Discussions & Communications

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This is how you can facilitate class-wide discussions and other communications to keep everyone connected.

Enable Class Discussions | Share Information | Set Up Office Hours

Enable Class Discussions

Interactive discussion boards for students can be set up in Canvas. First, follow the instructions for setting up a Canvas course, if you haven’t already. Then create graded or ungraded discussion topics 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, click the Allow threaded replies checkbox.
    • To make your discussion available only during a specific dates, enter dates in the availability fields.
  5. To create a graded discussion, click the Graded checkbox. Once selected, additional options will be added to the page for assigning the discussion.
  6. 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:
There are many effective strategies for online discussions »

Focused discussions are best for quick topics and only allow replies to the original post. Threaded discussions are best for in-depth topics and allow infinite levels of replying.

Learn more about Canvas discussions »

Share Information

One of the fastest ways to reach all students in a course is using announcements in Canvas. First, follow the instructions for setting up a Canvas course, if you haven’t already. Then create and post an announcement that all students will see.

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. This allows you to schedule the announcement for a future date.
  5. Click Save. Unless you are delaying, your announcement will immediately be posted for students.
    • Note: Students do need to set their notification preferences to receive an email immediately when you post an announcement.

Send weekly announcements to maintain a regular teaching presence in the course 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 individuals or groups of students 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 best for communications requiring an official paper trail or if you don’t want to depend on Canvas.

Set Up Office Hours

Video/audio web-conferencing and collaboration tool Collaborate Ultra can host virtual office hours as well as set up individual or group meetings with students. First, follow the instructions for setting up a Canvas course, and enable real-time interactions, if you haven’t already. Then host an office online.

Host a virtual office

  1. Log in to your Canvas course, and click Collaborate Ultra in the Course Navigation.
  2. Click Create Session.
  3. Enter a session name (e.g., “Office Hours”), start time, and end time.
  4. Check the Repeat session checkbox.
    • Your office hours can be set to repeat on a daily/weekly/monthly occurrence. Click the days you would like to repeat.
    • Use the “End after Occurrences” drop-down to set an end to your recurring sessions.
  5. When you are ready, click Save.
  6. After you save, you’ll see a new series of sessions. You can view and modify upcoming sessions by clicking the down arrow icon to the right of the session title.
  7. On the day of the session, you can use the session room you’ve created as a waiting room. (Think of it like the space outside your physical office.) You’ll then invite students into a private space using a Breakout Group.
  8. When a student enters the session, click purple arrow tab in the lower right corner to open the Collaborate panel.
  9. Along the bottom bar of the panel that expands, click the third icon for sharing content, and select Breakout Groups from the options presented.
  10. Move the student and yourself into a Breakout Group by dragging both names into “Group 1”. Click Start.
  11. Conduct your private one-on-one with the student. When you have finished, ask the student to leave the room by clicking the menu in the upper left corner of the screen and selecting “Leave Session” at the bottom.
  12. To return to the main session room yourself, click the stop icon next to “Breakout Groups”. Repeat this process for the next student.

Tip #1:
To make the most out of the virtual office hour, you can create a discussion beforehand for students to post questions they would like to address.

Tip #2:
If you’ll be using the waiting room approach for office hours, make sure your students know to expect this when they show up or allow them to sign up for time slots beforehand.

Tip #3:
Consider having a teaching assistant help you manage moving students in and out of Breakout Groups.

Breakout Groups have their own private audio, video, whiteboard, screen sharing, and chat.

Learn more in UBC’s Collaborate Ultra instructor guide » and Collaborate Ultra student guide »

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)

Assignments & Assessments