How do I create a topic?

Topic settings are very similar to forum settings except that these settings apply to a single topic, not all of the topics in the forum. At least one Topic must be created within a Forum in order for site participants to be able to post, read, and reply to messages.  

The following options, which are not found in a Forum's settings, are available in a Topic's settings:

  • You can create an anonymous topic, where general site participants cannot see the identities of those who post messages in that topic.
  • If you have created groups in your site, you can Automatically create topics for groups.

Tip:  To keep all of the same settings that were selected for the Forum in the topic, just specify a title and (optionally) a description for the new Topic.

If you have just created a forum and clicked Save Settings & Add Topic, skip to the following step:  Title the topic.

Video Guide

Step-by-Step Instructions

Go to Discussions.

Select Discussions from the Tool Menu in your site.

Select New Topic.

To the right of the forum title where you would like to add a topic, select New Topic.

Note: If you have just created a forum and it has no topics yet, you can also click Create a topic? underneath the forum title.

Title the topic.

Topic Titles are required.  Give the topic a title that easily identifies the types of discussions expected within it.

Enter a short description. (Optional)

If desired, enter a description into the text box provided.  The Short Description field only allows a maximum of 255 characters and does not allow formatting of text.  This information is displayed to site participants when they view the Discussions tool.

Note: You can resize the Short Description box by clicking in the lower right-hand corner of the box and dragging it bigger or smaller.

Enter a detailed description. (Optional)

To provide more detailed instructions for posting in this topic, use the Description field to enter the information.  The Description field includes the Rich-Text Editor and allows for more advanced formatting options.  Site participants will be able to view the description by clicking a View Full Description link on the main page of Discussions.

Add attachment(s). (Optional)

You can attach files as part of the topic description.  Click the Add attachments button to browse for and select a file.  Site participants will be able to download attachments by clicking a View Attachment(s) link on the main page of Discussions.

Check or remove attachments.

After a file is attached, the file name, size (in bytes), and type of file will be displayed.  A Remove link is available to remove an attachment.

Select topic posting options.

There are several topic posting options from which to choose:

  • Lock Topic:  Locking the topic prevents participants from posting messages in it.  However, they can continue to read existing messages.  
  • Moderate Topic: This option means all messages posted within this topic must be approved by the instructor or site administrator before they can be accessed by other members.
  • Require users to post before reading:  Selecting this option requires users to post their own response first, before they can view other messages posted previously.  This is a good option for instructors who want students to respond to a discussion prompt before seeing other students' responses.
  • Posts are anonymous: In an anonymous topic, the identities of those who post messages will be hidden from general site participants.  Students in course sites and members in collaboration sites will see anonymous ID numbers with other people's messages, rather than seeing the posters' names, UVA computing IDs, guest account email addresses, or profile photos.  Anyone who has Owner permissions in the anonymous topic, including instructors, teaching assistants, site owners and administrators, will be able to see the identities of all participants by default.

Note: After a topic is created, its anonymity setting cannot be changed.  However, in an existing anonymous topic, instructors and site administrators can modify individual role or group permissions within the topic settings if they would like to hide or show posters' identities to additional site participants.

Select availability.

The default option is to Show Immediately.  You can also choose to Specify dates to open (show) and/or close (hide).

If you'd like to have ALL topics within a forum open and close at the same times, you can select the dates for the forum instead.

Note: Choosing to Specify dates to open (show) and/or close (hide) is different from choosing to Lock a topic.  Site participants will not be able to see a hidden topic at all, but they can read messages that were previously posted to a locked topic.

Automatically mark all messages as read. (Optional)

The default option is unchecked, requiring site participants to mark each post as read after reading. Selecting this option will mark all messages in a conversation, or thread, as read, as soon as a participant accesses the conversation.

Select a gradebook item to grade the topic. (Optional)

You can Select a Gradebook item to grade the topic in Gradebook Classic.

Note: You must have created a Gradebook item prior to the creation of the topic for this option to be available.  If there are no Gradebook items available, you can continue with the creation of the topic and return to edit the Topic Settings after you create a Gradebook item.

Automatically create topics for groups.

To create multiple, private group topic areas, select the radio button for Automatically create topics for groups and then check the box next to each group for which a topic should be created.

All roles that have Contributor permissions by default (e.g. students in course sites and members in collaboration sites) will be assigned to the permission level of None in automatically created topics. Each group will be set to Contributor in their own group's topic and None in other automatically created topics.  These permissions prevent participants who are not members of a group from accessing that group's topic.


  • You should NOT modify any topic permissions before automatically creating topics for groups, or the permissions in the automatically-created topics will be incorrect!
  • You must have existing groups in your site to create topics for groups.

View Permissions.

If you are creating only one topic (and not multiple group topics), you can view and modify the topic permissions.

In most cases, the default topic permissions are appropriate.  By default, instructors and site administrators are forum Owners, and all other site participants are Contributors.  The forum owner may add and delete messages, modify permissions, edit the topic description and other settings, etc.  Contributors may read, post and reply to messages.  Contributors may also edit and delete their Own messages.

Modify Permissions.

Topic permissions may be customized for different user roles, rosters, or groups within a site.  

  1. Select the drop-down menu next to each role or group to choose one of the pre-configured options (i.e. Author, Contributor, None, Non-editing Author, Owner, Reviewer).
  2. Click the Customize button to the right to further expand the options for more granular custom permissions.
  3. The default permissions allow contributors (the default role for students and collaboration site members) to post new conversations, read posts, reply to posts, mark posts as read, and edit and delete their own messages.  You can add or revoke posting or reading privileges by selecting or deselecting the check boxes for those privileges.  To prevent students from either editing or deleting their own messages, select Customize for the Student role, then select None under the Edit Messages or Delete Messages column.

Note: Group permissions display if groups have been created.


If this completes the topic(s) to be added to the forum, click on the Save button at the bottom of the screen to save your Topic Settings.

To add another topic to the same forum, click on the Save Settings & Add Topic button instead.