Canvas provides an integrated system for class discussions that can created as an assignment for grading purposes (and seamlessly integrated with the Canvas Gradebook), or simply serve as a forum allowing both instructors and students to start and contribute to topical and current event forums. It can also be a space for students to discuss upcoming projects, solve problems and converse.

Discussion topics can be a focused or threaded discussion. Focused discussions are relatively short-lived interactions, while threaded discussions allow replies within replies and may last for a longer period of time. Focused discussions only allow for two levels of nesting, the original post and subsequent replies. Threaded discussions allow for infinite levels of nesting.

As an instructor, you can create a discussion for your course. This lesson outlines a variety of options to choose from in order to customize a discussion for your course.

Note: Discussions can be graded or ungraded. If a student attaches a file to an ungraded discussion, the file size counts toward the student's storage quotas. However, attachments added to graded discussions do not count toward the student's storage quotas.

Pinned Discussions. These are discussions that you want your students to see at the top of their page. Pinned discussions can be arranged in any order. Students will only see this section heading if there are discussions within this section.

Closed for Comments. These discussions have been manually closed for comments, or the discussion is past the available from/until date. These are discussions that are only available in a read-only state. Closed for comments discussions are also ordered by most recent activity. Students will always see this section heading, even if there are no discussions within this section.

Create Discussion

In Course Navigation, click the Discussions link.

Click the Add Discussion button.

  1. In the Title field, create a title for your discussion.
  2. Use the Rich Content Editor to create content for your discussion. The Rich Content Editor includes a word count display below the bottom right corner of the text box.
  3. You can also add links, files, and images to the discussion using the content selector.
  4. If you want to create a section-specific discussion that is not graded, select one or multiple sections in the Post to drop-down menu. Graded section-specific discussions must be created as part of the Graded option in the next section.
  5. You can also add an attachment to your discussion by clicking the Choose File button.

Discussion Options

  1. By default, discussions are created as focused discussions. To create a threaded discussion, click the Allow threaded replies checkbox.
  2. To require users to reply to the discussion before they can see any other replies, click the Users must post before seeing replies checkbox.
  3. To enable a discussion podcast feed, click the Enable podcast feed checkbox.
  4. To create a graded discussion, click the Graded checkbox. If this option is selected, additional options will be added to the page, where you can assign graded discussions to everyone, individual students, course sections, or course groups. Note: If you want to create a graded discussion and you have added sections in the Post To field, the Graded option will be unavailable. You must remove the sections from the Post To field before selecting this option. You will be able to add sections as part of the graded discussion options.
  5. To allow students to like discussion replies, click the Allow liking checkbox.
  6. To add an ungraded discussion to the student to-do list, click the Add to student to-do checkbox. Student to-do items display in the course calendar, in the student-specific List View Dashboard, and in the global and course home page to-do lists. Graded discussions automatically display in a student's to-do list.
  7. To make the discussion a group discussion, click the This is a Group Discussion checkbox.
  8. To make your discussion available on a specific date or during a specific date range using availability dates, enter the dates in the Available From and Until fields, or click the calendar icons to select dates. If you create a graded discussion, the Available From and Until dates can be set in the Assign field. Before the Available From date, students will only be able to view the discussion title. After the Until date, students can view the discussion topic and all responses but cannot add or edit any responses.


If you are ready to publish your discussion, click the Save & Publish button.

If you want to create a draft of your discussion and publish it later, click the Save button

Focused Discussion Forum

Focused Discussions are relatively short-lived interactions that tend to disappear as the course progresses, such as a weekly forum for questions related to that week's activities.

Use a Focused Discussion for single posts and related comments. One discussion leader typically posts a message and multiple learners comment on it. Participants may leave a side comment to a reply, but cannot develop the conversation beyond two layers of nesting.

Focused Discussions might also be used to:

  • answer a single question
  • share resources amongst peers
  • collect results from a simple research activity
  • share solutions to a single problem
  • correct misconceptions
  • clarify course policies
  • get feedback on a work in progress
  • share insights about a single reading


Threaded Discussion Forum

Threaded Discussions lend themselves to the refining of complex ideas. Responses and different lines of inquiry that can be quickly navigated due to its hierarchical structure. Threaded Discussions may be long-standing spaces for thoughts that persist throughout an entire course.

Use a Threaded Discussion for multiple posts and related comments. One or more discussion leaders post a message and multiple learners comment on it with the freedom to create any number of related discussion topics and comments (infinite layers of nesting).

Threaded Discussions might also be used to:

  • post and answer multiple related or unrelated questions
  • organize results from a complex research activity
  • share and iterate upon ideas shared by each student in the course
  • debate the pros and cons of a single issue or multiple issues
  • ask multiple questions of a single discussion leader
  • refine ideas between multiple discussion leaders and multiple learners
  • facilitate group discussions around multiple topics
  • facilitate discussions around a discussion (fishbowl conversations)
  • explore at length the feasibility of different solutions to a complex problem


  • Click on Settings in the Course Navigation.
  • Scroll down in the Course Details until you see more options
  • Click more options
  • Click the checkbox(s):
    • Allow students to attach files to discussion replies by clicking Let students attach files to Discussions
    • Allow students to create new discussion topics by clicking Let students create Discussion Topics
    • Allow students to edit or delete their own discussion posts by clicking Let students edit or delete their own discussion posts

Through Course Settings


Through Course Discussion

discussion settings

516 - Discussions Overview from Instructure Community on Vimeo.