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What do we mean by "topics"?

In the Academy's online learning system (LMS), we use the word “topic” in a rather unusual way, and it’s not uncommon for teachers to be confused at first by what we mean when we’re talking about “topics.”

(star) A “topic” is simply a workspace within the online Discussion area, where students and teacher can interact in some way.

And topics define which activities will happen where inside your Discussion.

Uses of topics

Typically, you’ll use topics in four different ways:

  • First, you'll use topics as a space for class discussion. You'll post a question or prompt inside the topic and students can then enter the topic to post answers to your question and respond to one another's comments.
  • Another way you'll use topics is as a place for students to submit homework. Typically, there will be a separate topic for each homework assignment in your online class, and students can then post their work into that space. Assignment topics are gradable, and there are built-in tools for marking up and critiquing students' visual submissions.
  • Finally, you can use topics as a space in which to provide information to your students — class policies, for example. In an informational topic, there is often no interaction. The instructor posts important information and asks students to "Please Read" that information.
  • With the advent of the online gradebook, topics will also be a place where you post students' grades on assignments and other required work.

Types of topics

Online classes use three types of topics:

  • Course topics are created as part of the course development process and are sometimes called AEM topics. These topics appear automatically in a class: you don’t need to create them. Learn more: Editing Course Topics.
  • Many older classes have no course topics. Instead, instructors must create global topics the first time they teach one of these classes. Even if your class has course topics you may choose to create global topics, as a supplement. Global topics can be reused semester after semester. 
  • Section topics, like global topics, are created and maintained by the instructor. However, section topics are specific to a given section and a given semester and cannot be reused. Section topics are useful, for example, in some project-based classes, where you create a separate topic for each student.

Onsite classes can use either global topics or section topics.

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