Collaborative learning with Canvas discussions

This year I’ve been using the Canvas learning management system primarily as a work flow tool–because that’s what it is–primarily. It’s heavy on teacher productivity. Post, turn in, provide feedback, and electronically grade assignments. Create pages for resources or a week-at-a-glance. Build modules to deliver content. But what are the students doing?

For me the best feature Canvas has to offer is the discussion forum. It’s a place where student learning is visible. It’s a place where students learn from others and contribute to the learning of others.

To launch our 7th grade unit on percent I posted a discussion prompt using Robert Kaplinsky‘s Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon task from the 101Questions site.

BBB questions

I probably shouldn’t have led the students by saying, “Here are my questions, what are yours?” but I was impressed with their questions. Here are a few:


The students not only had to post two questions, they also had to respond to one other student. What impressed me more was how the online discussion minimized student status, gave all students a voice, and allowed them to contribute.


The following day students explored the answers to their questions with Kaplinsky’s Act 2. But my point is how the on-line discussion facilitated collaborative learning.

Here’s another example. Students shared their solutions to a small task, gave feedback, and later revised their work. Some posted as a narrative while others uploaded their work.

Percent rectangle

percent shade2

I plan to add more discussion forums in the future. Overuse can kill a good thing, but a well placed discussion is gold.


4 thoughts on “Collaborative learning with Canvas discussions

  1. I love this idea! We are using Canvas at my school as well. I have started a few discussions, but they way you have used it provides a clear advantage. I plan to use the discussion feature more with my students to get a conversation going with my students. I started an on going discussion for students to post different scenarios or stories for different functions so that they also have something to do if they finish early (it has not worked out like I hope, but that is my fault). Great post!

    1. Thanks. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. I’m currently toying with the idea of creating a homework discussion. Maybe ask for volunteers to moderate one day a week so questions aren’t ignored. I’d definitely need to have rules such as the problem must be attempted with work shown either as a photo or video. Then the moderator offers only tips or suggestions and not solve it for them.

      Perhaps I’ll try it this week in class with percent review problems.

      Again thanks for commenting.

      1. That sounds like a great idea! I like how you are giving students ownership and control. We just started with Canvas this year and I love learning about how other people are using it in their classrooms, especially a math classroom! I’d love to hear how the homework discussion works.

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