Sapling Learning > Forums (Discussion Boards)

Document created by Digital Support on Jan 25, 2017Last modified by Digital Support on Apr 23, 2018
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Forums provide a location to post messages to your students. Depending on the type of forum, your students may be able to post as well.


Forum types

  • News forum: Instructors can post new topics and post replies to existing topics. Students can read but not post in the news forum. There can only be one news forum per course.
  • A single simple discussion: A single topic, all on one page. Useful for short, focused discussions.
  • Standard forum for general use: An open forum where anyone can start a new topic at any time. This is the best general-purpose forum.
  • Each person posts one discussion: Each person can post exactly one new discussion topic (everyone can reply to them though). This is useful when you want each student to start a discussion about, say, their reflections on the week's topic, and everyone else responds to these.
  • Q and A Forum: The Q and A forum requires students to post their perspectives before viewing other students' postings. After the initial posting, students can view and respond to others' postings. This feature allows equal initial posting opportunity among all students, thus encouraging original and independent thinking.


Adding a Forum

With the exception of the News forum, a forum can be added as follows.

Add an activity to the desired course topic block

Scroll to the desired section of the course, click the Add an activity... drop-down and select Forum.

Give the forum a name


Select a forum type

Jump to Forum types.

Forum introduction

Explain the purpose of the forum in the Forum introduction.

Adjust optional settings, then "Save And Return To Course"

The remaining settings are optional. If you want to learn more about a setting, click the help with this topic icon next to that setting. Otherwise, you can ignore the remaining settings.

Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save And Return To Course.

To add or remove the News forum

You must add or delete the Latest news block in the right side-bar of the main course page.


If a user is "subscribed" to a forum, they will receive an e-mail notification for each new post. Each forum has an instructor option to Force everyone to be subscribed. If you don't force, each student can choose for themselves whether to subscribe to that forum or not.

When making a post, you'll see an option to Mail now. When unchecked, the system will wait 30 minutes before e-mailing subscribers in case you catch a mistake you need to edit. When checked, the system will email subscribers immediately. Either way, an e-mail of the post will be sent to all students who are subscribed to that forum.



If you are using groups in your course, you'll be able to post different messages to different groups and/or restrict students to working within their own group. Make sure that each student in your course is assigned to a group if you intend to use this feature.

Check the "Group mode"

If you intend to use groups in your forums, make sure that the Group mode of the forum is set to Separate groups or Visible groups. Choose Separate groups to restrict student replies and posts, if applicable, to their own group. To restrict the students' interaction to just their group but still allow them to see all posts for the other groups, choose Visible groups instead. Important: If you are not using groups in your course, be sure to set the Group mode to No groups.

For existing forums, you can check the Group mode setting on your course page by clicking the three dots (...) icon next to the forum. The last item in the menu will say Separate GroupsVisible groups, or No groups.

Edit the group mode

You can set this option when you first create the forum, or you may edit it later. To edit an existing forum, click on it to open it, then click Forum in the upper right.

Select the group mode from the Group mode drop-down, then click Save and Continue to open the forum. 

Post to a specific group in the forum

If you selected Separate groups or Visible groups, you can post to only one group. To post to only one group, select the desired group from the Separate groups or Visible groups drop-down in the upper left corner before adding a new topic or question.


Troubleshooting - Why can't my students make posts or replies?

Check forum type

First, make sure you are using a Forum type that allows student interaction. The News forum, for example, is limited to instructor interaction only. Some forum types allow students to reply to existing topics but they can't start new ones. Other forum types allow students to post new topics as well as reply.

Check group mode

If you are not using groups in your course, be sure to set the Group mode to No groups. Jump to Groups.

If you are using groups in your course, you may still want to set the Group mode to No groups as described above. Group options are only necessary if you want to restrict students from seeing or posting to certain topics based on their group, but otherwise just complicate the matter. For example, if the Group mode is set to Visible groups or Separate groups and you make a post to the whole forum rather than to a specific group, students will not be able to reply to it.