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Discussions & Chat

Create an online forum for questions, comments, and general communication as a class.

Creating a Discussion Forum and Topics

This guide shows how to create and manage discussions, forums and threads in a VU Collaborate delivery space. It is helpful to provide a central repository for questions, and comments and to encourage online socialising amongst students.

To see a short video on How to Create a Discussion Forum and Discussion Topic, see the video below:

 Below are the steps to use Discussions:


Step One: Setting Up a Discussion Forum

1. Click the Communication tab, then select Discussions.

Communication Tab and then Discussions

Forums are used to organise your discussion topics into categories. You must create a forum before you can create a topic as all topics belong to forums. The topics are where posting and replying occur.

 2. Click New, then New Forum

Create a New Discussion and New Forum

3. Give the discussion forum an appropriate Title and Description

1 Add title and description for discussion forum

4. Scroll down for more options when creating a discussion forum.

  • Allow anonymous messages: Checking this option will allow anonymous messages to be posted to topics created within this forum. Anonymous messages are displayed with the message author 'Anonymous' in the Message List.
  • Users must start a thread before they can read and reply to other threads in each topic: Selecting this option will require a user to start a new thread in a topic before viewing or replying to other threads in that topic in the forum. This option cannot be selected alongside the "Allow anonymous posts" option.
  • Messages must be approved before being displayed: require messages posted to topics created within this forum to be approved before they are displayed to all users in the Message List.
  • Display forum description in topics: display the forum's description in addition to the topic description when viewing a topic

5. When finished click Save and Close

2 options for creating forum


Step Two: Setting up a Topic

1. Click New, then New Topic

Create a New Topic

2. Select which Forum you would like to attach the topic to, from the dropdown list. In the example below, we have picked General Discussion Forum for the Unit. 

3. Choose a Topic Type. By default, the system will select an Open topic, everyone can access this topic and its contents. If you would like only allow students to see/access their group posts, select Group or section topic, everyone can access this topic but students only see threads from their own group or section.

4. Give the discussion topic an appropriate Title and Description.

1 create a new topic and fill all details 

5. Scroll down to Options, in this example, we have ticked - a user must compose a message before participating in the topic. This means that each student needs to post their own message before they can see and respond to others. 

2 additional options when creating a topic

6. Rate Posts (optional): this function allows users with the appropriate permissions to rate discussion posts in the unit.

  • Five-Star Rating Scheme allows users to assign each post a score out of five.
    Up Vote/Down Vote Rating Scheme allows users to increase or decrease a post's rating.
    Up Vote Only Rating Scheme allows users to increase a post's rating.
    No Ratings hides all rating controls from users.

2.1 rate posts optional


Step Three: Setting Restrictions and Release Conditions

You can select different Availability Options in the Restrictions tab. Availability settings control when the forum or topic can be viewed by the users and when users can contribute to the forum or topic.

1. Select the Restrictions tab. To hide the forum or topic, simply tick the Hide from Users option.

2. To enter a Start Date and End Date, simply tick the checkboxes and use the calendar function to enter a specific date range. Select between the three options:

  • Visible with access restricted before start/end: this option allows activity to be visible to students before the Start Date or after the End Date, but they cannot click or open it.
  • Visible with submission restricted before start/end: the activity will be visible to students before the Start Date or after the End Date. Students can access and view the activity but cannot complete it.
  • Hidden before start/end: The activity will be hidden from students until the Start Date, and/or after the End Date.

By default, the Visible with access restricted before start/after end options will be chosen.

3 setting availability for a topic

3. Tick on Display In Calendar if you would like the activity to be added to the VU Collaborate calendar.

4. Under Release Conditions, there is the option to either Attach Existing or Create and Attach new release conditions for the discussion area. To create release conditions, see the Using Release Conditions help guide.

If you would like to restrict the discussion area to a specific group, then tick Restrict this topic to the following groups and select Add Groups to search for the specific group, otherwise, you may bypass this step. 

Release Conditions 

5. Click Save.


Step Four: Assessment Options

1. Scroll back to the top and select the Assessment tab.

4 assessment tab access

2. Associate with the appropriate Grade Item by clicking the dropdown arrow in the Grade Item field. If you do not have available Grade Items, you can create one there by clicking on New Grade Item. To have Grade Items already created, see Creating a Grade Item.

3. Enter the number for Score Out of. This is the maximum amount of points one can give for the assessment.

4. Optional: you can also add a marking rubric to assess and provide feedback on the discussion topic.

5 set up grade item and max point and rubric

5. Optional: select how you would like to assess and calculate the individual messages from the options below. 

  • Assess each message and automatically calculate the topic score: Checking this option will allow messages posted to the topic to be scored. The message scores are used to automatically calculate the topic score.
  • Include unassessed messages in the calculated score as zero: Checking this option will include non-scored messages in the topic score calculation as zero. If this option is not checked, non-scored messages will not be included in the topic score calculation.

6 set up automactically calculate

6. Click Save and Close when finished. To grade this completed topic, see Assessing and Grading Discussions.  


Step Five: Reorder or Copying Discussions

1. Go to the Communication tab and click Discussions in the navigation bar. The More Actions function allows you to Copy, Reorder and Restore previously deleted messages.

Communication Tab and then Discussions

2. You can copy and reorder the forums and topics by selecting the Copy and Reorder buttons. 

More Actions Copy and Reorder Button


Step Six: Start a New Thread 

It is possible to respond to student discussion board comments by creating a post to address multiple posts.

1. Select the discussion topic you wish to view, by clicking on the title of the topic. 

2. Click on Start a New Thread to respond to the student's discussion board message.

7 start a new thread in a topic

3. Enter a Title/Subject.

4. Enter your message. 

5. Tick Subscribe to this thread option if you want to get notified when students reply to your thread. 

6. Pin a thread if you want it to stay at the top of the Activity Feed (list of posts); you can pin more than one if you like. This allows you to highlight important posts to ensure that students do not miss critical posts.

7. Click Post to publish the post for students to view.

8 enter details in a thread


Step Seven: Adding Discussions to Your Learning Space Area

You can add discussion forums and topics to the modules in the Learning Space of a VU Collaborate Space. This helps students find the relevant discussion board in the Learning Space.

1. In the Learning Space, select the module where you want the discussion forum or topic to be linked. 

2. Click on Add Activities and select the Discussions option.

9 add discussions in a module

3. A pop-up menu will appear. From here, click on the Discussion Forum, which will take you to another page, where you can select which topic you wish to embed into your content area by clicking on the topic title. 

4. Or you can Create New Discussion Forum or Create New Discussion Topic, if applicable. 

9.1 add activity and select discussion forum  9.2 select a topic

5. Once selected, it will appear at the bottom of the content module. A message will appear to confirm that the topic has been Saved. 

10 successfully added topic on a module


Step Eight: Edit Discussion Properties

1. Click the dropdown arrow next to the topic's title.

2. To edit or add restrictions to the discussion topic, choose Edit Topic in the dropdown menu.

In Edit Topic you are able to:

  • Change the description provided for the Discussion Topic
  • In Availability - change the Start Date, Due Date and End Date, as well as add the topic to the calendar
  • Choose from a range of options, and 
  • Add ratings to the topic responses.

11 Edit existing discussion topic

3. Once completed, click Save and Close


Step Nine: Viewing Edited Posts and Edit History

If enabled in Restrictions, students are able to edit their posts within a topic. From a teacher's point of view, it is possible to see if a post has been edited and what content was edited.

1. If edited, a pencil icon appears. Hover the cursor (mouse) over the icon to see the time/date of update.

Edited Post

2. To view what has been edited in a post, select the down arrow next to the post title and select View Post History.

View Post History

3. The changes made will appear chronologically with the most recent version on top. 

Post History Versions


Optional: Subscribing to a discussion

Subscribe to your discussion list to get notified every time students respond to selected discussion topics and/or threads.

There are three options:

  • Subscribe to a Discussion Forum: Allow you to receive a notification when students respond to any topics or threads belonging to that discussion forum.
  • Subscribe to an individual Discussion Topic: Allow you to receive a notification when students start a new thread or respond to any threads belonging to that discussion topic.
  • Subscribe to an individual Topic Thread: Allow you to receive a notification when students reply to the subscribed thread.


3. In the Customize Notifications pop-up window, select your Notification Method.

  • Show notifications in minibar only - display the notification through the chat icon only.
  • Send me an instant notification - (selected by default) this option will send you an instant email and notification whenever there is a new update.
  • Include in my summary of activity - include in your Summary of Activity email, which can be sent daily or weekly.

For more details on how to set up or check if you can receive instant notifications/email, refer to Setting Up Instant Notifications.

customise notifications

4. Select Subscribe.

subscribe button

For example, the notifications pop-up via the chat icon next to your profile picture.

received instant notification


Managing your subscriptions and notifications

VU Collaborate allows you to manage and change any discussion subscriptions via the Subscriptions tab.

subscriptions tab

From here, you can set the Default Notification Method (i) or individual subscription settings (ii). Note that this tab only appears on all subscriptions within the current unit space, not as a whole VU Collaborate system.

(i) Default Notification Method

default notification method

(ii) Individual Subscription Settings

  • If the discussion is no longer relevant, you can click on Subscribed to remove each discussion subscription.
  • You can also manage the notification of each discussion under Notification Frequency.

individual subscriptions settings


Further Support

Visit the VU Collaborate Help site at for up to date information and resources on blended learning or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Contact ITS Service Desk on (03) 9919 2777 or via self-service for further technical support.


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