Discussions & Communications

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Find step-by-step instructions for facilitating class-wide discussions and sharing other communications online to keep everyone connected.

Enable Class Discussions | Share Information | Set Up Office Hours

Enable Class Discussions

Interactive discussion topics for students can be set up in your Canvas course. You can create graded or ungraded discussion boards where students can post, read other responses, and reply.

Set up discussion boards in Canvas

  1. Log in to your Canvas course, and click Discussions in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click the +Discussion blue button in the upper right side of the screen to add a discussion topic.
  3. Create a title and description for your discussion. You can also add links, files, and images.
  4. Set your discussion options:
    • By default, discussions are created as “focused” discussions. To create a threaded discussion that allows nested replies, click the checkbox for “Allow threaded replies”.
    • To create a graded discussion, click the checkbox for “Graded”. Once selected, additional options will be added to the page for assigning the discussion.
    • To make your discussion available only during a specific dates, enter dates in the availability fields.
  5. Once you are ready, click Save & Publish.

Tip #1:
To reduce your email load, set up a topic where students ask questions and you respond to everyone.

Tip #2:
If you’re interested in real-time discussions during a live lecture, try the breakout rooms in Zoom »

In Canvas, focused discussions are best for quick topics and only allow replies to the original post, while threaded discussions are best for in-depth topics, with infinite levels of replying.

Learn more about Canvas discussions »

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Share Information

One of the fastest ways to reach all students in a course online is using announcements in your Canvas course. Alternatively, you can message students through the Canvas Inbox or email students through the UBC Faculty Service Centre.

Post course announcements in Canvas

  1. Log in to your Canvas course, and click Announcements in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click the +Announcements blue button in the upper right side of the screen.
  3. Add a title and content for the announcement. You can also add links, files, and images.
  4. If you like, you can delay the posting of your announcement to schedule it for a future date.
  5. Click Save. Unless you are delaying, your announcement will immediately be posted in the course.
  6. Students can change their preferences to delay or turn off receiving email notifications of announcements. As a final step, you may want to encourage them to keep these notifications on.

Post weekly announcements to maintain a regular teaching presence in online courses and remind students of the focus and expectations for the week.

Learn more about Canvas announcements »

Send students Canvas messages

  1. Log in to Canvas, and choose Inbox from the left-most Global Navigation.
  2. Click the pencil compose icon on the top bar.
  3. In the “Course” drop-down menu, select your course.
  4. Search for individual student(s) to add to the “To” field or send to all.
  5. Type your message. Note that all content is sent in plain text. You can also include an attachment or media file.
  6. When you are finished, click Send.

Use messages rather than announcements when you want to reach specific individuals or groups of students and/or want to start a two-way communication.

The Canvas Inbox enables you to send messages to any students enrolled in your course.

Learn more about Canvas Inbox »

Email students via Faculty Service Centre

  1. Log in to the Faculty Service Centre using your CWL.
  2. Search for Sections to Manage.
  3. Select a course.
  4. Choose a student to email or press “Select All” to send to the whole class.
  5. Type your message and send.

Emailing through Faculty Service Centre is good for academic communications requiring an official paper trail or if you don’t want to depend on Canvas.

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Set Up Office Hours

Zoom is a ​video/audio web-conferencing and collaboration tool that lets you meet with students in real time. You can use it to host virtual office hours as well as individual or group meetings with students in your Canvas course.

Host a virtual office with Zoom

  1. Go to ubc.zoom.us/meeting and sign in to your Zoom account, if you are not signed in already.
  2. Click Schedule a Meeting at the top.
  3. Enter in the topic (e.g., “Office Hours”), date/time, and adjust any other settings. In particular, you may want to check the box for “Recurring meeting” so you can use the same session link for all your office hours during the term.
  4. Click the Waiting Room checkbox. The waiting room is like a virtual hallway outside your office, where each student waits alone to enter.
  5. Click Save.
  6. Click the Copy Invitation link on the confirmation page. Paste this into a message to send to students, using one of the options above for securely sharing this information.
  7. On the day of the session, open the Zoom application on your computer and sign in, if you haven’t already. Click the Meetings icon at the top.
  8. Click Start for the session. You will be prompted to join immediately or test your speaker and microphone first. When you are ready, join.
  9. Click the Participants icon on the bottom of the screen. In the right-hand panel that opens, you can monitor and manage who is in your waiting room.
  10. If students are in the waiting room, you can one-way message them by clicking Message next to “Waiting Room” and typing what you want to say in the chat that opens. For example, if multiple students are waiting, you could indicate an order of admittance you will follow.
  11. You can let students in to your “office” by clicking Admit next to their name.
  12. Have a private conversation with an individual student or a group of students. When you are finished, ask them to leave the session (on the bottom bar of their screen, they can click Leave and select Leave Meeting).
    • If you need to, you can move students back to the waiting room. In the right-hand participant panel, hover over the student’s name, click More, and select Put in Waiting Room.
  13. Continue admitting students from the waiting room until your office hours end. To end the session, click End at the bottom right of the screen and select End Meeting for All.

Tip #1:
If you use this recommended waiting room approach for office hours, make sure your students know to expect a potential wait when they show up, or allow them to sign up for time slots to minimize wait time.

Tip #2:
To make the most out of virtual office hours, you can create a discussion beforehand for students to post topics they want addressed. You’ll have more time to prepare answers and a way to respond to the whole class, if a question is shared.

Tip #3:
Consider requiring students to attend virtual office hours at least once at the beginning of term. Students can be reluctant to meet one-on-one in person and that feeling may be heightened with uncertainty around using new technology.

More information on using Zoom

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Learn more

Contact the Learning Technology Hub for hands-on assistance:
604 827 4775 | LT.hub@ubc.ca | LIVE Online Support (Mon-Fri 9:00-4:30)

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