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The Problem

Every semester, some instructors are mystified to discover that the assignment and discussion topics in their classes appear twice — on both the Outline and on the Discussion page. And they are then faced with the frustrating and time-consuming task of removing the duplicates — a task made more complicated if the issue is only discovered after the semester begins and students have posted in both versions of the topics! 

Where do these duplicate topics come from?

In older online classes, instructors needed to create or import global topics in order to host discussions and assignments. From semester to semester, instructors would reuse their same global topics.

When an online class is rebuilt, however, assignment and discussion topics are created as part of the rebuild process. These topics, which we refer to as "course topics," are generated automatically by the online learning system at the beginning of the semester. In these newer classes, global topics are no longer necessary for hosting assignments and discussions. Learn More: What happens to my global topics when my class is rebuilt? (from my Inbox, #5)

The problem arises when an instructor who in the past taught a class that needed global topics is now teaching the new version of the same class. If the instructor doesn't realize that there are course topics already built into her class, she might accidentally duplicate her topics by importing her old global topics into a class that no longer needs them. Then she would have global topics and course topics in the same class.

How can you keep this from happening?

Before you import your global topics at the start of the semester, open the Pending Topics page to see whether discussion and assignment topics are already listed there.

  • If discussion and assignment topics do appear on the Pending Topics page, then you have no need of global topics for discussions and assignments. (Learn more: What Sort of Topics Do You Have?)
  • If there are no discussion or assignment topics on the Pending Topics page, then you can go ahead and import your global topics.

(star) Notes (star)

Course topics cannot be edited to the same extent the global topics can. (Learn More: Setting Up Your Topics — see the section on Editing Course Topics)

In many classes, instructors have created supplemental global topics, in addition to their discussion and assignment topics. If you want to reuse your supplemental global topics in a rebuilt class, you have two options.

  • First, you can create new global topics to replace the old supplemental topics, cutting and pasting the content from your previous semester's topics. If you have only a few supplemental topics, this is your simplest solution.

  • Your second option is to import all your global topics and then delete the ones you don't need. In future semesters, when you import your global topics they will include only your supplemental topics.

  • A third option is to contact the Help Desk and ask them to do a selective import of your global topics. You'll need to provide a list of the topics you want imported and the section and semester from which they should be imported.

What should you do about duplicate topics, if you already have them in your class?

If you've already imported your global topics and then discover that you have course topics in your class as well, your only choice is to delete the global topics that duplicate course topics. (You cannot delete your course topics.) Navigate to your Global Topics page, and use the Action menu to delete the unneeded topics one by one.

(star) Note(star)

To get rid of your unneeded global topics, it is not enough simply to archive them. Archived topics will still be listed on the Outline page and will cause ongoing confusion for your students.

(warning) Caution (warning)

If you discover the duplication only after the semester has begun, check to see whether students have posted in any of your Module 1 global topics. If they have already posted in a global topic, then do not delete that topic. Otherwise, you will delete the students' posts, as well.

Instead, close the global topic (by editing its closing date) so no more posts can be made there and ask students to post in the course topic instead.


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  1. Have a question or need help? Please post a comment here...

  2. Thanks for the info Jennifer! I'm not quite there yet but I'll certainly keep it in mind.