How to: Create a Discussion in Canvas


Canvas, Collaborations, Communications, Discussions, How to, Learning Activities & Content, LMS, Tutorial 1 Comment

What are Discussions?

Discussions are online forums that allow members of the course to communicate with each other asynchronously. They can be set up as a whole class or a group forum, and they can be graded or ungraded. They’re commonly used for general course questions and answers, as well as conversations around course content. Follow the steps below to set up a basic discussion forum, or watch the video for further information including how to set up a graded discussion. For strategies and ideas about facilitiating online discussions, see the Further help and Usage tips sections at the bottom of this page.

How do I set up a Discussion in Canvas?

To set up a basic discussion forum:

  1. Go to the Discussions button on your course menu
  2. Click the red +Discussion button
  3. Give the discussion a topic title and enter your instructions or message in the text editor. You can link to files, pages or other canvas content areas by using the Selector on the right hand side, and you can format the text, add images or multimedia using the text editor functions.
  4. Click Choose File to Add an attachment if you wish
  5. Select the desired options. Threaded replies will allow students to reply to replies. Generally it’s a good option to select. See the Usage tips or the video for more help with these options.
  6. If you just want a general discussion for the whole cohort that’s available for the whole length of the course, you can ignore the last two  options and click Save & Publish to make your discussion immediately available to students. Choose Save if you wish to work on it some more before making it available. Remember students can’t see it until its published.
Canvas Discussions serve the same purposes as Discussion Boards in Blackboard and work much the same.  However, unlike Blackboard, Canvas discussions can be either threaded or unthreaded. They can also be graded and marked using Speedgrader.

For more information:

Overview of Discussions interface (video) [Canvas Community resources]


  • Course Q&A Discussion forums can be a very useful part of your plan for managing your course communications with students. Use it to reduce the number of repetitive questions you receive by email, and to get students engaging with each other. For more information about coming up with a communication plan read our post on Creating (and sticking to!) a communication plan for your course
  • It’s useful to give students some guidance on how to communicate in online discussion forums. You can do this by posting some guidelines on online netiquette. You can find some Netiquette examples here. Otherwise, you could also ask students, as an icebreaker activity and a way of getting them to feel comfortable and take ownership of their online space, to come up with their own guidelines for communicating online.
  • Facilitating online discussions to achieve lively and engaging learning experiences for students is a skill in itself. For more ideas and strategies around using discussion forums for engaging students with your course content, check our the Mastering online discussion board facilitations guide from Edutopia.

Literature and Case studies

Jianhong (Cecilia) Xia, John Fielder and Lou Siragusa, “Achieving better peer interaction in online discussion forums: A reflective practitioner case study“, Issues in Educational Research, 23(1), 2013


Can students create a discussion topic?

By default, YES. You can disable this for discussions in your course in the More Options dropdown in the Settings button.

Discussion guides for students [Canvas Community resources]


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1 Comment on "How to: Create a Discussion in Canvas"

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Hi Emma,
We are currently using Discussions with our students, setup underneath a Program Shell. Can you tell me if it possible to create Folders or setup individual Discussions that still exist under the one Program Shell?

We are looking to communicate via the one Discussions page (On the Program Shell) to all of our students, whilst categorising specific class based Discussions to a separate option. Is this possible to achieve? Any tips would be greatly appreciated.