Virtual Valley Homepage

 Virtual Valley Online Program!
 Using ETUDES: Self-Paced Tutorial

  by Dr. Gayle L. Fornataro, Virtual Valley Student Success Coordinator


     Lesson 1
     Lesson 2
     Lesson 3
     Lesson 4
     Lesson 5
     Lesson 6
     Lesson 7
     Lesson 8
     Lesson 9
     Lesson 10
     Lesson 11
     Lesson 12
     Lesson 13
     Lesson 14
     Lesson 15
     Lesson 16
     Lesson 17
     Lesson 18
     Lesson 19
     Lesson 20
     Lesson 21
     Lesson 22
     Lesson 23
     Lesson 24
     Lesson 25
     Lesson 26
     Lesson 27
     Lesson 28

Using ETUDES: Self-Paced Tutorial
Section III: Discussion Forums

Lesson 22: Discussions & Private                                 Messages Student User                                 Guide

This lesson was provided by Foothill College

The content sections of this module are as follows:

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Post & Reply
3.3 Mark as Read
3.4 Attachments
3.5 Private Messages
3.5 My Profile
3.7 Extra Features


Lesson 3: Discussions & Private Messages
3.1: Introduction


The JForum Discussions & Private Messages tool is a place for asynchronous discussion amongst the class participants. Often an instructor will require your participation in class discussions. Other instructors may suggest that you use this area for you to get to know other people in your class, to collaborate, ask questions, etc. but without making it a course requirement.

Asynchronous discussions means that they do not take place in "real" time. You may log on and start a discussion or add to an existing topic at any time. Another student may log in a few hours or days later and reply to your topic and start their own. You may find this environment quite similar to other discussion boards you've used elsewhere on the Internet.

The Private Message portion of this tool allows you to send messages privately to one or more of your fellow classmates. You can send the instructor a private message if you don't want anyone else to see the message. And the instructor can send you a private message back. The limit to sending private messages is a message can be sent to 10 others at one time.

Discussion Home Page:

Screenshot of the Discussion Forums homepage.

The picture above shows the first screen, or Home Page, of the discussion tool.

Discussions are generally broken into categories and forums. Instructors organize their sites differently from other instructors, so they may not all look alike. There may be many or few forums. To read the postings within a particular forum, you click on the title of that forum. For example, you would click on Fun stuff in the list above to read postings that are about fun stuff, not class discussions.

Sreenshot of Discussion Forums menu bar.

The links at the top of this page are also at the top of all your discussion pages. The links make it easy to go elsewhere in Discussions and then get back to this home page. You can return to home from any page of the tool by click on "Discussion Home" or "Discussion List."

You can access your profile area and private messages using the links at the top of the window. These features will be discussed in following sections.

Screenshot of bottom of Discussion Forums menu bar.

At the very bottom of the discussions home page is a legend telling you of what each icon label means. To tell the truth, I rarely see that legend . . . it's down just a little too far on the page to be useful. Feel free to investigate it on your own.

Back to top


Lesson 3: Discussions & Private Messages
3.2: Post & Reply


Screen shot of discussion topic list.


Reading Topics

To read the topics and posts within a particular forum, click on the forum title on the Discussion Home Page, as described in the previous section. You will see a list of topics related to that forum. Orange-colored icons indicate new activity since the last time you opened that topic.

Click on a topic to see all the postings about that topic. Any posts you see with a colored background (pinkish) indicates that it has been posted since the last time you viewed this list (new activity). You'll probably get into the habit of scrolling down to see just the pink posts. Also, be aware that postings are listed chronologically -- that is, the latest post is at the end of the list. So keep your messages posted into the related list -- don't post off-topic messages. If necessary, you can create anew topic list yourself as described below.

Screenshot of Discussion Topic.

There are three ways to add your own 2¢ to the discussion:

#1 - Post Reply

To add your own statement to this list of messages, click on the Post Reply button, located both top and bottom of the existing posts. That will open up an editor window where you can add your statement. When you submit it, your post will be added onto the bottom of the list.

#2 - Quick Reply

You may also click on Quick Reply at the bottom of the screen to post a reply. This is very useful if you are NOT concerned about having formatting options, but you want to post a quick reply to someone and move on. The Quick Reply link gives you a small, plain window to compose and post a reply. (If you know bb code, you can use it there. If you don't know what bb code is, don't worry about it. It is not required here.)

Screen shot of how to send I "Quick Reply."


#3 - Reply with Quote

Reply with quote is a feature located in the upper right corner of the message window. It is critical to use if you are responding to a portion of someone's message. This works very much like when you are responding to email and you are embedding comments inline someone's writing. Like in email, you should remove the parts of the message that are irrelevant to what you want to comment on, and leave just the phrase or sentence that you want to focus your reply on.

Be sure to leave quote tags around the original message [quote=user] and [/quote], intact, as in the following example. Add your reply after the [/quote] tag.

Screenshot showing how to leave the quote tags intact when replying with a quote.


Whether you reply with quote or simply post a reply, your message will be posted at the bottom of the topic in chronological order. That is why it is critical that you use reply with quote if you want to address a specific comment so that it is framed in a border, helping others see what you are answering to.

Create a New Topic

If no one has already created a topic for something you'd like to discuss, you can create your own topic (unless the instructor has made a forum "Read Only" or "Reply Only").

1. Click on the forum where you want to post a topic.
2.Click on the New Topic button (available at the top and bottom of the forum screen)

Picture of "New Topic" button.

3. Fill out the form that appears... Just about the only difference between creating and replying to a post is that you have to give the topic a subject title.

There is no reset or cancel button at this time. To cancel your operation, just click on the Discussion List or Discussion Home links at the top of the forum. If you don't click on Submit, your topic won't get posted.

Once you post your message, you will be taken back to the forum you were posting to and you will see your topic posted.


Return to top


Lesson 3: Discussions & Private Messages
3.3 Mark As Read

Reading Recent Topics from all Forums

The most efficient way to view and read new topics in any of the discussion forums is by clicking on Recent Topics. You will see a list with topics that have been posted in chronological order, with the most recent first. Topics that are new since your last visit will be highlighted in orange.

Screenshot of Recent topcs menu.


    * Click on the title of topic to read it and all the replies below it.
    * After completing that topic, click on Recent Topics again to return to the list and proceed to the next unread topic.
    * When done reading and replying to ALL the new topics, as needed, click on Mark All As Read (see menu bar).

Marking Read Topics

When you read a topic, the icon changes from orange to white, to indicate that you've read it. If someone later posts to that topic, the icon turns orange again, indicating that there is something you haven't read yet. This works well so long as you remain in your discussion tool (single browser session). However, as soon as you leave your site (log out, go to another class, etc., and log back in) all those white icons turn orange again. You need to get into the habit of marking posts as read, so that the system knows you've truly read them. There are several ways to do so:

In the LIST of TOPICS, on the right side, there is a column of check boxes.Click in the boxes you want to mark as read, then click on Mark Topic As Read, either at the top or the bottom of the list.You can easily choose all boxes (or none) by clicking on Check All::Uncheck All.

Screenshot of "Check All" box.

WHILE you're reading a topic, you can click on Mark Topic As Read, which is located both above and below the topic list. Notice that new postings have a pinkish background until they've been marked as read. Once they are marked, they become white. This makes it easy to see at a glance which postings are new when you enter the topic list.

If you've read ALL the new posts but didn't yet mark them, you can click on Mark All As Read, located at the top of your page. This affects EVERY posting in every category, so just be sure that's what you want.

Screenshot of "Mark Topic as read" menu.


Return to top


Lesson 3: Discussions & Private Messages


Add Attachments

You can easily add attachments to your discussion posts. Here is the procedure, using an image as the attachment.

* After typing the text portion of the post into the editor window, click on the Attach Files button at the bottom of the window. (Note, a post must have some text in the window as well as the attachment, even if it's a simple, "Here is my file.")
* Next, locate the file on your local computer that you want to attach. Notice there is a 3-item limit. It's a very good idea to put a description in the box to make your posting accessible.
* Click on the Submit after attaching the files you wish, remembering that 3's the limit.

Screenshot of attachment window.


One thing to be aware of when adding attachments to posts: only images and media files appear embedded (inline) the posting. Other attachment types will come in as something students can download onto their own computers before opening.
Allowable Extension Types

This is a list of file types that can be added as attachments to your discussion posts. Your files must include one of these suffixes to upload as an attachment.

      Image/Photo           Media           Document            Utilities

.          bmp                        midi                    .doc                       ,gz

          .jpg / .jpeg              .mov                    .pdf                        .tar

           .gif                         .wav                    .xls                         .zip

           .png                       .mp3                    .ppt                       .sit / .sitx

           .psd                       .aac                      .pps

           .tiff                                              .htm / .html


File types which are NOT allowed include: .exe, .bat, .pif, .bin.

You can attach up to 3 attachments maximum per post. The default file size limit is 5MB per attachment.

Note: Text must be included in the message window of the post that you are including an attachment. You cannot post a message with attachments but no text in the window. The browser will refresh and your post will not be accepted without any message. Add something like, "Attached is my project."

Delete/Remove Attachments

If you post an image that is so large that it takes up more screen space than is available, it makes the window too wide to fit in the monitor window, so viewers have to scroll back and forth in the entire discussion list. If you post an extra-large image, you should either remove it or shrink it down and repost. If not, the instructor will probably edit your the post to remove or shrink the size of the attached image.

Screenshot showing a post with too large a picture.


Here's an example of an enormous image posted by a user.

In order to scroll to see the entire image in the discussion forum, the viewer will either have to scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the horizontal scroll bar, or use their arrow keys to move to the right. (It depends on your browser exactly how to handle this issue.) And the worst part of it is that all the other posts in this list will also be too wide now, even those without large images. What can you do to fix the problem?

    * Click on the edit button at the top right right above the image. (You may need to scroll right to see it.)
    * That will open up the editor window where you can scroll down to the Attachments area.
    * Click on the Remove link and then Submit. That will get rid of the image.
    * You can open the original image in a photo editing program, such as Photoshop Elements, and resize it so that it's no larger than 600 pixels wide, and then reattach it to your message.

Images should probably be no larger than about 600 pixels wide.

Screen shot highlighting how to submit a forum message.


Lesson 3: Discussions & Private Messages
3.5 Private Messages

You can send other class members private messages (PM) -- classmates as well as the instructor.

If you have any new messages, the number of unread, new messages is shown in parenthesis at the top menu bar. See image for an example.


Screenshot of Private Message list.


Screenshot showing new provate messages.

The Private Messages area comes with an Inbox and a Send Box. The In-box includes all the messages that came in from other users, and the Send box saves copies of the Private Messages that you send to others. Upon clicking on Private Messages, any message that is unread is highlighted in orange.

Screenshot of Private Messaging.

n the Inbox, you can:

* Delete private messages. Simply check the boxes of the messages you want to delete and click on "delete selected."
* Read and reply to a private message received from someone else.
* Send out a PM to someone else (click the new topic button).

Sending a Private Message

You will want to send private messages if you want to share aside or off-topic notes with others, or to communicate information that would not be appropriate to post publicly.
Three ways to send a private message:

1) Using the Member Listing link at the menu bar:

    * Click on Member Listing.
    * Scroll down and find the user that you want to send a private message to.
    * Click on the PM icon next to the user's name.
    * Type a subject and message and post.

2) Using the Private Messages link on the menu bar:

    * Click on Private Messages.
    * Click on New Topic.
    * In the To User area, click on the person you want to send the private message to. By default, you can send a
       private message to up to 10 members at a time. If you want to send the message to more than one person,
       highlight more than one name:
             o If the names are next to each other, just click on the first and drag to the next
             o If names are separated, click on one, then hold the Control (PC) or Command (Mac) key and click on the                 others
             o If you highlighted someone you don't want, hold the Control (PC) or Command (Mac) key and click                 again -– it's like an on/off switch
     * Type a subject and message and post

Here is what it looks like with several participants chosen to send PM to:

Screenshot of Private Message user list.


3) While you're reading a discussion message from someone, you can click the PM button under their post. Type a subject and a message and click on post. That will set it up to send them a private message..

The New Private Message window looks like this. As you can see, it looks very much like creating a new discussion message.


Return to top



Lesson 3: Discussions & Private Messages
3.6 My Profile

You can set some personal information in the My Profile area of the Discussion Tool. Things such as a photo of yourself, a link to allow others to send you email or instant messages, and other personal information.

Some things to remember:

    * Set your preferences once. Your profile settings are global (they are reflected in all your sites).
    * Setting profile preferences is optional. It is up to you how much information you want to share.
    * If you don't set any preference in your profile, only your name will be listed and a link to Private Messages.
    * If you enter data in email, IM, website, etc., links to them will show up at the bottom of each of your posts.
    * You can view others' profiles by clicking on a user's name and under Member Listing.
    * Your name and email address is retrieved from the system. You can't change it in My Profile.

If you click on a user's name anywhere in the Discussion tool, or on the Profile icon in a user's post, you'll see that person's profile. Here is an example of a user's profile snapshot:

Illustration of member profile.

Setting Your Profile Preferences

To set your profile preferences, click on My Profile.

Illustration of "My Profile" on the menu bar.

Default User Register Information

First, you will see your "Register Information." You cannot change this information here. Your account information can be changed by you in one central location, under MyWorkspace >> Account >> Modify. If you change your account information in the system, the changes will be reflected here as well.

Illustration of the Default User Registration.

Next, you can set "General Information about yourself."

General Information About Yourself

This is optional, but if you set it, this information will appear by your posts. Try it. If you don't like what is displayed to other site participants, you can come back and change your profile. Your changes will update all references of your profile in all sites where you are a member and have posted topics and messages.

Screenshot of the general information section of the My Profile menu.


Note that you can complete as many or as few fields as you want to be viewable by other site participants.

Here is an example that shows a user who included her IM information, etc. in her profile. Once included in My Profile, this information appears in every topic or message a user posts.

Example of a post with IM in profile.

Setting Your Preferences

Go through the list, and set your preferences. Again, remember that these settings are global. They define how the JForum discussion tool will handle email notifications, show signature, show email address, etc., in every discussion forum that you are a member of - in all your course or project sites.

For example, if you want to be notified via email every time someone posts a new topic, you can select 'yes' in the preferences.

Illustration of my profile menu settings.

Foreign Language Support

The discussion tool supports 12 different foreign languages. If you choose one from the pop-down menu, the labels of the menus change to that language. You can always switch back by re-entering My Profile.

Illustration of My Profile forieng language support settings.


Including Avatars

Finally, you can upload or link to an image that you'd like to use as an avatar. This image will appear next to your post. Before uploading an image, please resize it so that it an appropriate size. 130 X 130 pixels or smaller is recommended. You can always return and remove an avatar or replace it with a new one.

Screenshot of Avatar Settings.

When you are finished, click on "Submit" at the bottom.

You can always come back to changes your Profile settings. They will be changed globally in all sites where you are a member of a discussion tool. If you have posted messages in forums, your adjustments to your profile will be updated in all your posts, member listing information, etc. in all of your sites.

Lesson 3: Discussions & Private Messages
Extra Features

There are several little features of the Jforum Discussions & Private Messages tool that you may want to know about. They are introduced in this section.


If you click on "Watch" at the top of a topic, you will be notified via email when replies get posted. The email notifications will go to the email address that you are registered within the system. This is a useful feature if you want to keep an eye on a discussion that might otherwise get buried.

If the topic gets too much traffic, and the email notifications are getting out of hand, polluting your in-box, you can turn it off by click on "Unwatch" topic.

Note: if you use the QuickReply feature to reply to a topic, it will automatically turn on the Watch feature. You will need to return to that topic and "Unwatch" if you don't want to receive email notifications anymore.


You have the option to bookmark topics that may be of interest to you and want to save or revisit regularly. To bookmark a topic, click on the link named "Bookmark It!" located at the top right corner of a topic thread.

To view your bookmarks, click on My Bookmark in the breadcrumb links at the top of the window. In a particular site, you'll only see the bookmarks for that course. You can delete the bookmarks or edit their title and descriptions in the list of bookmarks.

Member Listing (Roster)

You can view and contact any active member in your class by clicking on Member Listing in the breadcrumb links at the top of the window. As the purpose of Member Listing is to communicate and collaborate with other members of your course, only "active" users are listed.


The discussion tool allows you to search for topics. Accurate word(s) must be provided. Partial words will not return information. Enter the search terms and select "search all items" if the string must be matched or select "Search any term, or as is written" if any of the terms included should be matched and the condition does not require that all are found.

You can limit your search to one forum or one category if you want to narrow down your search.

Using Emoticons

Since we have no verbal ways of expressing ourselves in a virtual class, consider using smilies to help clarify your meaning or to show the emotion behind your words. These "smilies" may appear silly, but they can help to avoid misunderstanding. When posting new topics or messages, you have access to a small library of emoticons in your editor.


Back to top

Back to Table of Contents

<-- Lesson 21 Glossary -->