the grades released automatically to your students. If you would not like to have your Discussion Topic graded, simply select the TOPIC IS NOT GRADABLE option.


Peer Review

Peer Review allows students to review posts made by others. The reviewing criteria is established using a rating scale or Grading Form that you have previously created.

To create a rating scale, click on the CREATE SCALE button. This will open a new window that will allow you to edit a simple five-star rating scale. To edit a rating, simply click on the pencil tool. You can also create additional ratings or remove ratings to suit your needs.

Once you have created a rating scale, you will notice that new parameters are now available under Peer Review regarding review visibility.

Here you can determine who can see the reviews, and even encourage your students to make reviews by selecting the option MAKE OTHER REVIEWS VISIBLE ONLY AFTER SUBMITTING A REVIEW. When this option is selected, all reviews remain hidden to a student who has not yet made a review. They will only have access to the reviews once they have submitted a review themselves.


Topic Behaviour Options

Additional Topic Behaviour Options are found below the Peer Review section. These options allow you to set student posting restrictions, such as by allowing students to post messages but not replies, or vice versa. You can also choose whether you would like the authorship of the posts to remain anonymous or tied to the student's user name.





Posting, Replying and Editing Messages

To post a message, first make sure that you are under the TEACH TAB and then navigate to the Discussion Inventory by clicking on DISCUSSIONS on the left-hand navigation bar. Click on the Discussion you would like to post a message to. Click on the CREATE MESSAGE link found at the top of the screen.



A window will appear where you can type in your message. Select ENABLE HTML CREATOR if you would like to leave a more dynamic post, using images and links. Click POST when you are finished. If you would like to preview your message first, click PREVIEW.

If you would like to reply to a post that has already been made, or edit a post that you have previously posted, click on the SUBJECT of the message from the Discussion list (as shown in the image above e.g. Introductions). The message will open in a new window, and below the message you will find buttons to Edit, Reply or Lock the message.



Selecting EDIT MESSAGE will open the original message in an editable screen. Selecting REPLY will open a blank message field in which you can enter your reply. Choosing LOCK MESSAGE will prevent students from editing or replying to the message.