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 prompt 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 prompt” button near the bottom of the step.
Add a brief question title or prompt. Optionally add more details or files in the text editor, then "Post."
💡 Tip: Discussion prompts can be added to 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.
Now you can create school-wide discussion Topics. Topics help your learners quickly scan and find discussions on topics of interest to them.
✍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 and allow learners to choose between the options.
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
There are two kinds of discussion boards. Discussion prompts can be shared among all cohorts (if you have multiple cohorts), but the responses to the discussion prompts are cohort-specific. Personal questions and their responses can only be seen by members of that particular cohort.
Teachers and moderators also have the option to post personal questions to their cohort only. Learners can post questions 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?"
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. Deleted discussions cannot be retrieved from the platform.
Discussion posts can be "liked" using the heart icon. Each question will display the number of responses and number of "likes."
Sort any discussion with multiple posts to see a certain type of post first.
"Best" shows the most-liked replies first.
"Active" shows replies with the most responses first.
"Active" shows replies made most recently on top.
"Oldest" shows replies made most recently at the bottom, so you can spot people who replied early but perhaps never got any input.
If you are enrolled as a teacher or moderator, you'll be automatically notified when anyone in your cohort...
Asks a question below a step or posts a question to the Community.
Answers a discussion prompt.
Replies to you.
You can follow any notification straight to the original discussion by clicking on it. You can manage discussion notifications for each cohort under your Teach tab, by clicking the down arrow icon and then toggling notifications on or off.
Learn more about how to manage your notifications.
Learners will automatically be notified when someone responds directly to something they have posted.
In some cases, learners 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 "Bell" icon.
To unsubscribe and stop receiving all notifications, unselect the "Bell" icon.
You can follow any notification straight to the original discussion by clicking on it. To unsubscribe, follow the notification to the discussion and then unselect the "Bell" icon to stop receiving further notifications.
💡 Tip: posts with unread responses will show a colored dot notification.
Ask to respond
Are you working with multiple teachers and moderators in a cohort? Use the "Ask to respond" link under the additional actions icon (...) to send an instant notification to your colleague. This is available for personal questions when there are at least two staff members enrolled in the cohort. 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 document or 30-second video 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.
💡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.
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: Discussions that are in a Step or Lesson that is locked with a start date will no longer be visible, neither in the Step nor in Community, until the unlock date is reached.
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 add discussions and edit and delete all discussions and replies in courses where they are 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.