Teaching Resources

Online Discussion Tools

Resource Overview

An overview of tools for online discussion.

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Sally Wu

Assistant Director, Educational Technology




Description: Padlet is a digital pin board software, a virtual wall and collaborative space, that allows users to gather a variety of objects into a single digital place. Users can write text, record audio and video, add links to websites from across the web, or upload pictures to a Padlet wall. It could be used as part of a live discussion (along with online or in-person teaching), as part of an asynchronous discussion, or as a space to develop a collaborative wiki-like project. Users can “like” others’ posts and comment on them. One nice additional feature of Padlet that you can allow users to post anonymously.
What kinds of learning goals could it support: Argue, Assemble, Collaborate, Communicate, Compose, Defend, Discuss, Dramatize, Explain, Express, Rate, Share, Synthesize
Cost: WashU has purchased a Padlet Pro plan, which gives anyone who has a @wustl.edu email the opportunity to set up an account with Padlet boards. Students do not have to download the software or make an account.
Canvas Integration Potential: Padlets can be shared via link or embedded right into a Canvas page (students could participate in the Padlet discussion without leaving Canvas). No formal integration with Canvas Gradebook.
Additional Resources: 
General instructional video
Padlet + Canvas integration instructional video


Description: A free online Q&A app with a wiki style format that enables students to post questions and respond to each other. Instructors and AIs can both answer and endorse answers to keep the class on track. The app can cut down on redundant email questions, especially in large classes. Students are able to post anonymously. Students can add text, images, and code blocks to posts. Students are notified via email when someone responds to their question, and they can reply directly through the email. Can be used as a discussion forum (instead of Canvas Discussions) or as a place to post questions on course content.
What kinds of learning goals could it support: Collaborate, Discuss, Examine, Explain, Locate, Review, Translate, Understand
Cost: Free, instructors must make an account, students do not have to make an account if Piazza is integrated with Canvas course page and they will be accessing Piazza through Canvas.
Canvas Integration Potential: Can be fully integrated as an LTI app in Canvas, integrates with Canvas Gradebook.
Additional Resources: General instructional video
Piazza + Canvas integration instructional video


Description: Originally designed for gamers, but with lots of educational use potential, Discord allows instructors to customize discussion boards with voice, video, and text responses. Instructors can set up “teams” of students or allow students to self-sort into channels. It does a lot of the same things as Canvas discussion boards, but it has the look and feel of a complex texting app (e.g. Slack). It can be used either as a downloaded app (to computer desktop or phone) or online within a browser.
What kinds of learning goals could it support: Argue, Collaborate, Communicate, Compose, Defend, Discuss, Dramatize, Explain, Express, Synthesize
Cost: Free, though users must create an account.
Canvas Integration Potential: No formal integration.
Additional Resources: Instructional video


Description: Dotstorming is a real-time or asynchronous brainstorming and decision-making app. Users can add ideas (text or image), vote on ideas, justify their choices, and comment on what has been posted by others. When being used as part of a synchronous session, students can also chat with each other about their choices in the app. Dotstorming works as a discussion starter, a warm-up activity, or brainstorming activity for a synchronous session. It could also be used as a pre-class / post-class activity to measure understanding.
What kinds of learning goals could it support: Assemble, Build Consensus, Collaborate, Express, Justify, Rank, Rate, Recommend, Select, Verify
Cost: Free, instructor needs to make an account but student users only need to click on the link to participate.
Canvas Integration Potential: Can be inserted as a link into a Canvas Module, Canvas Assignment, or Canvas page. No formal integration with Canvas Gradebook.
Additional Resources: Instructional video


Description: A video discussion platform from Microsoft that allows instructors to post discussion prompts via text or video, which students then respond to by posting short videos either in response to the prompt or in response to their classmates’ posts. Canvas discussion board tool can also do these things, but the format of the posting in Flipgrid looks more like social media than a traditional online discussion board. In addition, it allows instructors to give students public or private video feedback to their posts.
What kinds of learning goals could it support: Argue, Communicate, Compose, Defend, Discuss, Dramatize, Explain, Express, Synthesize
Cost: Free, but instructor must have a Microsoft or Google email address to sign up for a free account.
Canvas Integration Potential: Can be inserted as a link into a Canvas Module, Canvas Assignment, or Canvas page. Further, there is a full Canvas integration option available through an LTI app. This level of integration would allow you to grade Flipgrids with SpeedGrader.
Additional Resources: General instructional video
Flipgrid + Canvas instructional video


Description: A online collaborative whiteboard designed to support brainstorming, decision making, and working across distributed teams. Users can add text, images, sticky notes, shapes, arrows, comments, and emojis to share and connect ideas. Miro provides a large set of templates to help organize content. Like Google Docs, all users can see changes in real time and track the movement of users on the whiteboard. Miro works well for concept maps, Venn diagrams, and synthesizing content into specified categories.
What kinds of learning goals could it support: Build Consensus, Compare, Create, Explain, Express, Relate, Review, Synthesize
Cost: Free educator account. Sign up using your WUSTL email and request an educator account that allows for up to 99 students.
Canvas Integration Potential: Currently cannot be integrated into Canvas, but the link to any Miro board can be unlocked to share with specific users or anyone, like on Google Docs. Links can also be password protected.
Additional Resources: Quick Overview; Instructional Video

Our team is available to talk about pedagogical uses for these or other EdTech tools. Please feel free to reach out to our Educational Development team through our consultation request form.

Using an EdTech tool that we haven’t profiled yet? Let us know through teachcen@wustl.edu and we can add a profile about it!

Have suggestions?

If you have suggestions of resources we might add to these pages, please contact us:

ctl@wustl.edu(314) 935-6810Mon - Fri, 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.