Instructor Support for Educational Systems

How do I use the Discussions tool?

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In this article, you can read what you can do with the discussions tool and what options there are.

Discussions are a great tool to:

  • Allow students to work together. A discussion is a place where students can come together online and therefore a good place for students to work together. You can create different discussion topics for different groups and give them a space to share documents;
  • Allow students to easily discuss certain topics that are relevant to the course;
  • Allow students to provide each other with (peer)feedback. Students can share files, like documents, images, and videos, in discussion topics that can subsequently be viewed by everyone who has access to that topic. This allows students to provide other students with peer feedback and receive feedback on their own material.

You can create discussion forums in Discussions, and to these forums you can add discussion topics. A topic is a place where students can post and read messages. Students will not be able to have discussions in a forum without topics.

Discussions homepage

  • Go to Course Tools in the navbar of your course.
  • Click on Discussions. You will now see the Discussions homepage.
  1. The Discussions homepage shows you an overview of all the forums and the accompanying topics that have been created for the specific course. This is the Discussions List.
  2. The Subscriptions tab allows you to select how you want to receive notifications (in the form of an email) about discussions forums, topics, and threads to which you are subscribed.
  3. The tab Group and Section Restrictions allows you to see which group of students you have granted access to which forum and/or topic. You can also change the access from here. Click on Save when you are done editing. 
  4. You can generate statistics about the forums, topics, and/or their users using the Statistics tab. You can use this tool to see which students are participating in a discussion, which topic generates the most or least reactions, etc. You can export this data to Excel. 

Discussions List

  1. Click on New to create a new discussion forum or topic. Read this article for information about creating a new forum/topic: How do I create a Discussion Forum and Topic?
  2. Click on More Actions to:
    • copy a forum or copy a topic to a different forum (Copy).
    • change the order in which the forums and topics are displayed (Reorder).
    • select topics and/or forums to delete (Delete).
    • restore deleted topics and/or forums (Restore).
  3. Click on Collapse All Forums to hide all topics. This will provide you with a better overview of all the available forums in the course.
  4. Click on Settings (top right corner) to directly go to the Discussion Settings and change the settings of all forums.

Click the fold-out arrow next to the title of a forum:

  • Click Add Topic to add topics.
  • Click Collapse Forum/Expand Forum to hide/show de topics of the forum.
  • Click Edit Forum to edit the forum.
  • Click Hide from Users/Make Visible to Users to hide/make visible the forum from students. Note: the topics in the forum will also be hidden from the students.
  • Click View Forum Statistics to go to the statistics page.
  • Click Subscribe/Unsubscribe to (un)subscribe to forum updates.
  • Click Delete to delete the forum.

Click the fold-out arrow next to the title of a topic:

  • Click View Topic to view the topic. NB: you can also click the title of the topic to view the topic. 
  • Click View Topic in Grid View for a clear view of the topic's activity (which content is read/not read, who has participated, etc.).
  • Click Edit Topic to edit the topic.
  • Click Hide from Users/Make Visible to Users to hide/make visible the topic from students
  • Click View Topic Statistics to go to the statistics page.
  • Click Approve/Unapprove All threads to (un)approve all of the threads within a topic at once. Note: this option is only visible when you have enabled moderating for this topic or the corresponding forum.
  • Click Subscribe/Unsubscribe to (un)subscribe to topic updates.
  • Click Delete to delete the topic.  


The Subscriptions tab shows you a list of the forums, topics, and threads to which you are currently subscribed to receive notifications.

You will automatically be subscribed to every thread within a forum or topic when you subscribe yourself to said forum or topic. 

  1. Select whether you want to see all of your subscriptions or just those related to forums, topics and/or threads. Click on Apply
  2. You can select whether you want to receive the notifications in the minibar, as an email, or in your daily summary of activity below Default Notification Method.
  3. You can select the notification method for each forum, topic, and thread separately.
  4. Click on Subscribed to unsubscribe from a forum, topic, or thread.

You can find more information about changing the settings of email notifications here

Group and Section Restrictions

You can use restrictions to assign forums and topics to certain groups. Only the students in this group will be able to see and use the intended forum or topic.

  1. Select for which group you want to set the restrictions for what forum.
  2. Adjust the check marks if you want to grant/remove access to certain forums and/or topics.
  3. Click on Save to save your adjustments.
  4. Click on Automatically create restricted topics if you want to create topics in a forum that are only accessible to specific groups. The topics in the forum will automatically be named after the groups in the selected group category.


The Statistics tab allows you to see the statistics of the discussion. There are two types of statistics: statistics of the users and statistics of the forums and topics.


  1. Below Org Unit Statistics you can see the total amount of posted threads and replies (Replies) and the total amount of unapproved posts.
  2. Below User Statistics you can see the activities per student. Select whether you want to see the statistics of all the students or the statistics from a specific group behind View By. Then click on Apply. 
  3. Click Export to CSV File to download the statistics as a CSV file (which can be opened in Excel).

Forums and Topics:

  1. Below Org Unit Statistics you can see the total amount of posted threads and replies (Replies), the amount of pinned threads, and the number of unapproved posts.
  2. Below Forum and Topic Statistics you can see the activity per forum and topic.
  3. Click on Export to CSV File to download the statistics as a CSV file (which can be opened in Excel).

Moderate discussions

As the moderator of the discussions you can determine whether messages (posts) created by students can be posted immediately or only with your permission. This can be changed for all messages at once or per message.

For all messages

When you are creating a new forum or topic you can check a box to allow messages to only be visible to students after you have reviewed these messages. This can be done for all topics within a forum (when creating/editing of a forum) or per topic (when creating/editing of a topic).

  • Click New Forum/Topic or Edit Forum/Topic.

Check the second box below Options. This option allows a post to only visible to other students after you have approved it.

Per message

You can also edit or remove every individual message on both the thread and post level.

  • Go to the Discussions homepage.
  • Click a Topic
  • Click the fold-out arrow next to the name of the thread or the author of the post.
  • Click Delete Thread/Post to delete the thread/post.

Other options

Besides editing and deleting threads/posts there are a few more options you can use to streamline your use of discussions.

  • Mark All Posts as Read/Unread. This can be done for all the posts in the forum topic, but it's possible to mark individual posts as Read/Unread in the topic itself as well. This can be done through usage of the posts own drop down menu.
  • Flag Thread/Post. Flagging threads/posts can be useful  if you want to return to a thread/post at a later time, or if you want to monitor replies to the thread/post. Flagging threads/posts is individual and cannot be seen by other users. You can easily find your flagged threads/posts by clicking Flagged in the Filter by tool.
  • Pin Thread. You can pin a thread to the top of its forum by selecting the Pin Thread option. This is particularly useful for upping the visibility of your important threads - such as graded discussions - as they won't get crowded out by other threads in the same forum. Pinning threads is a powerful tool for maintaining your forum's clarity.
  • Copy Thread. Copying a thread creates a new thread with the exact same properties as the original. Links to grade items are not copied.

Video: How to adjust Subscriptions to Discussions

Below, you can watch a video made by Brightspace supplier D2L. Note: these videos show a Brightspace environment that has a different look and feel to the Universiteit Leiden Brightspace environment.

Previous Article Short video: How to create a Discussion (English only)
Next Article How do I create a Discussion Forum and Topic?