Add a Forum in Courses

What Does It Do?

The Forums tool creates an online space for both students and professors to have discussions and share public messages with one another. Unlike other tools, such as Messages or Commons, Forums provides a more formal environment for students and instructors to share thoughts and ideas.

How You Can Use It

  • Engage students in asynchronous discussion around textbook items, attached documents, or other topics.
  • Embed pictures, audio, or video files and then have students discuss or comment on them.
  • Encourage debate and discussions outside of class time.
  • Encourage participants to build community in the course through discussion and "ice-breaker" activities.


  1. Setup a Forum Topic
  2. Grade a Forum Topic


Setup a Forum Topic

  1. Click the tab for your course or project site.
  2. Click Forums in the tools menu. A "Forum" is just a heading that groups multiple Topics. The conversations happen inside "Topics." If a forum does not contain at least one topic, then students cannot participate in discussions.Sakai Forums Tool Image
  3. Click "New Topic."Sakai Forums New Topic Link Image
  4. Enter the Topic Title.
  5. Enter a Short Description. This description is quickly viewable by students and is strongly recommended.
  6. (Optional) Enter a full Description. The rich text editor offers more room to explain the objectives for the discussion and even embed images or videos.
  7. Click Add attachments if you want to upload documents for the discussion.
  8. Topic Posting:
    • "Lock Topic (Disable topic postings)" - Choose this option to prevent participants from replying or posting new conversations. Participants can still read the previous messages in the topic.
    • "Moderate Topic" - Choose this option if you want to read and approve every message before other participants can view them. While this setting may be appropriate in some K-12 settings, it's rarely used in higher education.
    • "Require users to post before reading" - Choose this option if you want participants to post their own thoughts before reading postings by other users.
    • "Posts are anonymous" - Choose this option if you want to anonymize posts within the topic. NOTE: This setting cannot be changed after you create the topic, so weigh this option carefully now. 
  9. Availability:
    • "Show immediately" - This option makes the topic visible to participants once you save it.
    • "Specify dates to open (show) and/or close (hide)" - This option allows you to hide the topic until a release date and/or hide the topic after a future date. You choose to set just an open date, just a close date, or both. NOTE: The close date will hide the topic from participants after the date specified (meaning they can no longer view any messages in that topic). Consider locking the topic at the future date instead of closing it, so that participants can still read the conversations.
  10. Notifications:
    • "Allow email notifications for new messages" - This option gives instructors the ability to allow or prevent email notifications to be generated when new messages (i.e. "posts") are added to the topic. This setting can be particularly useful in cases where email notifications are not appropriate for sensitive or confidential topic conversations. NOTE:
      • Email notifications are only sent to students who have opted-in via the "Watch" tab at the top of the Forums tool.
    • "Includes contents of messages in email notifications" - This option gives instructors the ability to allow or prevent email notifications to contain the contents of the messages (i.e. "posts") that were posted. This setting can be particularly useful in cases where email notifications are not appropriate for sensitive or confidential topic conversations.Sakai Forums Notifications Options Image
  11. Mark All Conversations in Conversations Read:
    • Choose this option if you do not want to display the "New" label for unread messages. Normally, participants need to manually mark each message as read by clicking the envelope icon or clicking the "Mark All as Read" button. With this option selected, all messages in a conversation will be marked as read once you open the first message.
  12. Grading:
    • If you have already created a gradebook item to enter numeric grades or text comments for this discussion item, you may select it from the drop-down menu. After you create a gradebook item, it can take 1-2 minutes before it will appear in the drop-down menu. Refresh your web browser if necessary.
  13. Permissions:
    • Set the desired permissions for each role.
    • TIP: We recommend that you click "Customize" for "Student" and "Access" roles. Under the "Edit Messages" heading, select "Own" to allow participants to edit their own postings.
  14. Click Save.Sakai 12 Forums Save Topic Image


Want to receive notices that someone has posted to your discussion topics? Use the "Watch" feature. This feature is available for professors and students on the home page of the Forums tool. Click "Watch" and then select the desired option. Provided that the instructor has enabled notifications for the respective topic, it will send an email notice when anyone posts a message to any topic or conversation in the Forums tool.


Grade a Forum Topic

Note: Grading a topic requires instructors to create a Gradebook item and select it when configuring the topic settings. See documentation above under "Grading" for gradebook setup.

  1. In your class site, click "Forums" in the left tool menu.Sakai Forums Tool Image
  2. Next to the specific forum topic title, click the "More" drop-down and select the "Grade" option.Sakai Forums Grade Topic Image
  3. On the resulting page, you will observe a table showing the following:
    • Name: When clicking the student's name, instructors will be able to see a preview of the student's post(s).
    • Details: When clicking the "Details" link adjacent to a particular student's name, this view will reveal additional details about all of the student's posts.
    • Authored: The number in this cell indicates the number of posts authored by the student. This number includes new posts/threads and replies.
    • Read: This number indicates the number of posts and replies that the student read.
    • Unread: This number indicates the number of posts and replies that the student did not read.
    • Percent Read: This percentage indicates the ratio of posts (and replies) read to all available posts and replies.
        • Clicks the "Mark as Read" button on a post
        • Drills all the way down to a particular post
        • Clicks the "Mark All as Read" when viewing a conversational thread
        • Responding to a post
          • Note: Responding to a post results in "2" read logs; one for the post the student is responding to, and one for the post (reply) the student authored.
  4. Click the "Grade" button corresponding to the student you would like to grade.
    • Note: If you would like to score all students at the same time, click the "Select a Gradebook item" drop-down and select the corresponding activity.
  5. Verify that the correct Gradebook item is listed in the drop-down.
  6. Specify a point value for the student's score.
  7. Type in any comments you would like to leave for the student.
  8. Click "Submit Grade."


See Also: