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December 4, 2009

Using the Blackboard “Subscribe” feature in Discussion Boards to Engage Students

The discussion boards within Blackboard have a feature that allows students to subscribe to a forum or thread. By enabling this feature, students can choose to receive a link to the discussion forum/thread post or the body of the new post in their email. When you create a new discussion forum or thread, students receive email notices alerting them to that fact and no longer have to go to their Blackboard course site to see if anything new has been posted to a discussion forum.

To enable the subscribe feature in a forum or thread, here’s all you need to do:

1. Go to Control Panel > Discussion Board. Click your course discussion board (the same name as your course) to open it.
2. Click the +Forum button at the top left of the window to create a new discussion forum.
3. Name the discussion forum and decide how you want it to look and behave for your students. One of the choices is “Subscribe.”

By default, Blackboard has the “Do not allow subscriptions” radio box selected. However, you can choose between the following:

1. Allow members to subscribe to threads
2. Allow members to subscribe to forum (with the additional options of (a) include body of post in the email or (b) include link to post.


If you select “Allow members to subscribe to threads,” then any threads in that post will have a button at the top right of the discussion thread view labeled “Subscribe.” When the student clicks this button, they are automatically subscribed to that thread, with any new posts being sent to their email.


If you select the second choice, “Allow members to subscribe to forum,” that forum will have the “Subscribe” button for the student to select and all new postings to that forum would either be (a) posted in its entirety to the students’ email or (b) posted as a link (less text in the student’s email message, since it would just be a link to the discussion forum.)

Either way, students CANNOT respond to discussion forums or threads through their email. They MUST go to the Blackboard course site and post there. The subscription feature simply alerts students to new postings without having to go to each Blackboard site. It’s a great way to keep students engaged with their courses and is a valuable feature to a discussion board.

"Show & Tell" videos

  • For Bb instructors: How to Enable the Subscribe Feature in a Discussion Board
  • For Bb students: A Student’s View of the Subscribe Feature in a Discussion Board

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    Comments (1)

    Subscribe is a great feature to keep students engaged, especially in hybrid courses. Students are far more likely to respond to their classmate's postings when they are alerted there is a new one to read.

    I believe this has increased discussion board participation this semester and I plan to use it more next semester.

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