Update (May 13, 2024): The authors of this post presented a virtual workshop entitled Introducing the Canvas Discussions Redesign. You can watch a recording of that workshop here.

Learn about the Canvas Discussions Redesign, which brings a new look and new features to Canvas Discussions and Announcements, beginning July 20, 2024.

Canvas Discussions and Announcements will soon have a new look and new features. What do you need to know about these updates, and how can you put them to use to improve Discussions in your course?

How to Enable Canvas Discussions Redesign 

The Canvas Discussions Redesign will automatically be enabled in all your Canvas courses beginning on July 20, 2024. Prior to July 20, you can manually enable it in each course. Open the course you want to enable the redesign on, go to Settings > Feature Options, and change Discussions/Announcements Redesign from Disabled to Enabled. 

Discussions/Announcements Redesign - Feature Preview. Enabled / Disabled, with enabled selected

Changes to Know About in Canvas Discussions Redesign 

The Canvas Discussions Redesign is intended to better facilitate communication through Canvas Discussions. Below, we highlight a variety of new features and changes, including @mentions, quoted replies, anonymous discussions, and interface changes. 

@mentions 

Users can now tag other users in Discussion posts and replies. To tag a user, type @, which will open a pop-up box where you can select the user you would like to mention.

Mention window shows multiple student names, with one student name selected

By default, users will receive immediate notifications via email and push notification of any @mentions. These notifications can be customized at Account > Notifications > Discussions > New Mention. 

Discussions notifications, New Mention is set to notify immediately

Consider encouraging your students to use @mentions when replying to each other. @mentions may also open new possibilities for Discussions. For example, in one writing course I (Eva) teach, I assigned a Discussion where students working on a collaborative project read each other’s past Discussion posts and identify 2-3 strengths in each other group member’s writing. I required students to @mention each other so they could quickly and easily identify what their peers said about their strengths as writers. 

Quoted Replies 

Users can now quote replies in their own replies. To quote a reply, click the three dots and select “Quote Reply.”

Discussion post menu with Quote Reply selected

The quoted reply will display above your own reply, with a toggle to turn on or off the quoting. Unfortunately, you cannot currently quote part of a reply, only the entire reply. 

Consider encouraging students to use this when you have large or complex discussion threads. These threads can be difficult to navigate and fully understand what someone is replying to, and quoting a reply can help bring clarity to complex threads. 

Anonymous Discussions 

Teachers can now configure a new Discussion with three different levels of anonymity: 

Off: student names and profile pictures will be visible to other members of this course, Partial: students can choose to reveal their name and profile picture, Full: student names and profile pictures will be hidden

Some features are not supported in Anonymous Discussions, including Grading and Groups. 

Consider using Anonymous Discussions for situations where you want students to reply honestly without concern for their academic performance. For example, you could use Full anonymity on a Q&A Discussion, where your students can ask questions about the course without concern that you will judge them for their questions. 

You can also read about more possible uses of Anonymous Discussions in Shane Lanning’s post, “How to Create Anonymous Discussion Boards with New Canvas Redesign and Why You Might Want To.”

Edit History 

Teachers can now view the edit history on posts that have been edited by a student. On any post that a student has edited, a button at the top of the post will appear labeled “View History.” Clicking this link will open a pop-up window to view all past versions of the post. 

Edit History window shows multiple versions of the post, with the original text of each post

Reporting Replies 

Users can now report any Discussion reply by clicking the three dots next to the reply and selecting “Report.” This will open a pop-up window where they can select one of three reasons: Inappropriate, Offensive / abusive, or Other. Reported replies will remain visible unless they are deleted by the Teacher. 

Reported replies will be sent to you to review. You can edit your notification settings for reported replies by opening your course and clicking the “View Course Notifications” button in the right sidebar. Scroll down to the Discussions area and make any desired adjustments to the Reported Reply row.

Sidebar menu includes Import Existing Content, Import from Commons, Choose Home Page, View Course Stream, New Announcement, New Analytics, and View Course Notifications (selected)

By default, the ability to report replies will be toggled on. You can turn this off on a course-by-course basis by visiting Discussions in your course navigation and clicking the gear icon in the top-right corner to open your course’s Discussion settings. Uncheck the box labeled “Report replies” to toggle this feature off.

Discussion Settings window includes checkbox: Report replies (checked)

Checkpoints (Multiple Due Dates) 

The much-requested feature of Checkpoints will allow Teachers to add multiple due dates to a Discussion, such as an initial post date and a follow-up reply date. This feature is coming prior to the official launch of Discussions Redesign – Canvas has currently identified June 30, 2024 as the rollout date for Checkpoints. 

We will update this blog post with more details about Checkpoints when they are available for you to use. 

Interface Updates in Canvas Discussions Redesign 

The Canvas Discussions Redesign also includes a new top bar for searching posts and changing the display of posts. New options in this top bar include: 

  • Threads can be viewed in a sidebar window by toggling “View Split Screen”
  • Posts default to oldest first but can be changed to newest first by toggling “Sort”
  • Threads default to collapsed but can be expanded by toggling “Expand Threads”
  • Group Discussions now include a button in the top-left corner for viewing individual discussion boards for each group
    Groups window displays multiple group names - Usability Testing Report Group 1, 2, 3, and 4

In addition to the new top bar, all posts to a Discussion by a Teacher will include a role tag that quickly identifies you as the Teacher. 

Eva Snider - Teacher

A Quick Note About Canvas Announcements 

The changes from the Canvas Discussions Redesign detailed above will also apply to Canvas Announcements. If you want students to be able to reply to an Announcement, you will need to enable this feature by visiting Settings in your course navigation, scrolling down, selecting More options, unchecking the box “Disable comments on announcements,” and selecting Update Course Details. 

Recommendations for the Canvas Discussions Redesign 

While the Canvas Discussions Redesign includes many new features, it’s likely only a few of these will be useful for your courses. We recommend choosing one or two new features, such as @mentions or anonymous discussions, and exploring how you can use those features to facilitate new kinds of communication in your course. 

Ball State faculty can also find a new featured resource in Canvas Commons (open Canvas and click “Commons” in the far-left global navigation). Entitled, “How to Get the Most Out of Canvas Discussions,” this page can be added to any of your courses. It is designed to help students learn about the features of Canvas Discussions, including how they can use them to better communicate with their peers. We recommend adding this page to any course where you use Discussions regularly. 

How to Get the Most Out of Canvas Discussions

What are you excited to explore with the new Canvas Discussions Redesign? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Eva Grouling Snider

    Eva joined the Division of Online and Strategic Learning in 2021. Previously, she taught professional writing courses in the English Department, including graphic design and web development. She launched Jacket Copy Creative (now known as Compass Creative), an immersive learning course in which students helped market the English Department (and now the entire College of Sciences and Humanities). She also served as a director of advertising at a social media advertising agency in Muncie. Her interests include UDL, digital accessibility, and design. She’s often busy “hacking” Canvas to do cool things.

    eva.snider@bsu.edu Grouling Snider (she/her) Eva
  • Caleb Green

    Caleb joined the Division of Online and Strategic Learning in February 2024. He taught various courses in the Communication Studies Departments at Ball State and the University of Denver focused on topics such as Persuasion, Voice and Gender, Interpersonal Communication, and Popular Culture. His interests include the intersection between instructional design and delivery and strategies for success among First-Generation students. Above all, he loves getting to know people and finding out how he can help them. 

    caleb.green@bsu.edu Green Caleb