By: Sarina Canelake and Jenna Makowski

The new Community Release, Olive, contains many long-awaited updates to the Discussions Forums experience, for learners, course teams and forum moderators. See our previous post for a look at the new UI of the forums. This post dives into new features and substantial improvements made for moderators & course authors. The following video gives a short overview, and the post dives into more detail.

[Blog: Please embed this video:]

New features for Forum Moderators

The following features streamline Moderator workflows and standardize touchpoints between Moderators and Learners. In a post’s three dot menu, moderators and staff will see options to edit, pin, close, or delete any forums post (post authors may edit or delete their own posts as well).

Reasons for closing a post

Moderators may now specify reasons for their decision to close a post from a pre-selected list.

Reasons for editing a post

Moderators may now specify the reasons for editing a post author’s content. 

For both editing and closing a post, the reason supplied can be seen by all other staff members as well as the post’s author in a banner at the top of the post.

Endorsing a response

Moderators may endorse a response to a question, which pushes it to the top of the list of responses. This is done using the three-dot context menu on the response itself.

Improved filtering and sorting of post stats

Moderators now have access to the following stats from the new Learners’ Tab:

  1. Sort menus for learners by “Most Activity” and “Recent Activity”
  1. Count of total content (posts and responses) authored by learner
  1. List of threads interacted with by individual learner

4. Red label for reported content in a learner’s history

5. Additional filters for searching the post history of individual learners, such as filtering by “Question” or “Discussion” post types

Authoring Experience

Adding a discussion to a unit

When authoring course content, you no longer need to create a discussion block and manually set a category and subcategory. With the new mechanism, you simply tick a checkbox for a Unit, and it will automatically be associated with a topic with the same name as the unit, and the discussions UI will show up for that Unit. By default, all Units will automatically be discussable unless they are in graded or exam subsections.

For units in graded subsections, discussions can be enabled by clicking the Gear icon from the Studio outline page:

This new configuration mechanism does mean certain scenarios are no longer supported:

  • Previously, it was possible to have multiple discussion blocks in a single Unit, thus allowing multiple topics for a single unit. Now there can only be one.
  • Previously, you had to specify a separate category and subcategory for each topic, and these did not need to match the course hierarchy. Now, the categories are defined automatically with no override.
  • Additionally, a discussion in exams is no longer possible. 
  • There was an undocumented, and somewhat broken, mechanism for having discussion topic hierarchies of arbitrary depths. This is no longer possible.

Configuring discussions for your course

The new discussions experience is turned on for every new course in your instance. To configure it, visit the Content > Pages & Resources menu, which has a new and improved look:

Clicking on the gear icon for “Discussions” will lead you to a menu where you can choose the “edX” discussion experience. Choosing this option will bring you to a page where you can set up discussion cohorts, discussion blackout dates, and more.

You will notice there are also choices for 3rd-party discussion providers. These solutions are not built into the Open edX platform, may cost money, and require effort from site administrators to enable. An upcoming blog post will explain how to do this, if desired.

Thank you to Kshitij Sobti and the team at OpenCraft for the gifs shown in this post