Online and hybrid classes often use the Discussions area to promote communication among students. These are sometimes graded activities. Some web-enhanced classes might use discussion topics as a supplement to class activities. Online discussion topics are only visible to students enrolled in the current course. See the video at the bottom of this page with detailed instructions.
You may be asked to participate in the class by creating messages about the course readings, class activities, group projects, or useful resources you think might be of interest to other students. After you click on the Discussions link, you will see forums and topics. The forum is like a folder that holds different topics. Topics are slightly indented under the forum and the blue topic names are hyperlinks opening the to reading views of each discussion.

Access your class discussions clicking on the Discussions link. Below are two different samples of links that you might see in your courses.

Navbar Discussions link.

Navbar link to Discussions.

Once you click on the Discussions link, you will see a list of Forums with topics underneath them. Click on a discussion topic to join that discussion as pictured below.

Discussion topic link.

Starting a New Discussion Thread:
You can either click on "Start a New Thread" to create a new posting, or click on a message subject, as pictured below, to read and  "Reply" to a message.

Click Start a New Thread of click on a Subject.

Create a Subject line, type your message, and then click on "Post" as pictured below. Notice that you can also attach a file or create an audio recording to accompany your message. You can also save your message as a Draft and come back later to complete it and post it. Notice, too, that you can "Subscribe to updates to this message thread" by clicking the checkbox as highlighted by the red arrow.

Starting a new message.

If you have clicked on a message Subject line to read it, there you will also find the "Reply to Thread" button as pictured below. Notice too that you can go back to View the Topic or view the Discussions list by using the breadcrumbs at the top of the posting.

Click Reply to reply to a message.

Another way to navigate in Discussions is to use the slide-out panel on the top left of the window. From this panel, you can easily navigate to other Forums and other topics as pictured below.

The slide-out panel.

Explore Discussions:
There are a few ways to view your discussion postings. As pictured below, on the top left of the topic area you can filter messages by Unread, Flagged, or Drafts. On the top right of the topic area is a pull-down menu to sort messages by different sort options. You can also cursor through the different threads by clicking the left and right arrow buttons.  

Different viewing options in Discussions.
Searching and Changing Your Settings
As pictured below, at the top of the window, just under the navigation bar, there is a Settings link, a Help link, and a Search box. Topics can be searched by keywords or author name.  

Settings and search area.

In Settings, you have a limited choice for setting your own preferences. Select the Settings link at the top right of your discussions window as pictured above. Below are the settings choices. One choice is to make the slide-out panel permanent to display always on the left side of your window.

Personal settings dialog box.

Subscribing to Forums or Topics
You can subscribe to entire forums or individual topics which means you will be notified by email when there has been a new posting to either the forum or topic. This can be very beneficial if there is time sensitive information taking place in Discussions that you need to be aware of in your class. Click on the pull-down menu next to the forum title to subscribe to it or click the pull-down menu next to individual topics that are listed in that forum. See the image below.

Subscribing to Forums and Topics.