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Academic Technology

Guide to help NECC students access and navigate within Blackboard and Office 365


The Discussions feature on Blackboard allows you to share your thoughts and ideas about course topics. You, your classmates, and your instructor can have conversations asynchronously, meaning not everyone has to be online at the same time to add their thoughts, comments, and/or questions. You can post to discussion boards at any time (unless your instructor has set a date by which you must contribute), and you can take your time to carefully consider your responses. 

Some ways you may use Discussions may include: 

  • collaborating with your classmates on a group project
  • posing question about course content 
  • demonstrating your understanding of the course material

How to open the Discussion Board page

  1. If your instructor has enabled discussions, you can find the discussion board in one of two places:
    • In the course menu, select "Discussions"
    • In the course menu, select "Tools" and then "Discussion Board" 
  2. Available discussion forums will appear on the main "Discussion Board" page.


A screenshot of an example Discussion Board page on Blackboard

Image courtesy of Blackboard Help

A. See a list of available forums in the "Forum" column

B. Select a forum title to view the posts in that forum. Bolded forum titles contain unread posts.

C. Select the red number in the "Unread Posts" column to view all unread posts in that forum. Select the red number in the "Replies to Me" column to view all unread posts responding directly to a post you have added in that forum. 

When you click on a forum, a list of threads appears. 

Screenshot of an example forum page with threads and letters indicating specific areas on the page and
















Image courtesy of Blackboard Help

A. Use the breadcrumbs to navigate to a previous page instead of the back button to avoid error messages.

B. Use the top menu to create a new thread, view grade information, and search threads. 

C. Use the checkboxes to select multiple threads and click the "Thread Actions" button towards the bottom of the screen to combine threads or mark them as read

D. Click the blue hyperlinked title of each thread to read all the posts in that thread. Bold titles indicate that the thread has unread posts in it. 

E.  View threads in List View (in a table format, default) or Tree View (with a thread starter post and all replies to that thread visible). If you do not see any threads in a forum, you may need to switch from List View to Tree View. 

In a discussion forum, threads grow as users reply to posts. As replies build on one another, a conversation develops.

To reply to a published thread within a forum:

An example discussion board thread in Blackboard

Image courtesy of Blackboard Help

  • Click on the forum's title from the main "Discussion Board" page.
  • View the text of the post to which you wish to respond and its information, such as the author and posted date. All replies will appear on the same page. To only see unread posts in the thread, select "Unread" at the top right of the page.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the post and select "Reply" (or "Quote" if you wish to include the post's text as part of your reply)
  • The page will expand below the post to which you are responding, and you will be able to access "Message" box and the editor.

The message box and editor in Blackboard discussions

  • If needed, edit the "Subject" field, then type your reply in the "Message" box. 
  • You can attach a file by selecting "Browse My Computer" beneath the "Message" box, choosing a file in the pop-up window, and selecting "Open" 
  • To save a draft of the post for later without publishing it yet, select "Save Draft." To access your drafts, return to the main "Discussion Board" page and point to "Display" then select "Drafts Only." Select your draft's title to open the "Thread" page and select "Edit" beneath the text of the draft. 

The "drafts only" dropdown in Blackboard discussions

  • Select "Submit" to publish your reply. Note that your instructor may or may not allow you to edit or delete your reply after you have published it. 
  • When you are composing long messages, write them in a word processor. After you save your work, paste the message into the "Message" box. This way you will always have a backup source for your work in case of technical difficulties.
  • If uploading, save your files in a proper format, usually .doc, .docx, or .pdf
  • Use only alphanumeric characters (letters and numbers, no spaces or punctuation) when naming the file to be uploaded (e.g. MSmith92016Homework_Assignment_3.doc). You may get an error message if the file name is too long or the name is not properly formatted. 

Video Tutorial -- Use Discussions

To cite this LibGuide use the following templates:

APA: Northern Essex Community College Library. (Date updated). Title of page. Title of LibGuide. URL

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