Canvas,  Educational Tools,  Teaching & Learning

Canvas Update: Discussions Enhancements 

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Last week, we talked about the updates Canvas is making to assignments. This week, we’re turning our focus to the discussions redesign in preparation for the changes to go live this weekend. These updates go a little deeper and have some added functionality. Let’s jump in and see what’s changed!  

1. You can mention users in your posts!  

Canvas has added the ability for you to mention specific people in your posts. Simply type the @ symbol, and Canvas will give you a drop-down of all the people able to be tagged.  

A discussion response with the @ symbol typed into the editor to show a list of people who can be tagged in the post.
Using the @ symbol to tag people in posts

2. Canvas collapses threads automatically 

Canvas will collapse discussions threads so you only see the first post in any thread when you go to the discussion. You can expand threads by either clicking the “expand threads” button (to expand all threads in the discussion) at the top of the discussion page or by clicking the “# replies” link under a particular thread to expand just that thread.

The top of a discussions thread in Canvas with the "Expand Threads" button circled
Using the “Expand Threads” button to show all threads in a discussion
A reply to a discussion in Canvas with the "Replies" link circled
Using the “Replies” link under an individual post to show the replies to that post

3. Discussion threads can be viewed either inline or in a sidebar (split screen) 

This setting is controlled at the top of the discussions page. Canvas starts you out in inline mode (seeing all the threads with replies nested under them on the page so you can just scroll down, expand replies, and see them). 

A discussion forum in Canvas with the responses shown in inline view
A discussion thread with replies shown in the inline view

But you can also change it to “split screen” using the button at the top of the page.  

The top of a discussion forum in Canvas with the "View Split Screen" button circled
Switching how you view threads in a discussion to split screen from inline

The split screen mode expands threads in a panel on the right side of your screen.  

A discussion forum in Canvas with the replies to a particular thread shown in the split-screen view – a panel expanded on the right side of the screen.
A discussion thread with replies shown in the split screen view

To change back, at any point scroll back up to the top of your screen and click the ”View inline” button. 

4. Discussions are limited to three levels deep 

In the current version of discussions, nested replies can go on infinitely with new replies just being indented under the previous reply.

The current version of discussions in Canvas showing an initial reply and then cascading replies to that going four levels deep.
Current discussions in Canvas with all new replies being indented under the comment they’re replying to

In the new discussions, replies are only visually distinguished until three levels deep. After that point, further replies are at the same “level” – but the person being replied to is tagged.  

The new discussions in Canvas showing that replies are only indented to three levels
The new discussions in Canvas where replies are only indented to three levels

You can choose at that point to either include the post you’re responding to as a quote in your message or to just send your reply without it.  

The new discussions showing how Canvas will tag the author of the reply and give the option of quoting their post when creating a fourth level deep reply
Instead of creating a fourth level of replies, Canvas tags the author of the reply and gives the option to quote them in your post

5. Instructors can view the edit history of discussion posts 

If anyone posts in a discussion and later goes back and edits it, Canvas will display the date and time for the edit as well as a link for instructors to view the edit history.  

An edited discussion post in Canvas with the edited date and time and "view history" link circled
A discussion post that has been edited

Clicking the “View History” link will show a pop-up with every previous version of the post available. You can click on any of the options to expand them, or you can click “Expand all” to expand all of them.  

The edit history of a discussion post. Canvas shows all previous versions and gives the option to view them individually or to expand all of them.
The edit history of a discussion post

This has been a bit of a whirlwind introduction to the discussions updates – but there are some very helpful features being added here. Questions? Drop them below or email us at  

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