Discussions & Communications

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This is how you can facilitate class-wide discussions and 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. 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, 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:
Check out some effective strategies for online discussions »

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 and allow 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 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. You may want to encourage them to keep these on.

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 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

Collaborate Ultra is a ​video/audio web-conferencing and collaboration tool in Canvas​ 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 in Canvas

  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.
    • Use the “End after Occurrences” drop-down to set an end to your recurring sessions.
  5. Click Save. 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.
  6. 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 (your “office”) using a breakout group.
  7. When a student enters the session, click the purple arrow tab in the lower right corner to open the Collaborate panel.
  8. Along the bottom bar of the panel that expands, click the third icon for sharing content, and select Breakout Groups from the options presented.
  9. Move the student and yourself into a breakout group by dragging both names into “Group 1”. Click Start.
  10. Conduct your private meeting with the student. When you have finished, click the stop icon next to “Breakout Groups” in the Collaborate panel.

Tip #1:
If you use breakout groups for office hours, make sure your students know to expect this when they show up or allow them to sign up for time slots.

Tip #2:
To make the most out of virtual office hours, you can create a discussion beforehand for students to post topics they want to address. This gives you time to prepare answers and a way to respond to the whole class, if a question or concern 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 with you one-on-one under normal circumstances and that feeling may be heightened with uncertainty around how the technology works.

Breakout groups create mini Collaborate Ultra sub-sessions within your session that have private audio, video, whiteboard, screen sharing, and text chat in each group.

More information on using Collaborate Ultra

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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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