Creating Group Discussions


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If your course uses groups to encourage students to collaborate on coursework, you can also include links to group tools to help them communicate. For example, you can create a special group discussion board, available only to the members of a course group.

In the Original Course View, group discussion boards are separate from the regular course discussion board. Members of a group can create and manage their own forums. 

Example: You assign students to groups and provide each group with a problem or situation to explore and develop into a class presentation. The groups can use the chat tool and their group discussion boards to brainstorm and discuss topic choices. They can also use their group discussion boards to post web links, and members can post replies on their value. Also, they can use the group discussion board to divide up tasks and refine the outline. Members post portions of the presentation, and all members post replies regarding the usefulness, grammar, flow, and for agreement on the final product.

Enable group discussions

When you create a course group, enable the discussion board tool to help groups collaborate and communicate.

  1. On the Create Group page, select the check box for Discussion Board in the Tool Availability section.
  2. Select Submit.

The Group Discussion Board tool appears in the My Groups section and on the group homepage.

Disable group discussions

You can’t delete a group discussion board without deleting the group, but you can make the tool unavailable. Existing posts are not removed—just made unavailable to group members.

*When you make a graded group discussion board unavailable, the grade column associated with that group discussion board remains in the Grade Center.

  1. On the Control Panel, expand the Users and Groups section and select Groups.
  2. Change Edit Mode to ON. On the Groups page, select Edit in the group’s menu.
  3. On the Edit Group page, clear the check box for Discussion Board in the Tool Availability section.
  4. Select Submit.

When members access their group homepage or the My Groups section, the link to the group discussion board no longer appears. You can make the tool available again at any time.

Edit settings for group discussions

By default, each new group discussion board uses the group’s name as the title. You and all assigned group members can edit the forum name and provide a description. 

If you want to grade participation in a group discussion board, you can edit a forum’s settings and enable grading in the forum or threads. Unlike other graded group activities, when you set a group discussion board to graded, each member is graded independently of other group members. Each group member must make the designated number of posts to earn his or her own grade. You don’t assign a group grade for contributions to the group discussion board.

  1. On your course’s Control Panel, expand the Course Tools section and select Discussion Board.
  2. On the Discussion Board page, the course discussion board and all group discussion boards appear. Select a group discussion board.
  3. On the next Discussion Board page, select Edit in the forum’s menu.

  1. On the Edit Forum page, you can edit all settings, including the name and description, which appears in the Description column on the group discussion board page. You can edit the forum availability and enable grading for the forum or threads.

You or any group member can create more forums in a group discussion board.

Creating Groups in Blackboard


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You can create groups, enroll students in groups, and edit or delete groups in your Blackboard course.

  • Groups can be created one at a time or in sets. After you create a group, you can edit the group’s tools, name, availability, and members.
  • Each group has its own homepage with links to tools to help students collaborate. Only you and group members can access the group tools.

Group enrollment methods

You can enroll students in groups in three ways. Students can’t unenroll themselves from groups.

  • Manual Enroll allows you to assign each student in your course to a group. Manual enrollment is available for both single groups and group sets.
  • Random Enroll is available for group sets only. It automatically distributes students into groups based on your settings for maximum members per group or total number of groups. Random distribution applies only to students who are currently enrolled in your course. You can enroll additional students manually.
  • Self-Enroll allows students to add themselves to a group with a sign-up sheet. Self-enrollment is an option available for both single groups and group sets.

Access groups

Students can access groups in two ways:

  • In a new course, select “Groups” link in the left course menu.
  • In the course menu, go to Tools > Groups.

Create a single group

  1. On the Groups page, select Create.
  2. In the Single Group list, select Self-Enroll or Manual Enroll.
  3. Type a name and optional description. Make the group visible to students.
  4. Select the check boxes for the course tools you want to make available to the group.
  5. If you want to grade student submissions for blogs, wikis, and journals, select the Grade option and type Points possible.
  6. Select the check box for Allow Personalization to let students add personal modules to the group homepage. Modules are only visible to the group member who added them.
  7. Optionally, select the check box to create a smart view for this group.

Enroll students in a group

  1. If you chose Self-Enroll, type a name and provide instructions. You might tell students that they can’t unenroll themselves from groups. Type the Maximum Number of Members and select any other options you want to include.


If you chose Manual Enroll, search for and select students from the Add Users pop-up window.

Your selected group members appear in the bottom area with a number showing the total count. Select the Show List icon, represented by a full square, to open the Add Users area to view your selections. To remove a user, select the X next to their name.

  1. Select Submit.

The newly created group appears on the Groups listing page.

Create a group set

  1. On the Groups page, select Create.
  2. In the Group Set list, select Self-Enroll, Manual Enroll, or Random Enroll.

Use the same steps as creating a single group. Then, based on the enrollment option you choose, you can choose from these:

  • Self-Enroll: Type a name and instructions for the group. Enter the Maximum Number of Members and select any other options you want to include.
  • Random Enroll: Type the Number of Students per Group or the Number of Groups you want to create. Select an option to Determine how to enroll any remaining members in the groups.
  • Manual Enroll: Type the Number of Groups to create. On the next page, select Add Users for each group to make your selections.

Your selected group members appear in the bottom area with a number showing the total count. Select the Show List icon, represented by a full square, to open the Add Users area to view your selections. To remove a user, select the Xnext to their name.

Using additional monitors to record in Panopto

How to install an additional monitor:

  • To add a second monitor to your computer, you’ll need to make sure that you either have a video card that supports multiple monitors, or that your computer has more than one video card.
    • Once you have made sure that your video card can support a second monitor, turn off your computer and monitor. Next, locate the video ports on your computer.
  • Connect the second monitor to the unused video port. Plug the second monitor into an electrical power source and turn it on.
  • Turn on your original monitor. Next, turn on your computer. Windows should recognize the monitor once the computer has started. If you are prompted to install driver software, see the instructions that came with the monitor. When you have confirmed the second monitor is functioning properly, you are now ready to begin screen capturing with multiple monitors.

Capturing on multiple monitors

  1. Open the Panopto recorder. In the secondary sources area of the recorder screen, click the checkbox next to capture second screen and/or capture third screen.
  2. A new tab labelled second screen will appear, displaying the output of the second monitor.
  3. If you only want to capture the output from the secondary monitor, be sure to uncheck capture primary screen. After naming your session and selecting a folder, hit the large record button to begin your recording.


Equipment recommended by Panopto

1.1 HDMI Connection

All cameras that output an HDMI stream can be captured by Panopto when using a capture card. Below are examples of different cameras that have been used with Panopto.

  • Video Cameras – point-and-shoot 
    • Canon VIXIA HF R600
    • Sony HDR-PJ540
  • DSLR – high quality, interchangeable optics
    • Panasonic Lumix GH4
    • Nikon D800
    • Sony A99
  • Professional
    • Canon XF200 HD
    • Canon XA25
    • Sony HXR-NX100
    • Sony PXW-X70
    • Sony PXW-X200
    • Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ)
    • Sony SRG-120DH
    • Sony SRG-300H
  • Pan-Tilt-Zoom
    • (PTZ) Sony SRG-120DH
    • Sony SRG-300H

1.2 USB Connection

Most USB cameras work with Panopto and UVC (generic) webcams always work. Below are examples of different cameras that have been used with Panopto.

  • Webcam
    • Microsoft LifeCam Studio
    • Microsoft LifeCam Cinema
    • Logitech C920
    • Logitech C930
  • Pan-Tilt-Zoom
    • HuddleCamHD 30X
    • Vaddio ClearVIEW HD‑USB
    • VDO VPTZH-01
    • Panasonic HE-40
  • Visualizer / Document camera 
    • WolfVision VZ-8plus

1.3 Lecturer Tracking Cameras

Face and motion detection tracking technology to precisely lock and track lecturer. Currently supported via SDI connection in combination with recommended SDI capture device below:

. iSmart LTC-A2001N
. iSmart LTC-S2007N

Capture Cards

2.1 PCI-Express card

Internal PCI-Express capture cards that are recognized as streaming devices can be used by Panopto. The following list contains capture cards that have been tested successfully.

* Datpath VisionAV-HD
* Datpath VisionAV
* Datapath RGB-E2
* Avermedia C727 PCI

2.2 USB Connection

USB capture cards that are recognized as streaming devices in Windows and Mac can be used by Panopto. The following list contains capture cards that have been tested successfully.

* Magewell (HDMI to USB)
* Epiphan HD
* Avermedia Dongle C039M
* Inogeni HDMI/DVI to USB3


3.1 USB Connection

* Blue Microphones Yeti
* Blue Microphones Snowball USB
* HuddlePod Air
* CAD U37 USB Studio Condenser Recording Microphone
* MXL AC-404
* Revolabs xTag Wireless Microphone System
* Samson Meteor Mic

3.2 Audio Mixers


3.3 Analog Microphones



4.1 USB Connection

*  Delcom USB Visual Signal Indicator

4.2 HDMI Connection

* HDMI splitters
* Video switchers

Equipment that is not recommended by Panopto:

  • BlackMagic capture cards: Customers have reported these devices to be unstable and unreliable.
  • BlackMagic capture cards: Customers have reported these devices to be unstable and unreliable.
  • Microsoft Lifecam HD-3000: Customers have reported these devices to be unstable and unreliable with the current driver.
  • Razer Kiyo: These devices have proven to be unstable and unreliable at some quality levels.
  • Logitech C615 USB webcam – Unstable and unreliable with the current driver

What Does Student Engagement Mean in your Discipline?

Journal - New Directions for Teaching and Learning JournalA summer 2018 volume of New Directions for Teaching and Learning focuses on student engagement. Ten chapters worth!

One interesting chapter, Students Engaged in Learning, is worth a close read. (the link to the full article can be found at the bottom of this post). The authors, Emad Ismail and James Groccia, provide a compelling structure for the chapter.

The article is presented in this fashion—research findings related to engagement in the cognitive domain, followed by research on engagement in the psychomotor domain, and finally, of research literature pertaining to engagement in the affective domain. Several meta-analyses are cited. Rather than delve deeply into any single research article, I thought it might be more interesting to talk about the research he cites as part of each section (after all, you can read the full article yourself). The remainder of this post presents a short summary of the research he cites related to cognitive engagement:


Discipline: Biology
Title:Teaching More by Lecturing Less
Findings Snippet: “The results we present here indicate that even a moderate shift toward more interactive and cooperative learning in class can result in significantly higher student learning gains than achieved using a standard lecture format.”

Authors: Knight and Wood
Year: 2005

Discipline: Biology
Title:Cooperative and Active Learning in Undergraduate Biological Laboratories at FIU– Implications to TA Teaching and Training

Findings Snippet: Teaching assistants underwent a 2-day training workshop to implement cooperative learning and active learning techniques for Biology courses, and the results were very positive. Responses from instructors indicate “an increase in the cognitive level of the material communicated, learned, and assessed”, in addition to “an increase in their [students’] ability to devise and practice scientific experimentation.”|
Authors: Penwell, Elsawa, and Pitzer
Year: 2004

Cell FusionDiscipline: Physics
TitleInteractive-Engagement vs. Traditional Methods: A Six-Thousand-Student Survey of Mechanics Test Data for Introductory Physics Courses
Findings Snippet: “The conceptual and problem-solving test results strongly suggest that the classroom use of interactive-engagement methods can increase mechanics-course effectiveness well beyond that obtained in traditional practice.”
Authors: Hake
Year: 1992

Discipline: Physics
TitleCan Students Learn from Lecture Demonstrations?
Findings Snippet: “Students who had a chance to predict an outcome of a demonstration prior to seeing the demonstration achieved a significantly higher success rate of 25% to 35%.”
Authors: Milner-Bolton, Kotlicki, Rieger
Year: 2007

Human BrainDiscipline: Psychology
Title:Keeping it Short and Sweet: Brief, Ungraded Writing Assignments Facilitate Learning
Findings Snippet: “These results suggest that in-class writing and discussion improved performance on factual and conceptual multiple-choice exam questions, beyond any gain from time for in-class thinking and discussion.”

Authors: Drabick, Weisberg, Paul, and Bubier
Year: 2007

Physical ChemistryDiscipline: Physical Chemistry
Title:“I Believe I Will Go Out of This Class Actually Knowing Something”: Cooperative Learning Activities in Physical Chemistry
Findings Snippet: “We found that cooperative learning activities move students away from rote learning strategies and toward more meaningful strategies which allowed them to integrate concepts over the entire semester.”

Authors: Towns, Grant
Year: 1997

Two PeopleDiscipline: Human Resource Management
Title:The Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique (IF-AT): An Innovative Teaching Technique for Human Resource Management Students
Findings Snippet: “…through the use of Team Based Learning and the incorporation of the IF-AT students’ skills in the areas of communication, overall learning, cognitive and interpersonal skills through the use of teams or groups of students was enhanced. Authors: Blackman, Michaelsen, Knight, and Fink

Year: 2004

StatisticsDiscipline: Statistics
Title:Evaluating an Active Learning Approach to Teaching Introductory Statistics: A classroom workbook approach
Findings Snippet: “The activity based curriculum evaluated here produced significant positive changes in students’ attitudes toward statistics. Specifically, after experiencing the workbook curriculum students liked statistics more and were more confident in their ability to perform and understand statistics.”

Authors: Carlson and Winquist
Year: 2011

Robot ArmDiscipline: STEM
Title:Effects of Small-Group Learning on Undergraduates in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology: A Meta-Analysis
Findings Snippet: “The meta-analysis demonstrates that various forms of small-group learning are effective in promoting greater academic achievement, more favorable attitudes towards learning, and increased persistence….”
Authors: Springer, Stanne, and Donovan
Year: 1999

Discipline: STEM
Title:Active Learning Increases Student Performance In Science, Engineering, And Mathematics
Findings Snippet: A meta-analysis of 225 studies discovers that (on average, based on effect size) student performance on exams and concept inventories increased by .47 SDs when faculty utilized active learning strategies and methods (n=158 studies).

Authors: Freeman et al.

Human PhysiologyDiscipline: Human Physiology
Title: The Effect of Active Learning on Student Characteristics in a Human Physiology Course for Nonmajors

Findings Snippet: “Students in a treatment group [taught using a continuum-based, actdive-learning model] acquired significantly more content knowledge and were significantly more efficacious than students in the control groups [taught using traditional didactic lecture methods].”
Author: Wilke
Year: 2003

William Buskist, a co-editor in this volume, presents in a most familiar way the issue of student engagement that many of us are struggling with:

Are there universal principles of instilling student engagement that apply across students, disciplines, and institutional settings, and if so, what are they? Do these principles similarly or differentially affect the domains of doing, feeling, and thinking? Once students become engaged, what are the most effective methods of keeping them engaged throughout the remainder of their college careers in terms of doing, feeling, and thinking?

Thankfully, the research provided in this chapter illustrates that yes, universal principles do exist.

The full article is available here.

Icons courtesy of icons8.