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Canvas provides an integrated system for class discussions, allowing both instructors and students to start and contribute to as many discussion topics as desired. Discussions allows for interactive communication between two or more people; users can participate in a conversation with an entire class or group.

Discussions can also be created as an assignment for grading purposes (and seamlessly integrated with the Canvas Gradebook), or simply serve as a forum for topical and current events. Discussions can also be created within student groups.

Discussion topics can be a focused or threaded discussion.

  • 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.
  • Threaded Discussions allow replies within replies and may persist for a longer period of time throughout the course. They lend themselves to the refining of complex ideas. Responses and different lines of inquiry can be quickly navigated due to their hierarchical structure. 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).

For examples of when to use either Focused or Threaded Discussions, visit:

For step-by-step instructions on how to use Discussions, visit:


The Chat tool in Canvas allows students and teachers to interact in real time. As a course tool, it is available to all students in the course and cannot be limited to specific students. In addition, all users in the course can access the chat history.

Instructors can use chat to allow students to contact them when online, create virtual office hours, and conduct group discussions or study sessions.

For step-by-step instructions on how to use Chat, visit:


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