This is an upgraded version of the current edX discussion provider which allows users to interact with forums using a collapsable discussion sidebar (instead of discussion xblocks).
This sidebar will help learners view, respond to and initiate discussion threads relevant to the course unit they are viewing.
In order to support this, a new discussion topic hierarchy is introduced for content-specific discussion topics, which follows the hierarchy of the course. In contrast to discussion xblocks, this hierarchy enforces that each course unit can at most have one discussion topic.Course teams can choose to enable or disable discussions for each course unit in Studio.
Course hierarchy on left and resulting discussion topic hierarchy on the right side.
How do I enable discussions sidebar?
This upgrade is built as a new discussion provider named edX (new). It can NOT be enabled on exisiting course runs. Only the newly created courses runs will have this discussion provider configured by default.
Can I switch back to the old provider after the upgrade?
No. This is a one-way upgrade. Part of the reason we don’t support rollback is because the discussion topics are different for old and the new provider. Therefore, discussion threads created using one provider will not be visible when using the other one.
What features are not available when using the upgrade?
Existing discussion xblocks and their associated discussion topics will not be visible.
Course authors will not see the option to add discussion xblocks to courses in edX Studio.
Adding more than one discussion topic to a course unit will no longer be possible.
How to enable/disable discussion on course units?
Discussions are automatically enabled on a newly created course unit.
For existing course units, course authors can enable or disable discussions for a course unit by checking or un-checking the Enable discussions checkbox in settings of that unit.
If discussions is enabled on a unit, a Discussions enabled label will appear alongside the unit name in Studio.
It will take up to a minute for the discussion topic to appear [disappear] after discussion is enabled [disabled] on a unit. However, the “Discussions enabled” label will appear [disappear] instantly in Studio.
The “Enable discussion” checkbox in unit settings can be used to enable or disable discussions for that unit.
In this screenshot, discussion is enabled on units named “Addition” and “Subtraction” but not on “Quiz”.
What about units in graded subsections?
By default, discussions are disabled on units in graded subsections. This can be changed by toggling on the setting named Enable discussions on units in graded subsections on the discussion configuration page.
If the toggle is turned on, discussions will be enabled on units that previously had discussions enabled and are part of subsections marked as graded but not timed exams.
If the toggle is turned off, discussions will be disabled on all units that are part of graded subsections. Topics associated with these units that contain at least one thread, will appear under “Archived” in topics hierarchy in Topics tab on the Discussions page. All empty topics will be deleted.
Toggle for managing discussions on units in graded subsections. This toggle is listed on the discussions configuration page in Studio.
If the toggle is disabled, the “Enabled discussion” checkbox in unit settings will be disabled for units belonging to subsections marked as graded.
When a re-run of an existing course is created:
The re-run will be using the new discussion provider by default.
Discussion xblocks from the parent run will be carried over but will not be rendered anywhere in the live course run.
If a unit in the parent run contains one or more discussion xblocks, discussions will be automatically enabled on this unit in the re-run. This is also true for units belonging to subsections marked as graded but not timed exams.
If at least one unit in the previous run contains one or more discussion xblocks, and that unit belongs to a subsection marked as graded, then Enable discussions on units in graded subsections toggle will be enabled automatically for the re-run.
Discussion topic creation and cleanup (of extra topics) may take up to an hour, after creation of the re-run.
When a course unit is deleted, renamed, moved or hidden
If a course unit that has discussions enabled is:
Deleted: The associated discussion topic is archived if that topic contains at least one thread.
Renamed: The associated discussion topic is renamed automatically.
Moved within the course hierarchy: The associated discussion topic location will also be updated according to the new course content hierarchy.
Hidden: The associate discussion topic is hidden but the threads are not.
What are Archived topics?
Discussion topics that contain at least one thread are not deleted automatically. If due to some reason, the association between a course unit and its discussion topic is broken AND that topic contains at least one thread, it will appear under “Archived” section in the topic hierarchy.
Name of the archived discussion topic will be updated to include the hierarchy where it previously belonged.
Archived topics will only be visible to users having discussion moderator role (Discussion Admin, Discussion moderator, Community TA, Group community TA). However, threads in the archived topics will remain visible to everyone.
If all threads in an archived topic are moved to other discussion topics, then archived topic will be automatically deleted.
A discussion topic for the unit named “Quiz” is archived and appears under “Archived” section.
When is a topic archived?
A discussion topic will be moved to archived section only if it contains at least one thread, otherwise it will be deleted. Here are the scenarios when a discussion topic (if it exists) associated with a unit will be archived:
The unit is deleted.
Course team disables discussion on the unit.
The parent subsection is marked as graded, and the Enable discussions on units in graded subsections toggle is in OFF state.
The parent subsection is marked as “timed exam”.
When is an archived topic restored?
Course team enables discussion on the unit.
The parent subsection is un-marked as graded.
The parent subsection is un-marked as “timed exam”.
The parent subsection is already marked as graded, and the Enable discussions on units in graded subsections toggle is turned ON.
Showing threads at Subsection level instead of Unit level
For courses that have low enrollment or low forum activity, discussion threads for each unit in the discussion sidebar may appear to be sparse. To overcome this, course teams can turn on the toggle named Group in-context discussion at the subsection level to show all threads in the subsection, that the unit belongs to, in the sidebar for any unit of that subsection.
Toggle on discussions configuration page to show all threads for the subsection in discussion sidebars of units in that subsection.
Discussion sidebar is not available for mobile apps at this time and xblocks won’t be visible. Learners can participate in discussions using the “Discussion” page on the mobile app.
Nuisance: Upon creation of a new run of an existing course, discussions will be enabled for course units that contained at least 1 discussion xblock in the previous course run. These course units will have a Discussions enabled label visible in Studio. However, as of now, discussion topics will be created for all course units. But no need to worry, these “extra” topics will be deleted or archived within 1 hour of creation of the course run.