How do I create a new discussion?

The Discussions tool is organized by Discussions, Topics, and Conversations.  

  • A Discussion is a mandatory category or grouping for topics.  There may be more than one discussion in the course or project site.  
  • Topics are required within Discussions in order for site participants to be able to post, read, and reply to messages.  
  • Conversations are messages or threads of discussion posted within a Topic.

This article covers the process for creating a new Discussion.

Discussions are useful for grouping several similar topics together, such as graded discussions, or group topics. They can also be used to specify the default topic settings for all topics within the discussion. All new topics will inherit the discussion settings by default.

Go to Discussions.

Select the Discussions tool from the Tool Menu.

Click New Forum (New Discussion).

By default, new sites are populated with a single discussion titled after the name of the site, and containing one topic for General Discussion. The default discussion and topic may be edited for posting messages, adding more topics to the existing discussion, or adding a new discussion.

Click New Forum to add a new discussion.  

Title the Discussion

Discussion titles are required. Name the discussion a title to easily identify the types of topics expected within it.  Remember that users post messages within topics, not discussions. Discussions are a grouping or classification of topics.

Enter a short description.

If desired, enter a description into the text box provided. The Short Description field only allows a maximum of 255 characters and does not allow formatting of text.  This information is displayed to users when they view the Discussions tool.

Enter a detailed description.

To provide more detailed instructions about the items in this discussion, use the Description area to enter the information. This area includes the Rich Text Editor and allows for more advanced formatting options.

Add attachments. (Optional)

Optionally, you may attach files to the discussion. Click the Add attachments button to browse for and select a file.

View Attachments

After a file is attached, the file name, file size, and file format will be displayed.

Select discussion posting options.

There are several discussion posting options from which to choose. Remember, any settings selected here will apply to all of the topics within this discussion by default. (However, these may be overridden by the settings on an individual topic if desired.)

  • Lock forum: This option locks the discussion so users can no longer post messages. However, they can continue to read existing messages.  
  • Moderate topics in forum: This option means all messages posted within topics in this discussion must be approved by the instructor before other students can see them.
  • Require users to post before reading: Selecting this option requires users to post their own response first before they can view other messages posted previously. This is a good option to select if the Instructor wishes students to respond to a discussion prompt before seeing other student responses.

Select availability.

The default option is to Show Immediately, or you can choose to Specify dates to open (show) and/or close (hide).

Tip: Setting open and close dates at the discussion level can be tricky because individual topics may also have specified dates. However, the discussion must be visible in order for the topics within the discussion to be available to students. Typically, instructors set open/close dates at the topic level only.

Select Read Options.

The default option is unchecked, allowing the user to mark each post as read after reading. Selecting this option will mark all messages within a conversation, or thread, as read.

Specify Gradebook item.

When grading discussion posts, select a specific Gradebook item for the grades to be included in the Gradebook calculations.

Note: You must first create the Gradebook item in Gradebook tool before you can select it to be associated with a discussion or topic.

Tip: Similar to open/close dates, associating with the Gradebook at the discussion level is not always ideal because individual topics may also be graded. Faculty may prefer to grade discussions at the topic level.


In most cases, the default discussion permissions are appropriate. By default, instructors are discussion Owners, and all other site participants are Contributors. The discussion owner may add and delete topics, modify permissions, edit the discussion and topic descriptions, etc. Contributors may only read, post, and reply to messages.

To modify the default permissions, click Customize to expand the permission settings.

Modifying Permissions

  1. Select the drop-down menu next to each role/group to choose one of the pre-configured options (i.e., Author, Contributor, None, Nonediting Author, Owner, Reviewer, Custom).
  2. Discussion permissions may be customized for different user roles, or for groups within the class. Click Customize to further expand the options for a particular role and define more granular custom permissions.

Note: Groups must already exist in order for group role permissions to display.

Click Save.

Once completed, scroll to the bottom of the page and select the Save button. (Alternately, if you would like to go directly to the screen to begin adding a new topic to the forum you just created, you may select Save Settings & Add Topic instead.)

Note: All discussions need at least one topic in order to be active.