Written by: Joseph Chapman, Group Product Manager
A new create and edit experience for Discussion topics is coming soon to Brightspace. Here is an early preview of this update so that you can review, prepare, and raise any questions you may have.
Why did we do this?
Our goal is to simplify common tasks for first-time or infrequent users, while giving easy access to the advanced features that our experienced power-users love. Bringing consistency to how activities in Brightspace are created will help us achieve this goal. We recently re-imagined the create/edit workflows in New Content, Assignments, and Quizzes. Today, we are happy to unveil similar changes to Discussions.
The redesigned create and edit screen for Discussion topics has the same layout as in Assignments and Quizzes, making it familiar and easy to learn.
Figure: New Discussion Creation Screen.
The primary panel on the left contains common, frequently used fields that are always displayed. These fields are most relevant to learners and are core to topic creation.
Figure: Primary Panel of New Discussion Creation.
The right-hand panel organizes additional, more advanced options such as start and end dates, and release conditions. These options follow the same logical groupings as found in Assignments and Quizzes.
Figure: Right Panel of New Discussion Creation.
While the right-hand groupings are collapsed, the summary text provides details about which settings are active so you can see which settings are applied at a glance.
Figure: Availability Dates and Conditions Accordion.
Beyond the restructuring of the topic creation page for consistency, the new experience also includes updates and wording changes to a few settings that you may be familiar with. These changes are designed to simplify workflows and to align more closely with our Daylight patterns. Let’s review these changes.
Automatically create a new forum with same name and visibility as a new topic
To streamline getting started with the Discussions tool, new topics will create a new forum of the same name and same visibility. This eliminates the requirement of creating a forum prior to creating a topic when first building out the discussions area in Brightspace. For example, a new topic titled, “Introduction” which is marked as visible to learners, will automatically associate and generate a new, visible forum titled, “Introduction”. Once saved, topics and forums behave as they do today and become independently managed. For greater flexibility with this behavior, users can leverage the Change Forum workflow to edit the name of the newly created forum or associate the current topic with an existing forum.
Figure: Automatically Create a Forum for a Topic.
Figure: Change Forum Dialog.
Checkboxes now radio buttons for Allow anonymous posts and Users must start a thread
Previously, the settings of Allow anonymous posts and Users must start a thread were independent checkboxes that could only have one selection at a time. These capabilities persist in the new creation experience but now appear as a set of radio buttons.
- A new radio option of Default participation has been added and is equivalent to neither Allow anonymous posts nor Users must start a thread being selected in classic.
- The radio option of Allow learners to hide their name from other learners has updated wording and is equivalent to Allow anonymous posts being selected in classic.
- The radio option of Learners must start a thread before they can view or reply to other threads has updated wording and is equivalent to Users must start a thread before they can read and reply to other threads being selected in classic.
An illustrated diagram below shows these settings and how they appear today in classic and how they will appear going forward in the new experience.
Figure: Comparing how to set Allow anonymous posts and Users must start a thread in Classic and New Experience.
Topic type selector replaced by Manage Restrictions workflow
The radio buttons for selecting a topic type have been replaced by an updated Manage Restrictions workflow in the new experience. Like today, all new topics in the new experience start as an “open topic”. To change an open topic to either a group or section restricted topic or to a restricted topic with separate threads, open the Availability Dates & Conditions accordion and launch into the Manage Restrictions workflow to add a restriction. Previously, changing topic types could not be undone. To give greater flexibility and prevent blocked authoring workflows, topic types can now be freely changed until a topic has an associated post.
Figure: Open topics are no longer explicitly called out in the new experience. Add group and section restrictions using the new Manage Restrictions workflow.
Restricting topic and separate threads
To restrict a topic so that learners can only view threads from their group or section, choose the radio option Restrict topic and separate threads in the new Manage Restrictions workflow.
Figure: Comparing how to restrict topic so only learners can view threads from their group or section in Classic and New Experience.
Restricting topic using groups and section restrictions
To restrict a topic so that only selected groups and sections of users can view a topic and all threads, choose the radio option of Restrict topic in the new Manage Restrictions workflow.
Figure: Comparing how to restrict topic so only groups and sections of users can view a topic and threads in classic and new experience.
Consistent with recent changes to Assignments, this update also brings over the same layout and pattern for managing availability dates. Once a start or end date is added, additional options progressively disclose that enable greater control and flexibility over how learners see and access the topic outside of the availability dates.
Figure: Comparing how to set availability dates in classic and new experience.
We heard your feedback and with this first release of the new discussion creation experience, there are no known functional gaps when compared to classic discussion topic creation.
Always on while in New Content Experience (Lessons)
Instructors working in the New Content Experience will always see the new and improved create and edit experience for Discussion topics. This ensures authoring consistency across activity types and provides educators access to all Discussion topic settings from within New Content. Previously, creating new topics was limited to setting the forum, topic name, and topic description while editing was limited to only the topic title field. These limitations meant educators had to navigate away from New Content and into the Discussions tool to edit additional topic fields and settings.
What about forums?
There are no plans to revamp the creation experience for forums at this time. Forums are designed primarily for categorizing topics. Our recent focus on consistency has been to enhance activities that learners engage with and can be assessed, such as topics in Discussions. As part of the roadmap, we will continue to explore further updates to the Discussions tool and are planning to look at what are the next priorities to revitalize this often used and important pedagogical tool.
Stay tuned and follow along with the monthly release updates including updates to the high impact timeline page as we get closer to the launch date of the new discussion creation experience. The new experience will be controlled by the configuration variable d2l.Tools.Discuss.CreateExperienceOptIn. The default setting will be in the OFF state, and we encourage all Brightspace administrators to set this new experience to ON (Opt-In) when the time is right. Remember, all existing discussions are compatible with the new discussion creation experience and users can safely opt-in and out to try these new workflows and share their feedback with us.