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Topic Basics

Two display options are available for your topics: a grid layout and a list layout. Default layouts are initially set by your department, but you can change the default view for any topic at any time. To learn more about the layout options, watch the tutorial on Grid View & List View.

Important: Whichever view you set as the default, any user, including you, can opt for the other layout whenever they open the topic — and the system will remember your choice. Depending on your workflow, you may find it helpful to switch the default view for a topic at different points in the module — one view for reviewing, critiquing and discussing, say, and another view for grading.

So why bother with a default layout at all, if everyone can simply set their own preferences?

When it comes time to grade assignments and review students' discussion participation, the list layout will make your life much easier. (Learn more: Grading Assignments Online)

  • If you’ve chosen the list layout for your topic, then the full content of each student’s post will be visible right inside the grading interface.
  • If you choose the grid view, you’ll need to click into a new tab or window to see the post content.

For this reason, we strongly recommend that you edit all your topics and set them to the LIST layout.

Here are more details on the two layout options:

The grid view offers a striking visual overview of the work submitted to a topic. The display is intended to encourage students to review and engage with one another’s work.

Click on any image to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

 

Designed especially for assignments, the grid layout presents each post as a “card” or “tile” with a poster image that serves as a teaser for the content of the post. Icons on each card provide information about its contents: the number of attachments, number of responses, and number of responses from the instructor.

 

 

 

 

 

Click on any card to see the full contents of that post, along with a thread of responses from other students or the instructor

 
Similar to the old discussion interface, the list layout presents all posts in a list down the page. The user scrolls down to see all the posts. All the same tools available in the grid view are also available in this layout.

 

 

 

The list layout is intended to promote discussion and is most useful in discursive classes, where writing, reading, and responding are the primary activities.

However, the list view may also be preferable in topics where students are posting multiple files for a single assignment (e.g., several sketches or photographs), because it allows you to see thumbnails of all the files each student has uploaded without having to click into a post.

You may have noticed that there are now three dates listed for each topic on the main discussion page: an opening date, a due date, and a closing date.


Click on any image to enlarge.

By default, the opening date is set to the first day of the module, and the due date and closing date are set to the last day of the module. In discussions, the due date and the closing date are always the same.

But in an assignment, you can set a closing date that’s after the due date. The due date is the deadline for this assignment. Students have to get their work in by this date. But by setting a closing date that’s later than the due date, you accomplish two things:

  • First, you won’t need to create a separate topic for late homework. If students submit their work after the due date, their posts will automatically be marked late. So if it’s your policy to allow students to submit late work, you can simply extend the closing date to give them some extra time.

  • What’s more, the extended closing date allows students time to review and post comments on one another’s work — without your having to manually reopen the topic. Comments made after the due date are not marked as late; but late posts are marked. For more information, watch the tutorial on Posts & Comments.

You can change the dates for any topic by editing it.

Here’s what you need to keep in mind when working in a private topic:

  • If the instructor makes a post, that post is public. Everyone in the class can see it.
    • Any comments the instructor makes on their own post are also public (i.e., students can see all instructor comments on this post).
    • Student comments on an instructor post are private (i.e., students can only see their own comments).
  • If a student makes a post, that post is private (i.e., no other students can see the post). All comments on written that post are private, whether made by the instructor or the student.

Here’s the bottom line: If the instructor initiates the post, then anything they contribute to that thread is public. If a student initiates the post, that thread is private.

Creating & Editing Topics

Course topics for discussions and assignments are created as part of the course development process and are generated automatically by the LMS. Before the semester begins, you can find your course topics under “Pending Topics.”

To edit a course topic, use the edit link on the Pending Topics page.


Click on any image to enlarge.

You will also see an edit link when you open a topic.

Editing a Discussion Topic

Discussion topics are fully editable, so you can:

  1. Change their opening and closing dates.
  2. Make them gradable.
  3. Switch them from public to private or vice versa.
    Review the information on Public & Private Topics under Topic Basics, above.
  4. Specify the default layout.
    Your department has already set a default view, but you can change that default to make the topic work best for you and for your students. Click the radio button to make your selection. Not sure about which layout to choose? Review the information on Choosing a Default Layout under Topic Basics, above.
  5. Update the discussion prompt.
    The composing interface for editing the discussion prompt is the same as that used for creating posts and comments. Learn more HERE.

Editing an Assignment Topic

Course assignments permit only minimal editing: 

  1. You can change an assignment from public to private.
    Review the information on Public & Private Topics under Topic Basics, above.
  2. You can select the default layout.
    Your department has already set a default view, but you can change that default to make the topic work best for you and for your students. Click the radio button to make your selection. Not sure about which layout to choose? Review the information on Choosing a Default Layout under Topic Basics, above.
  3. You can change the topic dates.
    For more information about setting these three dates, review the information on Topic Dates, under Topic Basics, above.
  4. Because you cannot edit the description of an assignment, we have added a new field called “Instructor Update” to allow you to customize your course assignments.
    • This field can be edited throughout the module, so you could provide examples or tips at the start of the module and make general critiquing comments later on.
    • Whenever you add new information to the Instructor Update field, the box will open so students don’t miss your comments.
    • Instructor Updates do not carry over from one semester to the next —  and you must create them separately in each section.

Instructors create and update their own global topics, and this process always begins on the Global Topics page.

If you want to reuse topics from a past semester, click the import button before you do anything else. Otherwise, the Online Help Desk will have to import your topics for you.


Click on any image to enlarge.

When you edit a global topic you will find that the topic description has been adapted to the new interface, including any attachments. You can make your updates, as usual. The composing interface for editing the description of a global topic is the same as that used for creating posts and comments. Learn more HERE.

 
Two things are different in this new interface:

  • First, if you designate a topic as an assignment — i.e., as gradable — you will find that you have three dates to set instead of just two.
    For more information about setting these three dates, review the information on Topic Dates, under Topic Basics, above.
  • Second you have the option to choose the default layout for your topic: grid or list.
    Your department has already set a default view, but you can change that default to make the topic work best for you and for your students. Simply click the radio button to make your selection. Not sure about which layout to choose? Review the information on Choosing a Default Layout under Topic Basics, above.

If you want to create a topic that is specific to a particular section, then you need to begin from the Current Topics page — or the Pending Topics page — and click “Add Section Topic."


Click on any image to enlarge.

The editing interface is the same as that used for course topics.

You can review and edit your section topics from either the Current Topics page or the Pending Topics page, depending on whether or not the topic has already opened.

Learn more

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