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Forums

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Forums is a communication tool that instructors or site leaders may use to create an unlimited number of asynchronous discussion forums for their course or project sites. The Forums tool is designed to be an effective resource for both academic and collaborative work. It is integrated closely with other tools such as Resources, Roster and Site Info's Manage Groups.

Topics and Forums can be opened and closed based on dates or group membership. Instructors can track student contributions across all areas of the Forums tool. Older Topics and Forums can be marked as read-only

Contents

Key concepts

Forum example with three topics
Forum example with three topics

Forums versus topics

A Forum is a mandatory category or grouping for Topics. Topics are where students can post threads. Students can only post in a Topic but a Topic can only be created within a Forum. A Forum with the name of the site and a topic titled “General Discussion” is created by default.

Thread

A thread is the actual discussion or conversation. A thread can be created by instructors or students inside of a Topic.

Discussion forums

Asynchronous discussion provides an opportunity for your site participants to engage site resources and each other, and allows for the free expression of convergent and divergent ideas. Interactions can be assigned a point value and sent to the Gradebook with comments.

Viewing forums

On your site's Home page (select Home on the site's menubar), participants can see how many unread discussion forum messages they have. On the Forums screen, participants see the number of unread messages and the grand total of messages for each topic. In the forums list, forums and topics are viewed as a thread by default.

Composing messages

A WYSIWYG interface allows rich text, plain text, and HTML editing. You can add attachments to any message by linking to files or web links in Resources.

More information about this editor, including how to paste from MS Word, can be found in the Text Editor article.

Quoted text

Use the Insert Original Text option to insert the previous post into your response.

Statistics

Using Forums, you can view statistics for individual course participants, including the number of authored, read, and unread posts. To view statistics for course participants:

  • In your site's menubar, click Forums, and then click Statistics. You'll see the participant list followed by columns labeled "Authored", "Read", "Unread", and "Percent Read".
  • Click a participant's name to see the following individual statistics:
  • Forum Authored: Lists the titles of the topics of posts authored by the participant, the date and time they were created, and the subject Forum Read: Lists the titles of the topics of posts read, the date and time they were read, and the subject
  • Click Forums to return to the Forums page.

Print-friendly view

The View a printable version of the current page button
The View a printable version of the current page button

A print-friendly view is available allowing for easy printing of discussion topics. Click the View a printable version of the current page button at the top of the topic.

Group awareness

Site leaders can change forum and topic settings in combination with pre-defined groups to allow or deny access to specific discussions per group.

See Control access to Forums

Mark messages as read

In the Forums tool you must explicitly mark a forum item as read, simply viewing it is not enough to have the message/thread marked as read.

You can mark the entire thread as read via the Image:Mark all as read.png button at the top of the Forums tool or by clicking the title of the of the thread item/message.

Two options for for marking a thread item as read

Watching and Unwatching Forums: E-Mail Alerts

The Isaak/Sakai Forums tool will by default send an E-Mail to your Brock University E-Mail account whenever a message is posted to a Forum topic that you have already posted to. You can modify this feature by following these steps:

Forums E-Mail notifications are controlled under Forums > Watch
Forums E-Mail notifications are controlled under Forums > Watch
  1. From your site's menubar, click Forums.
  2. At the top, click Watch.
  3. Select the watch level you'd prefer:
    • Notify me by email whenever a new message is posted - creates the most E-Mail
    • Notify me by email when a thread that I have contributed to receives a new message - the default
    • No notification - a modification many Forums users make
  4. Press Save

Creating a space for participants to discuss

In Sakai/Isaak in order for participants to post new threads/messages they need to have a topic area created for them, and a Topic area can only be created once a new Forum has been created. In short, participants cannot post anything until an instructor has clicked "New Forum" and then created at least one topic (via "Save and add topic" or "New Topic").

Creating a New Forum (section for discussion)

There are no default forums or topics in the Forums tool. No forums will appear in this area until someone with an appropriate role creates them. By default, participants (e.g., students) in a course site cannot create forums.


Permissions and roles

To complete the procedures in this article, you must be assigned a role having the necessary permissions. This often excludes Students and TAs by default. To determine your role, follow the directions in Participant roles.

For a basic understanding of roles and permissions, see Permissions and roles.


Note: When you create your forum, you'll need to add at least one topic so site participants can post messages. The forum will not be visible to participants unless a topic is added.

To create a new forum:

  1. In your site's menubar, click Forums. The Forums screen will open.
  2. At the top, click New Forum. The Forum Settings screen will open.
  3. In the "Forum Title" field, type your forum's title. This is a required field, and is limited to 75 characters.
  4. In the "Short Description" field, you may provide a brief description (limited to 100 characters) that will be displayed along with the title in the Forums area.
  5. In the "Description" field, you may enter an in-depth description of your forum, and provide any associated information or resources.
  6. Under "Attachments", you can attach a file from your local computer or from Resources, or specify the URL for a file on the web. For instructions, see Options for adding attachments.
  7. To disable forum postings, under "Forum Posting", click the Yes radio button next to "Lock Topic (Disable forum postings)". The No radio button is selected by default, allowing site participants to post messages about your forum topic.
  8. The Availability section allows instructors to select a date when the forum will be made available to students and when they will lose access by selecting Specify Dates and picking the respective dates. By default, the Show - display immediately with no time restriction is selected and the forum is immediately visible.
  9. To moderate forum postings, under "Forum Posting", click the Yes radio button next to "Moderate Forum". The No radio button is selected by default, allowing site participants to post messages without moderation.
  10. Default forum permissions for students
    Default forum permissions for students
    Under "Permissions", you can modify permission levels for participant roles (and groups, if you've created them; see Manage Groups).. To do so, from the list under "Permissions", select a role for editing by clicking its name. Then, next to "Permission Level:", use the drop-down list to select from several predefined permission levels. Additionally, you can create custom permission levels by clicking to enable or disable the following functions:
    • New Forum: Create a new forum. You can modify this option only via Template Settings.
    • New Topic: Create a new topic. You can modify this option only via Template Settings or Forum Settings.
    • New Response: Create a new response to your topic.
    • Response to Response: Send responses to a topic response.
    • Post to Gradebook: Grade responses and add comments. Send grades and comments to Gradebook.
    • Change Settings: Change the topic settings.
    • Read: Read topic responses.
    • Mark as Read: Mark messages as read.
    • Moderate Postings: Moderate messages posted to forum.
    • Edit Postings: Use the radio buttons to indicate which postings participants with the permission level can edit (none, their own, or all postings).
    • Delete Postings: Use the radio buttons to indicate which postings participants with the permission level can delete (none, their own, or all postings).
  11. Next to "Gradebook Item", use the drop-down list to choose an item with which the forum should be associated. Note: To add an item to the Gradebook, see Creating/adding, editing, or deleting a Gradebook item.
  12. When you're finished, click one of the following:
    • Save Draft: Save your forum as a draft. You'll return to the Forums screen. Forums saved as draft will not be available to site participants 'INCLUDING TAs'.
    • Save Settings & Add Topic: Save your changes and add a topic to your forum. You will need to add a topic so site members can post messages.
    • Cancel: Cancel your changes; you'll return to the Forums screen.

Creating a topic (or a thread)

  1. Under "Forums" tool find your existing forum's title. To its right, click New Topic.
  2. Next to "Topic Title", enter a title in the text box. This is a required field, and is limited to 75 characters.
  3. Next to "Short Description", you may provide a brief description or summary that will display below the title in the Discussion Forums area.
  4. Next to "Description", you may enter an in-depth description of your forum, and provide any associated information or resources.
  5. To add an attachment, under "Attachments", click Add Attachment. The file selector screen will open. For instructions, see Options for adding attachments.
  6. To disable topic postings, under "Topic Postings", click the Yes radio button next to "Lock Topic (Disable topic postings)". The No radio button is selected by default, allowing site participants to post messages about your forum topic.
  7. To moderate topic postings, under "Topic Posting", click the Yes radio button next to "Moderate Topic". The No radio button is selected by default, allowing site participants to post messages without moderation.
  8. The Availability section allows instructors to select a date when the topic will be made available to students and when they will lose access by selecting Specify Dates and picking the respective dates. By default, the Show - display immediately with no time restriction is selected and the topic is immediately visible.
  9. Under "Permissions", you can modify permission levels for participant roles. To do so, from the list under "Permissions", select a role for editing by clicking its name. Then, next to "Permission Level:", use the drop-down list to select from several predefined permission levels. Additionally, you can create custom permission levels by clicking to enable or disable the following functions:
    • New Forum: Create a new forum. You can modify this option only via Template Settings.
    • New Topic: Create a new topic. You can modify this option only via Template Settings or Forum Settings.
    • New Response: Create a new response to your topic.
    • Response to Response: Send responses to a topic response.
    • Post to Gradebook: Grade responses and add comments. Send grades and comments to Gradebook.
    • Change Settings: Change the topic settings.
    • Read: Read topic responses.
    • Mark as Read: Mark messages as read.
    • Moderate Postings: Moderate messages posted to forum.
    • Edit Postings: Use the radio buttons to indicate which postings participants with the permission level can edit (none, their own, or all postings).
    • Delete Postings: Use the radio buttons to indicate which postings participants with the permission level can delete (none, their own, or all postings).
  10. Next to "Gradebook Item", use the drop-down list to choose an item with which the topic should be associated.
  11. When you're finished, click one of the following:
    • Save Settings: Save your changes, post the topic, and exit the Forum Settings screen. This returns you to the Forums screen, where you can see your newly posted topic within your forum.
    • Save Draft: Save your topic as a draft. You'll return to the Forums screen.
    • Save Settings & Add Topic: Save your changes, and add another topic to your forum. This opens a blank Topic Settings screen,and allows you to create an additional topic without returning to the Forums screen.
    • Cancel: Cancel your changes. You'll return to the Forums screen.

Draft Forums and Topics

In Sakai in the Forums tool individuals forums and topics can be saved as a draft, "Save as Draft" or saved normally, "Save Settings". Obviously students cannot see drafts. To allow students to see draft Forums/Topics enter the "Forum Settings" or "Topic Settings" and press the "Save Settings" button at the bottom.

Availability Settings for Topics and Forums

Distinction between what an instructor see with a set of topics that have in-active dates associated with them and what a student would see.
Distinction between what an instructor see with a set of topics that have in-active dates associated with them and what a student would see.

Topics and Forums are immediately visible when Instructors or Topic owners once they create them. Under the Availability area Instructors and Topic owners can set dates for Forums and Topics to be opened or closed.

  • Setting an opening date and time: Click the calendar icon beside the Open Date: the date and time that the forum or topic should be revealed can be selected from the window that pops-up.
  • Setting a closing date and time: Click the calendar icon beside the Close Date: the date and time that the forum or topic should be hidden can be selected from the window that pops-up.

Only one date needs to be selected. Instructors and Topic owners can read and post to forums and topics while they are not visible to students and others.

Important notice about open times: It should be cautioned that students see the same list of forums of topics for their whole session. If a forum or topic is timed to be revealed after a student has already looked at the Forums tool in one session they will not see the new forum or topic until the log out and log back in. Instructors should consider this when creating forums and topics.

Organizing Topics

Instructors can reorganize forums and forum topics by selecting "organize" at the top and then re-numbering respective forums and topics. More information can be found in the article Organize Forums.

Permissions

Choose each role and set their permissions
Choose each role and set their permissions

In the Forums tool's Forum or Topic settings find the permission level. Select each role and configure their level of access. For example, if one group only is supposed to have access make sure that group has "Contributor" access and other roles/groups have "None".

See Control access to Forums


Video


Image:header_gray.jpg
YouTube/Podcast - Forums
   



Find more videos for instructors at the Welcome To Sakai Webinar article, or look in the Video Category


Things to Consider and Troubleshooting

Text Editor Tips

Click Here

This tool makes use of the Sakai Text Editor.

Our Text Editor article includes a number of tips including how to add images or paste content from MS Word.


Issue: Instructors: Please do use apostrophes ( ' ) quotes ( " ) ampersnds ( & ) or other "special characters" in Forum or Topic titles. The "special characters" will be diplayed to all as their HTML entitiy codes if the topic is modifed and the HTML entiy codes not manual swapped back to their original state For a title of "Questions & Answers" would become "Questions & Answers" in the if Forums/Topic settings were editted.

This is a known issue and the Sakai Project has been notified.

You can track the progress here:
https://jira.sakaiproject.org/browse/SAK-24846


Issue: Instructors: Please do not attach files that have apostrophes ( ' ) or quotes ( " ) in the filename, as they are currently not handled properly.

This is a known issue and the Sakai Project has been notified and the bug is believed to have been resolved.

More information can be found here:
https://jira.sakaiproject.org/browse/MSGCNTR-613

  • If a forum or topic is timed to be revealed after a student has already looked at the Forums tool in one session they will not see the new forum or topic until the log out and log back in. See the Availability section above for more information.
  • WebCT Discussion to Sakai Forums Decoder
  • Marking this as read can be confusing, this article may help
  • The separate article Control access to Forums covers how to setup areas for groups.
  • Checklist for why students might not be able to post:
    1. Is the Forums tool turned on? Here's How to add tools to Sakai.
    2. Is the Forum or Topic still just a draft? Is so enter the Forum/Topic Settings and simply select "Save Settings" at the bottom of the page instead of "Save as draft".
    3. Be sure that you have both a "Forum" and a "Topic" -- a "Forum" being a mandatory category for "Topics" which are what students can actually post items within. Students can only post in a "Topic" but a "Topic" is a child of a mandatory "Forum".

Related Articles


Other articles about Isaak/Sakai's tools and how instructors can use them:

Core Tools:   Image:Flag blue.png Announcements | Image:Page edit.png Assignments | Image:Page paintbrush.png Assignment2 (TurnItIn) | Image:Comments.png Forums | Image:Report.png Gradebook | Image:Folder.png Resources | Image:Calendar.png Schedule | Image:Pencil.png Tests and Quizzes

More Tools:   Image:User comment.png Chat Room | Image:Folder page.png Drop Box | Image:House.png Home | Image:Comment.png Messages | News | Image:Ipod cast.png Podcasts | Image:Chart bar.png Statistics | Image:Page world.png Web Content | Image:Page white edit.png Wiki


Related articles:   How to add tools to your course | Using the Text Editor | Manage Groups | Permissions and roles | Contact the CPI for help


This article is based on the equivalent Sakai project help article.

The Sakai Educational Community License is deemed to be compatible with this sites Project:Copyrights which are under the Creative Commons 2.5 Licence. You can view the original Sakai help documentation, unedited, at http://kumu.brocku.ca/sakai/help/

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