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The D2L Discussions tool is a convenient means for your students to interact with each other about course concepts. Desire2Learn Discussions are an asynchronous (i.e., not real time) communication tool. A discussion contains forums, topics,and messages.

Forums are the parent level and can be simply a title representing the broad subject to be covered in the topics within the forum. Topics are the child level, the area where questions, scenarios, case studies are created and where student discussions occur. As students post messages in Discussion topics, the posts are organized into threads or conversations containing an original post and the related replies.

When creating a forum, it is important to create at least one topic in that forum so students can access the discussion.

Note: Students cannot see forums that contain no topics.

This page contains information on how to:

Navigate Discussions v10.3

In D2L version 10.3, the layout of posts in the Discussion tool has changed:
  • Messages in topics are organized in threads or conversations, in which an original post is grouped with the related replies. The grid view does not exist in this version of D2L.

  • Clicking on the Discussions tool on the navigation bar displays the forums in bolded black typeface with the topics in bolded blue typeface and in borders below each forum:

    Discussions 10.3 forum and topics

  • When viewing the list of topics, statistics display to the right of each topic title:

    • The statistics below, 52 and 74 (5), mean there are 74 messages (original & replies) in 52 threads in the topic; of those 74 posts, 5 messages have not yet been read by the you.

      Discussion Threads and Posts
    • Access unread posts in the topic by clicking on the number of unread posts in parentheses 

      D2L Discussion Unread Posts link
  • Clicking on a topic title displays the Topic View:

    • This view lists the original posts made in the topic and also displays tallies of unread posts (those not yet read by you), replies to each thread, and the total views of each thread.

    • The bread crumb links at the top of the page in Topic View: topic view,breadcrumb link
  • Clicking on the original post in a topic displays the conversation or Thread View:

    • This view includes the original post or thread at the top of the page; related replies are displayed in table format below the original thread.

    • The bread crumb links at the top of the page in Thread View: discussion list

    • Threads containing unread posts are emphasized with a bolded vertical bar to the left of the thread:

  • Filter and Sort options appear above the threads in the Topic View; similar filters appear in the Thread View:

    Discussions 10.3 filter and sort

    • Select Unread to filter by unread messages; results will display both unread original posts and unread replies to original posts

  • Use the Search field in both the topic view and the thread view to search for specific persons' messages or to search by text you choose:

    Discussions search field
  • To read posts on a student-by-student basis in a topic that is not graded, you can use the Assess Topic feature without entering grades:
    • When you create the topic, go to the Assessment tab and enter a score in the Score Out Of field without choosing a grade item:

      Disc10-3 Score entered without no grade item

    • Watch! This YouTube video on grading D2L Discussions shows you how to use the Assess Topic feature to read discussion posts and also to grade discussion posts.

Watch the LTS Online Help tutorial on navigating the Discussions tool in D2L v10.3: 

Discussion Settings and Viewing Options

All users may set personal options for viewing discussions; click on the Settings link in the upper right to access the options. Instructors have different settings options from students.

  1. From the Navigation bar within your course, select Discussions.

  2. Choose the Settings link on the upper right of your screen. The Discussions Settings options will display:

    discussion settings

  3. Choose the desired options and press Save to continue.

Additional viewing options

The Floating Discussions List can be hidden or displayed in the Topic or Thread views as desired.

  1. Once you click on a topic or a thread in the Discussion tool, you will then see the tab on the left; click on the tab to see the list.

                       Floating Tab Closed             floating discussion open

  2. The list floats down the page in its open or closed state as you scroll to view more topics or more threads.

  3. You may click on Pin the Topics List in the Discussion Topics list so the list remains in view. 
    Or, you may select Settings in the upper right and check "Always show the Discussions List pane" to pin the Topics List.


Set Up a Discussion

  1. From the Navigation bar within your course, select Discussions.

  2. Press the New button and choose New Forum from the dropdown menu.
    new forum

    Note: You must first create a forum and then create at least one topic in that forum before students can access the discussion.

  3. In the Title text box, type a name for your new forum. This is the broad subject that organizes multiple topics in the forum. Student discussions take place in the topics.

  4. Optional: In the Description text box, type a short description of the forum.

    This optional description will be displayed under the forum title in the Forums & Topics List pane.

  5. To make a discussion visible to students, you must add at least one topic to a forum. To add the topic immediately, click Save & Add Topic. The New Topic pane appears.

  6. In the New Topic Details section, type a name for your new topic in the Title text box.

  7. In the Description text box, type the question(s) or topic for discussion and any instructions for students. Students see this information as they compose their messages.

  8. Optional: Select settings options for the topic:

    topic options
  • Allow anonymous posts gives students the option to post anonymously to this topic.
  • A moderator must approve individual posts before they display in the topic means the instructor/academic assistant must read and approve each post before they are displayed to students in the discussion topic.
  • Users must start a thread before they can read and reply to other threads requires each student to post a new message in a topic before other students’ posts and replies become visible.
  1. Optional: To add additional topics to the same Forum, press Save and New and repeat steps 6-7.

  2. Press Save.
    The forum and topic(s) are added in the Discussions tool.

  3. Optional: Access the Assessments tab to link the topic to a grade item if you intend to grade this Discussion topic. Also, specify the point value associated with this activity.

    • Choose the desired grade item from the Grade Item dropdown menu
    • Enter the point value for this activity in the Score Out Of field

      Discussion 10.3 Grade Item
    Note: The points in the Discussion topic and the points in the grade item linked to the topic must be the same numeric value.

Rating Scheme Options

Instructors may enable a Rating Scheme so students can rate classmates' messages. Rating Schemes may be selected on a per topic basis. Only instructors and academic assistants in the course can see the ratings results.

  1. Optional: Select a Rate Posts option.

  2. The default scheme is No Ratings:
  • No Ratings (default) - ratings feature is disabled.
  • Five-Star Rating Scheme - rate classmates' posts on a 5-star scale.
  • Up Vote/Down Vote Rating Scheme - allows voting up and voting down of posts.
  • Up Vote Only Rating Scheme - allows the voting up of posts.
  1. Press Save. Results are visible to instructors in the Topic View and in the Thread View.

    rating scheme opt

Edit Discussion Forums and Topics

Once you create Discussion forums and topics, you may occasionally need to make changes to your settings or to your text.

To edit an existing forum or topic, access the Discussions tool in your D2L course:

  1. Click on the arrow to the right of the desired forum or topic name and choose Edit Forum (or Edit Topic, as appropriate) from the dropdown menu.

    edit discussion
  1. You can now access the Properties, Restrictions, and Assessments tabs in that forum or topic.
  1. Make your changes; be sure to save.

Hide, Restrict, and Lock Discussions

By default, students can view and post in a forum or topic at any time.

  1. To hide (from student view), restrict, or lock a discussion, access Discussions in your course, select the dropdown arrow next to the forum or topic you want to change, and select Edit Forum or Edit Topic as desired.

    hide restrict
  2. The Properties tab appears. Scroll down that tab to access Availability and Locking Options.

Note: Any restrictions you apply to a forum also apply to its topics. If you have more than one topic in a forum and want the topics to be available at different times, apply restrictions to the topics separately. Otherwise, apply restrictions to the forum.

Availability Options

  1. If a discussion topic has not been hidden or date restricted, students can see it. When you edit a forum or topic, the Availability options appear on the Properties tab below the Description.

    Availability options set at the forum level affect all topics within that forum. You may instead set availability options in each topic separately if preferred.

    The image below shows the Availability section with the default option selected, Forum is always visible.

    availability options
    • Hide this forum prevents students from seeing the forum and topics within; in this case, you would have to manually unhide the forum in order for students to access the forum.
    • Forum is visible for a specific date range automatically sets the forum to become available to students on a certain day/time and unavailable on a certain day/time (if chosen).
    • If you do not see these options on this tab, click Show forum visibility options to display this section.
  1. Make your changes, if desired, and press Save.

Locking Options

  1. A locked forum or topic continues to be visible to students, but prevents students from posting or replying in that discussion. This is useful if you want students to be able to refer to past discussion forums/topics, but do not want any more posts in that forum or topic.
  • When you edit a forum or topic, Locking Options appears on the Properties tab below Availability. The image below shows the Locking Options section with the default Unlock forum selected.

    NOTE: Locking options set at the forum level affect all topics within that forum. You may instead set availability options in each topic separately if preferred.

    locking options1
  1. These options are similar to those for Availability. If you do not see these options in D2L, click Show locking options.
  1. Make your changes; press SAVE or SAVE and CLOSE.

Reorder Discussion Forums and Topics

Forums and topics can be rearranged to display in any order you would like.

  1. From the navigation bar within your course, select Discussions.

  2. Click the dropdown arrow to the right of the More Actions button. Choose Reorder.

    more actions

  3. Then assign the appropriate Sort Order number to the right of the forums (gray background) and topics (white background) on the Reorder Forums and Topics screen:

    Discussions 10.3 Reordering forums and topics

  4. Press Save to retain your changes. You are returned to the Discussions list.

Delete Discussion Forums and Topics

  1. In the Discussions tool, click on the arrow to the right of the title of the forum or topic you wish to delete.

    delete discussion

  2. Press Delete at the bottom of the list.

  3. Confirm with Yes.

  4. Your forum or topic is deleted.

Note: Deleting a forum deletes all topics and messages within that forum.

Restore a Deleted Forum or Topic

If you delete a Discussion forum or topic by mistake, you may restore that item. Restoring a discussion topic also restores the messages posted in the topic. If the forum you restore contains one or more topics, you will be given the option to also restore those topics.

  1. Choose Discussions on the course navigation bar.

  2. Click on the More Actions button at the top of the page and choose Discussion 10.3 restore icon Restore from the dropdown menu.

  3. Click Restore beside the forum or topic you want to restore.

  4. Click Yes to confirm.

Set Up a Group-Restricted Discussion

You may require students to collaborate with other students in small groups in your course. The Groups tool in D2L will allow you to create small groups, assign students to those groups, and create group-restricted discussion space for each small group. Group members will only be able to see and participate in their own group-restricted topic(s).

To create group-restricted discussion topics, begin by accessing the Groups tool. You will first create the small groups in your course. You will then be able to create group-restricted discussion topics and group-restricted dropboxes as part of the small group setup. For more information, please review the Creating Groups and Group Workspace help documentation.

Participate in Discussions

  1. Click on a Topic title to see a list of conversations/threads within that topic. 

  2. Click on Start a New Thread (formerly Compose) to create a new conversation or thread in the topic.

  3. To view a specific conversation, click on a Thread title (original post from the instructor or classmate) to read the post and the related replies. In this view, the original post is located at the top of the page and all replies to that post are listed in table format below the original message.

  4. To reply to a classmate's original post/thread, click on Reply to Thread.
  • Or, you may respond to a specific reply in the thread by clicking on Discussions 10.3 reply link below the response to the original post.
  1. The message window appears. You must enter a title for your original messages.
  1. Then type the body of your message.

  2. Press Post to add your message to the conversation.
    • For original posts, you may save your messages as a draft and return later to complete and post, if desired.
    • Use the Draft option in the filters in the Topic View to find your draft message.


Search and Sort Posts


  1. Access Discussions, then access a specific topic in the Discussion tool.

  2. You can search within a topic for a particular author or keywords in the search field in the upper right of the page. Type your search term(s) in the search field and press the magnifying glass to begin the search.


Sort Discussion Posts

You may sort at the topic level and at the thread level. Sorting in the topic puts the topics in order with regard to the original post in the thread and does not consider the replies in each thread.

  1. Choose Discussions on the navigation bar.

  2. Click on the desired topic title.

  3. From the Sort by: pull-down menu, select the desired option.

    sort discussion

  4. The message are resorted according to your selection.

View Discussion Statistics by People

  1. Click Discussions.

  2. Click the Statistics tab.

  3. The list of students in the course displays.

  4. For more detailed statistics for a user, click the student’s name.

View Discussion Statistics by Forums and Topics

  1. Click Discussions.

  2. Click the Statistics tab.

  3. Select the Forums and Topics tab.

  4. To view more detailed statistics for each topic, click the desired topic.

Edit and Delete Posts

Instructors can edit their own posted messages in the Discussions tool in their courses.

  1. Open the message you wish to edit.

  2. Press Edit Message at the top of the message screen.

  3. The HTML editor will open; make the desired changes and click Save.

Note: Students cannot edit their discussion messages once they are posted to a discussion.

Instructors can delete D2L discussion posts, both their own and those posted by others.

  1. To delete a thread (the original message and all replies), click on the topic.
  2. Find the thread to delete.

  3. Click on the arrow to the right of the desried thread title and choose Delete Thread at the bottom of the list.

    Note: To delete a reply to a thread, click on the thread title to access the replies; then click on the arrow to the right of the student's name.

    delete thread
  1. You may choose whether or not you wish to have these deleted messages displayed to you by clicking Settings near the upper right-hand corner of the Discussion area and selecting the desired options.

    Note: Any deleted messages will be displayed with a blue background.

    display deleted

  2. Instructors are able to recover deleted items:

    1. Locate the deleted thread or message.

    2. Press Restore Thread or Restore Post as appropriate.

    3. Confirm with Yes. The thread or message is restored.

      Note: Students cannot delete discussion threads or posts.

Subscribe to Discussions

You can subscribe to forums or specific topics and specific threads in Discussions. If you are subscribed to a forum or topic or thread, you will receive notifications when new messages are posted in those forums or topics.

Note: In version 10.3, users are automatically subscribed to threads after creating or replying to a thread.

Once you have set up Notifications in D2L, you will be able to subscribe to Discussion forums, topics and threads in specific courses.

  1. Access the D2L course for which you would like to subscribe to discussions. From the Navigation bar within this course, click Discussions.
  1. To subscribe to a forum or topic, click on the arrow to the right of the forum or topic name; choose Subscribe from the dropdown menu.

Forum:  subscribeforum

Topic:  subscribetopic

To subscribe to a thread, click on Subscribe link to the right of the posted date/time:


  1. A dialogue box will appear on your screen. In this box you are able to choose whether you would like to be notified via email instantly of changes to this forum or topic, or if you would simply like it included in your summary of activity.

    Note: From this screen you can also change your notification settings by clicking Change your notification settings in a new window.

    customize notifgications
  1. Click Subscribe to continue. The color of the star in the dropdown menu has changed to show you that you have subscribed to this topic.

    Note: If you subscribed to an entire forum, notice that the stars for each topic within that forum have turned blue as well. This indicates that you have subscribed to every topic in that forum.

  2. To unsubscribe from a forum or topic at any time, access the menu to the right of the forum or topic or thread and choose Unsubscribe.
  • A dialogue box will appear to confirm that you wish to unsubscribe.

  • Click Yes to continue. Notice that the star in the dropdown menu you have unsubscribed from has returned to its original gray color.

Assess Discussion Topics

If your discussion topic is linked to a grade item in your D2L course, you may grade messages in the Discussion tool using the Assess Topic feature. Grades are then pushed to the course gradebook. This YouTube video shows you how!

  1. Access Discussions in your D2L course.

  2. Click on the arrow to the right of the title of the topic (not forum) you intend to grade; choose Assess Topic.

    Discussions 10.3 Assess Topic

  3. The Assess Topic screen appears, displaying the names of the students in your course along with a Topic Score link for each student.

    Discussions 10.3 Topic Score link

  4. Click on Topic Score for the first student; a Topic Score Details dialog box appears.

  5. Scroll down the page below the feedback section to read the student's message(s) in the topic.

    Discussion 10.3 Assess Topic Post

  6. Scroll back up to enter a score in the Topic Score field.

    You may also:
  • Check the Published checkbox to make the score visible to students (or you may instead wait until your score all students in this topic to publish scores to all students at once).
  • Type a private message to the student in the Feedback block.

    Discussions 10.3 Assess Topic

  1. Press Save and Close.

  2. You are returned to the Assess Topic page. Click on the Topic Score link for the next student and repeat steps 5-7.

Help Desk

For more information or to request a service, contact the LTS Help Desk:
HelpDeskLogo715-836-5711 | | OL1106

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