Discussions in Canvas at Olympic College

This talk is available at tinyurl.com/ocdiscuss

Amelia Garripoli

Canvas Discussions

Sure there are the nuts and bolts, but how do you make them useful for students?



  • Asking a question that has them look into a module topic in more depth

    • does this work for you?

    • lots of echos of the book or the video/class

    • not much outside effort

  • Posts tend to be repetitive

  • Responses tend to be repetitive and fluffy

  • Word counts lead to "fluff generators" (not a course outcome)


  • Have students sign up for a word from your module vocabulary list

  • They post a definition, an example, a source

  • They post responses "expanding on the post" — this is difficult for many. Good idea to post a response in the first board to give them an example

  • good variety

  • may have to step in and adjust incorrect posts

Pick-a-topic (think wiki)

  • Have students sign up for a topic

    • you coordinate (do you have time?)

    • students self-sign-up (Student edited Page)

  • Responses can:

    • expand the post

    • give constructive criticism

  • Can expose the posts from the start

  • Posts are refreshing

  • Can get some echos in responses (remember, they see them all)

  • Can potentially give credit for updating or adding to their initial post

Ask One, Answer One

  • Have students ask an open-ended question about the module

    • for example, "there’s a bug in this code, what can you do to figure out where it is"

  • Each student has to answer one (should answer one without an answer; may be hard to manage…​)

  • This is a form of self-review, but can be unbalanced if skill levels are wide

  • You can seed it with a few open-ended questions to set an example, and to help the early responders get their work done

  • You can give bonuses for additional questions (posted after the due date! so someone doesn’t take up the potential question space)

Future Application

  • Ask students to describe how they will use this module’s skills in the future

  • Can be difficult for those who are present but not goal oriented

  • Tends to spark some interesting responses, as people see things in others' future use they hadn’t thought about

  • Need to make sure the class discussion/supporting material includes "in the workplace" type of information for students to tie this to their potential future

Best Practices

  • Ask students to provide a "best practice" based on the course material

  • Material has to be convention-driven for this to work, not prescribed; it has to have "wiggle room" for it to need best practices.

  • Tends to spark some interesting responses, as people see things in others' best practices they hadn’t thought about

  • Reinforces the value of the conventions

  • May need to step in if the b.p. contains errors in thinking


  • Ask students to provide trouble-shooting advice based on the course material

  • Since everything can be done wrong, this is useful in helping them guide one another

  • Need to be careful that they don’t share homework solutions in this

  • Tends to spark some interesting responses, as people see things in others' troubleshooting they hadn’t considered

  • May need to step in if the advice contains errors in thinking

Random choice

  • Provide 4-5 questions and let students pick the one they want to respond to.

  • Surprisingly, not everyone will choose the first one.

  • Some repetition, but gives students posts to respond to that are not on their own topic

  • Students can self-select to respond to someone who did the same question, or who did a different one

  • Students sometimes respond to all briefly in the hopes of getting full credit (but such posts are very light on content)

Series of questions

  • Provide a series of related questions or points for them to respond to

    • Example:

      • When was the first time you used a computer?

      • What has changed about computers since you first used one?

      • What do you view as the most interesting change in computers since you first knew about them?

  • Makes it easier to have a post with enough concrete content

  • Remind people to use examples from their own experience (helps limit plagiarizability)

  • Responses can often be challenging; a student’s response to someone else tends to be an echo of their own post


  • Give (or have self-signup) a research topic: material not covered in the course, but relevant to it

  • The post is a summary of findings with sources cited

  • Responders have trouble with this: tend to say "good job". Good to direct them with something like "describe how you might make use of the poster’s information in your future work in this area"

Find a Video

  • Have them look for a video, tutorial, or other relevant course supporting material, describe it and evaluate it for course use and after course use

  • Responders compare your find to theirs (or to another one if they found the same one)

  • Lets a student respond to themselves and get it done

Peer Review of a Lab

  • Have students post their lab work

  • The key work here is the response; have them evaluate their peers' work, providing positive feedback and constructive criticism.

  • Lets students practice higher-level skills of evaluation on their peers' work

  • Need to have labs be tailored so plagiarism isn’t directly possible (best with personal projects)

  • Lets everyone see everyones' work, unlike a Canvas "peer review" — they can comment on the reviews, and learn from how their peers do the reviews.

Other possibilities

  • Present students with common or predictable misconceptions about a designated concept, principle, or process. Ask them whether they agree or disagree and explain why.

  • Give them a series of prompts to complete to reflect on the module’s contents, such as:

    • I became more aware of …​

    • I was surprised about …​

    • I related to …​

  • Each student is given a letter of the alphabet, and must write a post on a word relevant to the module that starts with that letter

  • Provide an example of your own devising that exhibits an outcome of the module (Blooms 2 outcomes are great for this)

  • Write a 3-2-1 post: 3 things you found out; 2 interesting things; and 1 question you still have

    • responses can critique, answer, expand on the posts

  • Provide 3-5 statements that aren’t clearly true or false, but are somewhat debatable. Have them evaluate them on a Likert scale (strongly agree to strongly disagree) and explain their evaluation

  • Circle: something still going around in your head. Triangle: something pointed that stood out in your mind. Square: Something that "squared" or agreed with your thinking.

  • KWL: In your post write what you already Knew before the module, what you Want to learn but don’t know, and what you Learned in this module. (can lead to vague posts, or frustrations getting expressed as W’s)


This talk is available at tinyurl.com/ocdiscuss