Teaching Tools

Discussion tools

Discussion tools

Discussion Boards are available in Blackboard to facilitate conversation between staff and students. External discussion tools are also available to embed in your course space. The core University of Manchester tool is Piazza (which is integrated with Blackboard).

Blackboard vs Piazza: A quick overview

Blackboard and Piazza both provide:

  • a summary of items which are unread or awaiting reply, enabling users to quickly navigate to these items.
  • controls to enable or disable anonymous posting.
  • ability to search for posts via a search field.


  • Structure: Staff create a forum space to allow users to discuss items relating to a particular topic.  Users, create threads within a forum to add their questions, comments etc.
  • Who can create a thread? Instructors can choose whether to enable or disable the option for students to create a thread.
  • Replies:  Users reply individually to a thread with options to reply or quote.  In addition students can click to email author (potentially this option generates additional email traffic rather than centralising communications).
  • Organisation – a list of forums will be displayed on the ‘home page’ for the discussion board.  Users can assign threads to a collection if they wish to.
  • Ability to mark/grade posts – instructors can choose to mark contributions to forums or threads, assigning a point value and attaching a rubric.


  • Structure: Staff create a class and folder structure to organise discussions.  Users identify which folder a post should be assigned to. Three different ‘post types’ are available (question, note or poll).
  • Who can create a post? Staff and students can create questions, notes and polls.  (Staff can choose to disable the ability for students to create a poll).
  • Replies: For each post there is a  a single students’ answer box and single instructors’ answer box to create wiki style threads.  In addition there is a single follow up discussion box.
  • Organisation: A list of all posts in chronological order is displayed on the Q&A page and users can also filter content by folder.


Piazza, Piazza: Staff Guide, Piazza: Student Guide