Announcements and forums

Announcements and forums

The iLearn system offers many different facilities to help you communicate with students. On this page you will learn how to use these facilities effectively, including how to set up real-time discussions, post announcements, create a private channel for communication, and create and edit forums.

Announcements

The Announcements tool can be used to communicate with all students in a unit.

To create an announcement:

  1. Click Announcements in Topic 0.
  2. Click Add a new topic.
  3. Enter a Subject and Message.
  4. Click Post to forum.
 

Students enrolled in your unit are automatically subscribed to announcements and will receive an email each time a new announcement is posted.

You can also make announcements through the Announcements block. If you do not have the Announcements block, you will need to add it.

To add an announcements block:

  1. Click Turn editing on.
  2. Select Add a Block.
  3. Select Announcements for Add…
  4. Go to the Announcements block and select Add a new topic…

Chat: setting up a real time synchronous discussion

Chat is similar to instant messaging tools, allowing you to set up a real-time synchronous discussion with students and staff in a unit. For example, a real time chat could be used as a substitute for a face to face group meeting.

To set up a Chat in your unit:

  1. Click Turn editing on.
  2. Go to the week/topic you wish to add the chat to.
  3. Click Add an activity or resource and select Chat.
  4. Click Add.
  5. Enter a name for the chat room.
  6. Enter a Description giving details to students on how to use the chat room.
  7. Tick Display description on unit page box for the Introduction text to appear below the chat link on the unit page.
  8. Click to expand the Chat sessions heading.  Set the date and time for the Next chat time.
  9. Assign Repeat/publish sessions from the available options if you wish to hold the chat session on a regular basis.
  10. Assign Save past sessions from the available options.
  11. Assign Everyone can view past sessions from the available options depending on whether you want students to be able to view conversations from previous chat sessions.
  12. If you want to divide your chat into groups, you can do so under Common module settings. To find out more about using Groups and Groupings you can refer to the Groups quick guides.
  13. Click Save and return to unit.

To use Chat:

  1. Click on the relevant Chat link within a week/topic or on the Chat link in the Activities block on the right hand side of the iLearn unit page (this will take you to the list of all Chats). To find out how to add an Activities block to your unit you can refer to the Blocks quick guide.
  2. Click on Click here to enter the chat now to open the chat window.
  3. The column on the right shows who is currently logged into the chat.
  4. In the bottom left corner type your message and click Send or hit Enter on your keyboard.
  5. The message will pop up on the screen.

To access previous Chat sessions:

Chat sessions are saved and can be made available to students afterwards. This can be useful for people who were unable to participate in the chat activity at the set time and want to see a transcript of the discussion.

  1. Click on View past chat sessions.
  2. The page will display a list of sessions from this chat.
  3. Click See this session for the chat session you wish to view.
  4. You will now be able to view the chat transcript.

Dialogue: setting up a private communication channel in iLearn

The Dialogue activity allows for private conversation between two or more parties.

They can be useful when the teacher wants a place to give private feedback to a student on their online activity. For example, if a student is participating in a language forum and made a grammatical error that the teacher wants to point out without embarrassing the student, a dialogue is the perfect place.

To set up a dialogue:

  1. Click Turn editing on.
  2. Go to the week/topic you wish to add the dialogue to.
  3. Click Add an activity or resource and select Dialogue.
  4. Click Add.
  5. Enter a Dialogue Name
  6. Enter a Dialogue Introduction for your dialogue. This is what students will see when they click on the Dialogue link. For Example:
    Please use this Dialogue function as your primary private contact with teaching staff for issues such as extension requests. To create a new dialogue, simply click on the Create Dialogue tab and start typing.
  7. The remaining options can be left as the defaults for setting up a basic dialogue. Click Save and return to unit or Save and display to view.

When you create a new dialogue, the dialogue title and icon  will appear in the week/topic you created it in. Dialogues can also be accessed through the activities block.

To start a dialogue:

This is the process a student would use to send the teacher a message, or for the teacher to send an individual student a message.

  1. Click on the link to the dialogue you have created within a week/topic or click on the Dialogues link in the Activities block for a list of all dialogue.
  2. Click on Create to start a conversation.
  3. Select the person(s) you would like to send a message to by typing their name in the People section. When you start typing their name will appear in a drop down list to select.

    Attention If you enter multiple people’s names remember that they will all be able to see the message and all responses by other members in the dialogue. 
  4. If you would like to send a dialogue to a pre-created group click on the Bulk open rule and select the group name from the drop down list.
  5. Enter a Subject.
  6. Enter a message into the HTML editor.
  7. Click Send.

To respond to a dialogue:

  1. Go to the View conversations tab.
  2. Click on the link of the dialogue subject you wish to respond to.
  3. Enter a reply message into the HTML editor.
  4. Click Send to sent your reply.
  5. You can click Close conversation to close the dialogue once the conversation has finished to remove it from your current list. You will be able to view closed dialogues but you won’t be able to add to them. You will have to start a new dialogue if you wish to communicate with this person again, and they will re-appear in the list of people you can start dialogues with.

Profile: managing your personal information and email notifications

Students and staff have a profile in iLearn that stores basic user information and a number of settings to help manage online communication through iLearn.

To edit your profile:

  1. Hover your mouse over your name in the top right hand corner of the screen and click on Preferences.
  2. Click on Edit profile.
    Profile Screenshot
  3. Your profile has some fields that are pre-populated and­­­ locked from editing.  Fill in any information you feel is relevant.
  4. In Email display, set who can see your email address.
  5. In User picture, the default picture is a profile icon.  Why not upload an image that represents you.
  6. Click on Update profile.
    Profile Screenshot
    Profile Screenshot 
  7. Click on Forum preferences.
  8. In Email digest type, this setting determines how many emails you will receive from forums in the unit. The available options are:
    1. No digest - Individual email for every forum post.
    2. Complete - Daily email with full forum posts.
    3. Subjects - Daily email with forum subjects only. Select this option for one summary email per day, rather than an individual email every time something happens on a forum.
  9. In Forum tracking , select Yes: Highlight new posts for me so that the posts you have not read yet in the forum are highlighted. This improves forum navigation.
  10. Click Save changes.
    Profile Screenshot

Privacy Settings

Privacy Settings allow you to choose which pieces of information about yourself you share with other students in iLearn. By default, the information contained under Privacy Settings will only be visible by you, your teachers and iLearn support staff. Follow the steps below to make this information visible to other students in.

To edit your privacy settings:

  1. Hover your mouse over your name in the top right hand corner of the screen and click on Preferences.
  2. Click on Privacy Settings.
  3. Tick the options you wish to share.
  4. Click Submit.

Introduction to accessing and using forums

What is a Forum?

A forum is an online discussion tool that can be used to promote critical reflection on the issues being studied, and to share ideas amongst fellow students. It provides students an opportunity to actively and consistently engage with others and the course subject matter. Students are encouraged to post discussion questions relevant to the course and comment on the questions posted.

How to access a forum

You can access a forum either through the activities block or through an individual link to a forum within a week/topic.

To access a forum through the week/topic:

Go to the week/topic and click on the Forum link.

To access a forum through the activities block:

Go to the Activities block and click on the Forums link.

  1. You will see a list of all forums in the unit. Click on the link to the forum you wish to view.

Forum Search

There are two quick ways to search forums.

Search a particular forum

Click on the link to a forum you wish to search and you will see the Search forums field on the top right hand side of your screen.

Search all forums

Go to the Activities block and click on the Forums link.

A page will appear with a list of all of the forums within your unit. You will find the Search forums field in the top right hand corner of the screen. Enter key terms in the field and click Search forums to bring up a list of forums containing key terms.

Standard forum for general use

The standard forum is probably most useful for large discussions that you intend to monitor/guide or for social forums that are student led. This may be suitable for a forum based around an assessment task or general questions about the unit. Students are able to start their own discussion thread and/or reply to other threads.

To set up a standard forum for general use:

  1. Click Turn editing on.
  2. Go to the week/topic you wish to add the forum to.
  3. Click Add an activity or resource and select Forum.
  4. Click Add.
  5. Enter a Forum name.
  6. Enter a Description. Write the question or add stimulus material you would like students to respond to. It is good practice to include precise instructions for students regarding the subject of the forum and expected participation.
  7. Tick Display description on unit page if you want the Forum description (entered in step 6) to appear below the link to the Forum on the main page of iLearn.
  8. Select Standard forum for general use.
  9. Click to expand the Attachments and word count heading, and assign Maximum attachment size and Maximum number of attachments from the available options if you would like to limit size and number of files that students can attach to forum posts.
  10. Select whether you would like to show how many words are contained in each forum post with the Display word count setting.  The number of words will appear underneath the post in italics.

     
  11. Click to expand the Subscription and tracking heading and assign Subscription mode from the available options.
  12. Select On for Read tracking to enable students to track unread posts.

  13. The remaining options can be left as the defaults for setting up a basic forum.
  14. Click Save and return to unit or Save and display to view.

When you create a new forum, the forum title and icon  will appear in the week/topic you created it in.

Below is an example of a forum post. Students are able to:

  1. Click on the Add a new discussion topic buttonto post a discussion topic.
  2. Click on the Replies link to reply to post a response.

Single simple discussion forum

A single simple discussion forum is for a single topic, all on one page. This is suitable for a short, focused discussion. Students are able to reply to the posted topic or another student’s response, but they are unable to start a new topic of discussion.

Scenario: A set of single simple discussions was set up on the unit page to facilitate weekly discussions regarding weekly topics.

To set up a single simple discussion:

  1. Click Turn editing on.
  2. Go to the week/topic you wish to add the forum to.
  3. Click Add an activity or resource and select Forum.
  4. Click Add.
  5. Enter a Forum name.
  6. Select A single simple discussion for Forum type.
  7. Enter a Description. Write the question or add stimulus material you would like students to respond to. It is good practice to include precise instructions for students regarding the subject of the forum and expected participation.
  8. Tick Display description on unit page box for the Forum introduction (entered in step 7) to appear below the Forum link.
  9. Click to expand the Subscription and tracking heading.  Assign Subscription mode from the available options.
  10. Select Forced for Read tracking to enable students to track unread posts.
  11. Click to expand the Attachments and word count heading.  Assign Maximum attachment size and Maximum number of attachments from the available options if you would like to limit size and number of files that students can attach to forum posts.
  12. Select Yes to Display word count if required.
  13. The remaining options can be left as the defaults for setting up a basic forum. Click Save and return to unit or Save and display to view.

When you create a new forum, the forum title and icon will appear in the to the week/topic you created it in.

Below is an example of a forum with a reply. Students are able to click on the Unread post link to post a response.

Q & A forum

Q and A forums are best used when you have a particular question that you wish to have answered and you want to ensure that all students contribute. Students must submit a post before they are able to view other students' posts.

Scenario: A Q and A forum was set up on the unit page to facilitate a group activity during tutorial. The activity was to have each group post a response to the tutor's question before seeing other group's responses.

To set up a Q and A forum:

  1. Click Turn editing on.
  2. Go to the week/topic you wish to add the forum to.
  3. Click Add an activity or resource and select Forum.
  4. Click Add.
     
  5. Enter a Forum name.
  6. Select Q and A forum for Forum type.

     
  7. Enter a Description. Give an introduction to the forum but do not post the actual question you wish to ask your students here. Sample instructions: Please provide your response to the forum by replying to the question posted below. Do not use the add a new question button.

    AttentionDo not post the question you wish to ask your students in the forum introduction. Post this using the add a question button in a later step. 
  8. Tick Display description on unit page box for the Forum description (entered in step 7) to appear below the Forum link.
  9. Click to expand the Subscription and tracking heading.  Assign Subscription mode from the available options.
  10. Select Forced for Read tracking.
  11. Click to expand the Attachments and word count heading.  Assign Maximum attachment size and Maximum number of attachments from the available options if you would like to limit size and number of files that students can attach to forum posts.
  12. Select Yes for Display word count if required.
  13. The remaining options can be left as the defaults for setting up a basic forum. Click Save and display to move to the next step to add your question.
     
  14. Click Add a new question. Type a new question to set a question you would like students to respond to. You can add several questions here.



    AttentionStudents are able post questions as well by clicking on the add a new question button. It is the responses to these questions that they will not able to view unless they have posted their own answer to that particular question.

Below is an example of the student view of a Q and A forum before the student has made a post. You can see that the student is not able to view other posts yet until they make their own response and the time allowed for editing has passed.

Each person forum

An each person forum is most useful when you want to achieve a happy medium between a long discussion and a short and focused discussion. Each student is able to post one forum topic, but can reply as many times as they like to other posts. A single discussion topic per person allows students a little more freedom than a single discussion forum, but not as much as a standard forum where each student can create as many topics as he or she wishes.

Scenario: An each person forum was set up on the unit page to enable students studying the course externally to post an introduction and view other students’ introductions.

To set up an each person forum:

  1. Click Turn editing on.
  2. Go to the week/topic you wish to add the forum to.
  3. Click Add an activity or resource and select Forum.
  4. Click Add.
  5. Enter a Forum name.
  6. Enter a Description. Write the question or add stimulus material you would like students to respond to. It is good practice to include precise instructions for students regarding the subject of the forum and expected participation.

  7. Tick Display description on unit page box for the Forum description (entered in step 6) to appear below the Forum link.
  8. Select Each person posts one discussion for Forum type.
  9. Click to expand the Attachments and word count heading, and assign Maximum attachment size and Maximum number of attachments from the available options if you would like to limit size and number of files that students can attach to forum posts.
  10. Select whether you would like to show how many words are contained in each forum post with the Display word count setting.  The number of words will appear underneath the post in italics.
  11. Click to expand the Subscription and Tracking heading and assign Subscription mode from the available options.
  12. Select Forced for Read tracking for this forum to enable students to track unread posts.
  13. The remaining options can be left as the defaults for setting up a basic forum. Click Save and return to unit or Save and display to view.

When you create a new forum, the forum title and icon will appear in the week/topic you created it in.

Below is an example of an each person forum with a reply. Students are able to:

  1. Click on the Add a new discussion topic buttonto post a discussion topic.
  2. Click on the Reply link to post a response.

Generating a report of individual student contributions to a forum

In some cases, you may wish to include forum posts as an assessable task worth a percentage of the overall course grade. If so, you will need to view all contributions from each student. If there is a number of forums and forum threads, students may post more than once in any one of these forums. In this case, you will need to be able to view (and print) all forum posts of individual students to award a grade for the task. This guide will show you how to generate this view.

Attention The view will only show the discussions started by the student.  You can see replies from this student as well as from other students using the See this post in context link.

To view students’ individual forum posts:

  1. Go to the Navigation block.
  2. Click Participants.
      
  3. Click on the name of the student you wish to grade.
      
  4. Click on the Navigation block where you will find a link for this student.
      
  5. Click on the Forum posts link.
      
  6. Click on the Discussions link.
      
  7. You have generated a view of all discussions started by the student.


    Attention Refer to the Gradebook Quick Guide for guidelines on how to manage visibility of student grades.

Grading forums: enabling grades to be assigned for forum activities

Forums in iLearn can be graded using either a numerical mark or by setting up a scale.

To set up a numerical grading system:

  1. Click on the forum you wish to grade (or begin creating a new one).
  2. Go to the Tools block and select Forum administration.
  3. Select Edit settings.
  4. Scroll down to Ratings and click on it to expand the heading.
  5. Select Maximum Rating for Aggregate type.
  6. Assign the Maximum grade value you wish to mark the forum out of under Scale.
  7. Assign a Date range if desired by ticking the checkbox and selecting dates.
  8. Click Save and return to unit.
  9. You will now be able to grade students’ forum posts as you read through them using the Maximum rating dropdown menu.

To set up a scale grading system:

A scale provides a way of evaluating or grading performance in an activity using an ordered list of values such as Poor, Average, Good, Very good, Excellent or 0, 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2.

  1. You will first need to create a scale through the Gradebook.
  2. Go to the Tools block and select Units administration.
  3. Select Grades.
  4. Click on the Scales tab.
  5. Click Add a new scale.
  6. Enter a Name for the scale.
  7. Enter your Scale values ranging from negative to positive, separated by commas, for example 0, 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2 or Poor, Average, Good, Very good, Excellent.
  8. Enter a Description for the scale.
  9. Click Save changes.
  10. You will now be able to apply this scale to a forum. Click on the forum you wish to grade (or begin creating a new one).
  11. Go to the Tools block and select Forum administration.
  12. Select Edit settings.
  13. Scroll down to Ratings.
  14. Select Maximum Rating for Aggregate type.
  15. Assign Scale from the available options. (You should see the scale that you have created to mark the forum.)
  16. Assign a Date range if desired by ticking the checkbox and selecting dates.
  17. You will now be able to grade students’ forum posts as you read through them using the Maximum rating dropdown menu.


    Attention Once you have set up forum grading, students will be able to see the column in their Grades unless you hide it. Refer to the Gradebook Quick Guide for guidelines on how to manage visibility of student grades.

Managing inappropriate forum posts

Forum posts containing inappropriate content such as postings of a cultural, sexual or gendered nature must be removed and may breach the University’s Acceptable Use Policy. Inappropriate posts can be edited to remove the text or deleted without affecting subsequent replies. You can also quarantine the post to another forum that is created specifically to ‘house’ these posts. This forum should be hidden permanently from student view.

Convenors and tutors can delete, edit and quarantine posts.

To delete a post:

  1. Click on the link to the forum.
  2. Locate the inappropriate post in the discussion.
  3. You will find options to edit, or delete the post.
  4. Click Delete.
  5. A message will appear: Are you sure you want to delete this post and all replies?
  6. Click on the Continue button.
  7. The screen will refresh and the post removed.

    If students have replied specifically to that post, deleting the post will delete any replies. A message will appear: Are you sure you want to delete this post and all replies (2 posts)? Click on the Continue button. The screen will refresh and the post (including replies to post) removed.

To edit a post:

  1. Click on the link to the forum.
  2. Locate the inappropriate post in the discussion.
  3. You will find options to edit, or delete the post.
  4. Click Edit.
  5. Edit the post. In the new post, a message will appear noting that you have edited the post including a timestamp.
  6. Click Save changes.
  7. The screen will refresh showing the edited post.

To quarantine a post:

Attention The option to quarantine (split) forum posts is not available in a single simple discussion forum.

  1. Set up a standard forum for general use.
  2. Give it a very clear name so that teaching staff know that the forum is to remain hidden at all times (e.g. Hidden forum for inappropriate discussion posts).
  3. Once the forum is created, hide the forum by clicking Edit and select Hide.
     
  4. Click on the link to the forum and locate the inappropriate post in the discussion.
  5. Click Split.
  6. Change the Discussion Name if required and click Split.
     
  7. Use the dropdown menu to find the hidden forum you set up earlier.
  8. Click Move.
  9. The page will refresh and you will see that the breadcrumbs at the top of the page now show that the forum post has been moved to the hidden forum.
  10. This removes the post from the original forum.

Managing email notifications from iLearn forums

There are three ways to manage the emails you receive from your unit:

  • Managing the number and type of email notices.
  • Managing automatic forum subscriptions.
  • Managing individual forum subscriptions.
  1. Hover your mouse over your name in the top right hand corner of the screen and click on Preferences.
    Profile 
  2. Click on Forum preference.

    Forum_preferences

Managing email notices

You can select how often you would like to receive email notifications subsequent to a forum post using the email digest type option in your profile.

To manage the number of forum emails you receive:

  1. For Email digest type, the available options are:
    • No digest (Single email per forum post)
    • Complete (Daily email with full forum posts)
    • Subjects (Daily email with forum subjects only) - Select this option for one summary email per day, rather than an individual email every time something happens on a forum.
  2. An example of these emails are below.
  3. Click Update profile.
  • No digest – (Single email per forum post)
      
  • Complete (Daily email with full forum posts)
     
  • Subjects (Daily email with forum subjects only)  (Select this option for one email per day with subjects only, rather than an individual email every time something happens on a forum.)

Managing automatic forum subscriptions

When you are subscribed to a forum you will be sent email copies of every subsequent post in that forum. You can decide whether or not you wish to subscribe to the available forums.

Attention Everyone will automatically receive email copies of posts in the announcements forum, or from any other forum that a teacher forces subscription to.

To select whether to automatically subscribe to all forums when you make a post:

  1. For Forum tracking, the available options are:
    • Yes, when I post, subscribe me to that forum - You will now be subscribed to any forum that you post in, meaning you will receive email notices from that forum.
    • No, don’t automatically subscribe me to forums - You will not be automatically subscribed to forums when you post, unless that forum has been set up as forced subscription.

Managing individual forum subscriptions

There are two ways to select forums you wish to subscribe to:

  1. Click on the Forums link in the Activities block (if your unit has this block).
  2. Click Subscribe to all forums to receive email notifications from all forums.
  3. Click Unsubscribe from all forums to stop receiving email notifications from all forums (except Announcements and forums that are forced subscription by the teacher.).
  4. The Subscribed column shows the status of your subscription to each forum. No means you are not subscribed and Yes means that you are subscribed. Click Yes or No to change your subscription status.

If your unit does not have the Activities block and you wish to edit your status to forums:

  1. Click on the link to the particular forum you wish to subscribe/unsubscribe.
  2. Go to the Tools block.
  3. Select Forum administration.
  4. Assign Subscription mode from the available options.
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