Getting Started with Ed Discussion

Ed Discussion was chosen as the Q&A replacement for the Piazza tool. Ed Discussion is an online communication tool that can be used to facilitate synchronous and asynchronous online discussions in a course. It supports customizable thread categories and subcategories, anonymous posting, private posts among instructors and TAs, LaTex, multiple computer programming languages, and much more. For current or past Piazza users, see the detailed or simple version of the Ed Discussion and Piazza comparison chart for key feature differences.

If Ed Discussion is not yet integrated with your Canvas course and you would like to use it, send a request to canvashelp@stanford.edu. Once the Canvas Team has enabled Ed Discussion in your course, you can begin to set it up. Click on a link below to learn more about a certain topic or scroll through the guide to get started.

Set Discussion Options                        Sync Roster                             Add Welcome Message

Add New Threads/Posts                       Content Editor                        Comment Settings

Replying and Interacting with Threads                                                Additional Help Guides

Set Discussion Options

  1. Click Ed Discussion via the Canvas course navigation menu. A new tab will open.
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  2. On the Ed Discussion Admin page, select the Discussion tab to customize discussion settings.
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  3. Decide whether to enable private threads, private comments, and whether private threads will be anonymous to teaching staff or only to students. 
  4. Customize the Categories section. Categories are like folders. There are pre-set categories that can be used or removed. To remove pre-set categories, highlight an existing category and hit the delete/backspace key on your keyboard to remove the unwanted category.
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  5. (Optional) Add subcategories (e.g., Category is Homework, subcategories can be Homework 1, Homework 2, etc.). When subcategories are present, users must select both a category and subcategory. There is a limit of up to 2 levels of nesting subcategories.

    If you choose to use subcategories, we recommend including a “General” subcategory for questions that may not fall into any of the subcategories you create. To add subcategories, hit the ‘return’ key on your keyboard to create a new line under the category > hit the ‘tab’ key on your keyboard > type the name of the subcategory.
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  6. We recommend enabling the checkbox for “Category unselected by default”. This will help keep posts organized. This also means there should be a ‘General’ or ‘Other’ category for questions that do not fall under pre-created categories.
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  7. Go through the rest of the setting options.
  8. Once finished, click Save at the top of the page.
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Sync Roster 

  1. On the Ed Discussion Admin page, select the General tab.
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  2. Scroll down to the Users section and click Sync with LMS to import the student roster from Canvas (you will need to re-sync the roster if student enrollment changes or students can join themselves by clicking on the Ed Discussion link in Canvas).
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    Once synced, you will see all users in Canvas populate into Ed:

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  3. If you have any TAs, they will be automatically assigned the Admin role. If they aren't already Admins and defaulted to Staff (TA), upgrade your TA's role by clicking Staff (TA) and choosing Admin (Instructor). This will enable your TAs to access Ed Discussion prior to activating the site and so they can help setup Ed Discussion.

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  4. Scroll to the top of the page, click Save then Activate to give students access to the Ed Discussion course site.
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    Students will see the message below if the Ed Discussion course is not yet activated.

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Add a Welcome Message (Optional) 

  1. Click on the Discussion tab in the menu bar.
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  2. A Welcome message will display. Click Continue to add and customize the Welcome message (if you don’t want to add a Welcome message, select the link to Skip setup).
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  3. The default messaging will appear. Customize the messaging. 
  4. Click Post Announcement once finished. An email from notifications@edstem.org will be sent to all members who are enrolled in the Ed Discussion site. 

Add New Threads

All users can click on the “New Thread” button to start a new discussion thread. There are three types of threads: Question, Post, and Announcement (teaching team only). A student post will default to a Question, which solicits an answer from course members. Teaching team members will default to a Post to initiate a discussion. 

Choose the relevant Category and Subcategory (if applicable) to group threads of similar topics together and make them easier to find later. A category must be selected before the content editor becomes available.

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Polls

Polls are great for collecting feedback from students. Poll results are displayed in realtime and does not require the page to be refreshed to get the most current data. After selecting the Question, Post, or Announcement type, select the Shortcuts icon and choose the option for Poll.

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Content Editor  

Images                       Videos                    Files                               LaTex/Math         

Code Snippets          Web Snippets         Image Annotator          Preview 

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The Content Editor provides tools for formatting text, inserting media, LaTex, and other programming language snippets. In addition, you can directly create formatted text and mathematical equations by typing in Markdown and LaTex syntax. 
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  1. Insert Image

    Upload an image from your computer or embed one from a link.
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  2. Insert Video  

    Embed videos from YouTube, Vimeo, etc. using the video URL link. You can adjust the dimensions of the embedded video with your cursor.
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    Note: You can upload a video file from your computer by dragging and dropping it into the editor window (preview is not available). The video will be added as an attachment.
     
  3. Insert File

    Upload a file from their computer to share it with the class. Can also drag and drop the file.
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  4. Insert LaTex/Math

    Direct input of LaTex math equations (using dollar syntax) and Block math (separate lines) is supported in the Content Editor. Users can also use the “Insert LaTex” shortcut to build equations with the visual math editor. A live preview in the LaTex editing window is displayed.
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  5. Insert Code Snippets

    Incorporate code snippets in a post. Coding languages such as C/C++, Python, Java, Ruby, R, Julia, SQL, JavaScript, CSS, HTML, etc are supported and runnable. Code snippets can also be used to plot and visualize data. 
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  6. Insert Web Snippet

    Insert web code snippets (in HTML, CSS, or JavaScript) for web design and development, as well as data analytics. A real-time preview is available immediately below the input window.
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  7. Image Annotator 

    Draw on a blank canvas or annotate an image. For a blank Canvas, select the Image Annotator icon and click Use blank canvas. For existing images, embed an image on the page, hover or click on the image, and select the Annotate pencil icon that appears.
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  8. Preview  

    When you are finished editing, use the “Preview” button to check the content and format of the post in a preview window before officially posting to the class.  

Comment Settings 

Below the Content Editor is a set of options. The options will differ depending on thread type.
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  • Pinned: keep thread at the top of the list to increase visibility. 
  • Private: allows course staff to establish a back-channel for communicating among themselves on the platform. Students cannot see Private posts.
  • Anonymous and Anonymous Comments: enable students to hide their identity from their peers.
    • Note: Depending on course settings, student names could be anonymous or revealed to instructors.
  • Megathread: allows consolidation of student questions under a specific topic. 
    • One way to use Megathread is to ask students to Heart the questions they would like answered. 
  • Email: Available only for Announcements which will generate a notification to students.

Replying to and Interacting with Threads

Thread Options

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  • Heart: signifies agreement or would like a question answered. Hearts are private and do not reveal identities. 
  • Star: bookmarks threads to refer back to later. Stars are private to the individual. 
  • Watch: subscribe to thread activity email notifications. 
  • Pin (instructors only): keep the thread at the top of the list to increase its visibility and encourage ongoing discussions.

Managing Posts (Instructors Only)

Accepting and Endorsing Student Answers

  • A student’s answer can be approved by the instructor or original author. Click on the gray Accept checkmark to turn it green and mark the question as resolved. 
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  • Click Endorse to give recognition to high-quality or correct answers.
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Locking Posts 

If students should no longer respond to a thread because it has been answered or for other reasons, prevent additional responses by hovering over the three dots and selecting Lock.
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Removing Duplicate Threads 

If a new thread duplicates an existing one: 

  1. Click on the three-dot Options button.
  2. Choose Mark as Duplicate in the menu.
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  3. In the pop-up window, select the thread it is a duplicate of and click Mark as Duplicate.
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@Mention (Instructor Only)

Instructors can @ mention each other and students so that the person can be notified. Students cannot @ mention course staff or other students. 

Additional Help Guides

Below are links to documentation by Ed Discussion. You must be logged in to Ed Discussion to access their help guides.