Discussions

Find tools to support online discussions at UBC. All tools recommended by the LT Hub have passed a UBC Privacy Impact Assessment and receive central technical and pedagogical support.

Synchronous Conversations

Synchronous discussions allow students to develop thoughts together in real time. This approach may pose barriers if students are in different time zones or have difficulty joining, but it can also be more engaging for students, with immediate feedback provided from peers.

General Tips

  • Have a backup plan ready (like a discussion board), in case something goes wrong for students during a synchronous session.
  • Consider the time zones your students are in when deciding times for synchronous sessions. The Student Timezones tool in Canvas can give you an overview of your students’ availability.
  • Before each discussion, tell students what topics will be covered, how they should prepare, and what they will be expected to do.

 

Cost:
Departments provide funding per teaching team member

Bandwidth:
Low demand

Privacy:
Complies with FIPPA by default

Mattermost

Use real-time chat to have students discuss topics in public channels, private group channels, or one-on-one direct messages.

What are the benefits?

  • You can set up discussion spaces of varying group sizes called channels that cover different topics, with students able to participate in one or multiple channels.
  • Students can communicate quickly with each other using the real-time chat, which can help quieter students who may not engage verbally to participate more in discussion.
  • Anyone can filter conversations by usernames, channels, and dates as well as hashtags.

Get started »


Microsoft Teams logo

Microsoft Teams

Cost:
Free

Bandwidth:
Low demand

Privacy:
Complies with FIPPA by default

Microsoft Teams

Set up a space where students can engage in real-time chatting and document collaboration.

What are the benefits?

  • You can set up discussion spaces of varying group sizes called channels that cover different topics, with students able to participate in one or multiple channels.
  • Students can communicate quickly with each other using the real-time chat, which can help quieter students who may not engage verbally to participate more in discussion.
  • Teams also supports document collaboration, where files can be edited by multiple people at once, which can be helpful if you want discussions to result in a specific deliverable.

Get started »


Cost:
Free

Bandwidth:
High demand

Privacy:
Complies with FIPPA by default; however, you should advise students not to sign in to free Zoom accounts, as these accounts store metadata about tool use on U.S. servers

Zoom Breakout Rooms

Create breakout rooms during a Zoom session to split a class into up to 100 smaller groups.

What are the benefits?

  • In breakout rooms, students can discuss with a smaller group of classmates using video, audio, text chat, and screen-sharing.
  • You can manually assign breakout rooms or have Zoom randomly assign them. You can also reuse pre-existing breakout rooms.
  • You can broadcast a message to all breakout rooms at once, to provide a question for discussion or countdown the remaining discussion time.

Get started »

Asynchronous Discussion Boards

While asynchronous discussions do not happen with the immediacy of real time, these conversations can let students pause more to reflect and allow for easier discussions across different time zones.

General Tips

  • Prior to opening discussion, set ground rules that provide clear instructions and expectations for participation and etiquette.
  • You can direct students to other rules for being a respectful online presence on the Keep Learning site.
  • Have a purpose or focus for each discussion to promote thoughtful dialogue.
  • For large courses, consider setting up separate discussions for smaller groups, so students can feel heard and meaningfully interact.

canvas-logo

Cost:
Free

Bandwidth:
Low demand

Privacy:
Complies with FIPPA by default

Canvas Discussions

Enable conversations for the entire class or for specific groups right in your Canvas course.

What are the benefits?

  • You can create discussions for everyone or use group discussions that only group members can access, reply to, and see postings for.
  • You can require students to reply to a discussion before they can see other replies.
  • Discussions can be ungraded or graded, and graded discussions will sync automatically with the Canvas gradebook.

Get started »


piazza-logo

Cost:
Free

Bandwidth:
Low demand

Privacy:
Additional steps required. Because of where data is stored, you will need to follow the steps in our instructor guide to comply with FIPPA.

Piazza

Host conversations with a tool that supports rich, wiki-like discussion boards.

What are the benefits?

  • Questions and answers on Piazza can be co-edited, meaning that students can collaboratively edit and see how the question and answer evolve over time.
  •  Piazza can be part of your Canvas Course Navigation or included as part of a module, if you want to use the two tools together.
  • Piazza has other interactive elements, like polls, which can be integrated into discussions to increase engagement.

Get started »


UBC Blogs

 

Cost:
None

Bandwidth:
Low demand

Privacy:
Complies with FIPPA by default

UBC Blogs Comments

Invite students to share their opinions and work on a course or individual website, which you and other students can then comment on.

What are the benefits?

  • If students host discussions using posts and comments on their own blog space, they can keep these conversations after the course is over.
  • UBC Blogs allows content to be posted publicly, which can support discussions that include communities or individuals outside the course.

Get started »