Group Discussion Forum

Perhaps the most used group tool is the Discussion Forum. In simple terms, someone starts a Forum Topic and others Reply to it. To post a new topic, either scroll down, past all your old topics, or simply click on “new Topic”:

You will see the following New Topic form. Provide a topic title and start typing your content.

Similar to WP posts, there are formatting tools are available to you and you have the option to switch from Visual to Text view, if you want to edit the HTML markup. You can embed images and videos, add links, block quotes, numbering, bullet points, and more.

Topic types can be normal or sticky. If you want a topic to “stick” to the top, your can make your topic sticky (see below).  Otherwise, the most recent topic is displayed at the beginning of a discussion forum. This is especially useful if you are using the Commons to teach a class. You may want to post important contact information and class links in one post, and make it easy for your students to find, and comment on if they need help. The sticky topic option is only available to admins of the group.

Members of a group can use email notification settings to determine how they are notified of new topics and replies.

If you want your group to be able to reply to your topic, leave the Topic Status as Open. If you want to close the topic, click “Close.” There are a number of other actions that are available if you are an admin of the group. See below:

Reply, Nested Reply, or Quote

All members of the group have the option to reply to the discussion topic, reply to a another member’s reply, or quote another member’s reply.

  • Reply – your reply will be displayed in at the bottom of the thread. Simply scroll down to the end of the topic and add your reply.
  • Nested Reply – your reply will be displayed (or “nested”) underneath the reply that it refers to. Scroll down to the reply you wish to reply to and click on “Reply”
  • Quote – your reply will appear at the bottom of the thread, but it will include a text box containing the reply you are referring to. This clarifies what your reply is about. To quote a reply, scroll up to the it and click on “Quote.” Then add your reply.

File attachments can be added at any point of the discussion thread. You can attach one or more files, and these will automatically be added as an item in the Group Library.

You can cross post a topic to other groups that you are a member of and that you have rights to post. See Post To Multiple Groups, highlighted above.

Reply by Email

Members do not have to be logged on the the Commons to reply to topics. Once they receive an email notification, they can reply using their email client. This is not available if you choose to receive notification “digests.” See email notification settings.

Read More About Reply By Email


You don’t need to “log on” to the Commons to respond to group email notifications.  Participate in group discussions by simply clicking Reply in your email client.  Our plugin Reply By Email takes care of the rest!

Respond to personal messages in the same way, and in both cases, you can attach files, and those files will be available to your group or friend.

You can even post a new topic via email.  Make sure you send from the email address shown in your Commons settings and use the group’s quick link appended by “”  For example, if the group’s quick link is, post your topic to:  “”.  The  subject line will become the new topic’s title. Depending upon your group’s email settings, your new topic can trigger notifications to group members.

A Few Caveats

  • When you receive a Commons email notification, you’ll notice the phrase “— Reply ABOVE THIS LINE to add a comment —“ (circled in red, above). Anything you type above this line will be part of the message posted to the forum, while everything below this line will be ignored But it is vital that the line itself be present in the reply. Reply By Email uses this info to route your reply back to the Commons. (Depending on your email client, when you hit reply, you might see additional address information added. Don’t worry – this will not be part of your response.)
  • You must reply using the same email address at which you received the notification – Reply By Email uses this as a way of matching you up with your Commons username. (Not an issue for most people, but it may affect those who have set up their email client with multiple email addresses.)
  • You can use Reply by Email to reply to discussion threads on group forums, to personal messages and @mentions, and to group announcements.
  • Attachments are allowed for group forum emails.  To attach a file, use the familiar method provided by your email client.  Our attachment size limit is 3MB. Keep in mind that you cannot attach files for daily or weekly group digest emails.
    You can also tell if attachments are allowed by checking the email footer:
  • You cannot use Reply by Email to reply to notification “digests,” Docs notifications (new docs, edited docs, new comments), group file uploads, group invites, or friendship requests.

See here for further technical details.

Post New Topics By Email

You can also post new topics by email by using the email address assigned to the group. The group email can be found here:

How to email the group:

  • Compose a new email from the same email address you registered with –[this address will be provided when you click the “?”]
  • Put the address, highlighted above, in the “To:” field of the email
  • The email subject will become the topic title

Download Individual Topic To CSV File

An admin of a group can download individual forum topics and their replies to a CSV file:


This is especially useful if you are using the discussion forum for teaching. You can sort the resulting spreadsheet by student to quantify participation in the topic.