For administrators and editors
When we survey learners from even the best produced courses that are chock-full of amazing videos and content, guess which part of the course learners consistently rate as the best part? That's right, they rate the discussion interactions as what they found most helpful and interesting.
Adding discussion prompts is one of the easiest and best ways to make any course more effective, interesting, and fun.
💡 Tip: even if you're not personally planning to respond to discussion forums, it's easy to set the expectation for learners to discuss among themselves. In fact, one Pathwright account has over 55,000 discussions that are all learner-to-learner. Prefer to turn off notifications? You can toggle discussions off entirely per course or per cohort in the course or cohort settings.
How to add a discussion prompt
A discussion question appears as part of the course within the step. Discussion questions become part of your course curriculum and can be used by all the cohorts taking the course.
Select the “Post a discussion question” button near the bottom of the step.
Add a brief question title or prompt. Optionally add more details or files in the text editor under “More information.” Post as a "Discussion prompt."
💡 Tip: Discussions can be started from any step in a course. Adding a discussion prompt on a dedicated To-Do step allows you to set grades and dates on the discussion and make it required using the step settings.
Teachers and moderators can post questions to their cohort only. Learners can start discussions on any step for their cohort only by typing in the text box just below the content labelled "What would you like to discuss about this step?"
✍What makes an effective discussion prompt?
The following points are summarized from our blog post on How to Write Discussion Questions.
Ask open-ended questions. An effective discussion question requires more than a yes or no answer or regurgitation of what was just taught. Avoid being overly broad, but make sure your learners have a chance to apply what they learned.
Think about community. Encourage learners to share their experiences and relate what they're learning to real life.
More questions = more participation. Consider offering more than one discussion question on a step. Make some more challenging and others more accessible.
Offer incentive (grade the discussion). If learners know you will read and grade their discussion, they are more likely to give thoughtful answers and participate consistently, encouraging richer interaction.
How discussions work
Discussion prompt versus personal question
When you create a new discussion, you will see the options to post as a discussion prompt or as a question. When designing a course, you'll want to use the discussion prompt option.
Discussion prompts are shared among all cohorts (if you use multiple cohorts), but personal questions can only be seen by members of that particular cohorts. These can be used by teachers and moderators who want to personally communicate with the class.
Edit or delete
Hover over any discussion or post and select the additional actions icon (...) for the options to edit or delete that discussion or individual message.
💡Tip: Please note that when you delete a discussion from the Source Path, it also deletes that shared discussion in all Cohorts. Deleting a discussion from the Source Path or Cohort will delete all associated replies.
Discussion posts can be "upvoted" by learners using the up arrow (^). Each question will display a number of responses and number of upvotes.
Each post will show the number of upvotes and responses will be threaded.
Filter any discussion to see a certain type of post first. "Best" will show the most-upvoted responses first. "Active" will show posts with the most responses first.
If you are enrolled in the course as a teacher or moderator, you will automatically be notified when someone asks a new question or responds to a discussion prompt. Learn more about how to manage your notifications.
💡 Tip: posts with unread responses will show a colored dot notification.
In some cases, members may want to subscribe to an individual discussion in order to get every response to that discussion, and not just direct responses to their own posts. To subscribe to a discussion, select the "Subscribe" button.
To unsubscribe and stop receiving all notifications, select the "Unsubscribe" button.
You can follow any notification straight to the original discussion by clicking on it. To unsubscribe, follow the notification to the discussion and then use the unsubscribe button to stop receiving further notifications.
Ask to respond
Are you working with multiple teachers and moderators in a single course or cohort? Use the "Ask to respond" link under additional actions to send an instant notification to your colleague.
When a notification has been successfully sent to a teammate, you'll see the name fade and a check mark will appear. The notification message will include a link to the discussion and will indicate that you have asked this teammate to respond.
👉 Ideas & examples
Here are a few ideas that you can try in your course:
Introduction question. Consider asking learners what they hope to learn and why.
"Share your work" question. Consider having learners share their work with others in the class in a discussion. This way, they will get feedback from others, not just from the moderator or teacher. For example, ask learners to share their answer to an application question or have them share a picture or video file of something they've created or done in relation to the course.
"What have you learned" question. Use a "share what you learned" type question at the end of a module or at the end of the course to help you evaluate what learners are taking away from their study. Encourage learners to share how they'll apply what they learned to life.
Case study and problem-solving. Present a challenging case study or problem and ask learners to work together to find a solution.
Debate. Present a controversial issue and challenge learners to politely and professionally discuss the various sides of the issue using evidence.
Socratic questioning. Ask a question designed to engage your learners in finding the answer to a complex problem. This may require a teacher or moderator to check in and move your learners' thought processes in the right direction with careful follow-up questions.
Discussion syncing, visibility, and permissions
Not sure who can see your discussion questions? Who can post? Who can edit or delete? Here's a quick summary.
Discussion syncing: whom have I shared the discussion with?
For admins and editors adding discussion questions on the Source Path, your discussion question added to either a synced step or to an un-synced step requires a sync to show in the Cohort.
For all users, your new discussion question added to a synced step in the Cohort does not require a sync to show in the Cohort, but will post immediately. Your new discussion topic posted to the Cohort Community will post immediately.
For admins, editors, and teachers, your new discussion question added to an un-synced step requires a sync to show in the Cohort on the step and in the Community.
Learn more about syncing here.
Discussion visibility: who can currently see the discussion?
Admins, editors, teachers, and moderators can see all synced discussions in a course or Cohort at all times regardless of start dates.
For learners and observers, once a step is locked with a future start date, the discussion on that step no longer displays on the step or under Community in the Cohort until the date is reached. Once a lesson is locked with a future start date, the discussions in that lesson no longer display on the steps or under Community in the Cohort until the date is reached.
For learners and observers, a future access start date on the Cohort hides all discussion questions on the steps and under Community.
Learn more about setting start dates with the lock function and how to set an access start date on your Cohort.
Discussion permissions: who can post a new discussion or post a reply? Who can edit or delete a discussion?
Admins and library editors can add discussions and can edit and delete all discussions and replies everywhere, regardless of who posted them. Have a learner-posted discussion that violates your community standards? You can delete it.
Course editors can can add discussions and edit and delete all discussions and replies in courses where they enrolled as course editor.
Teachers and moderators can add discussions and can edit and delete all discussions and replies that they have personally posted.
Learners can add discussions and can edit and delete all discussions and replies that they have personally posted.
Observers have a read-only view of discussions. They cannot post, edit, or delete discussions or replies.
Please note that when you delete a discussion from the Source Path, it also deletes that shared discussion in all Cohorts. Deleting a discussion from the Source Path or Cohort will delete all associated replies.