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Creating private discussions for student journals and one-on-one communication

Beginning in May 2023, a new interface for creating and editing discussion topics is available. Check out our guide on this new interface to learn more!


Brightspace discussions can be used to achieve a variety of different goals, and in this guide we’ll be exploring their use for private journals and discussion between instructors and individual students. This style of discussion creates a discussion space for each student that can only be viewed by themselves and the instructors or TAs of the course. 

In order to set up a Discussion for this, you’ll need to create groups of one student each. Then you will create a discussion for those single-user groups. This guide will outline both steps for this process.


Updated Spring 2022

 Create Single User Groups

  1. To create a new group category, navigate to Activities and Assessments → Groups in your course Navbar.
  2. Select New Category to create a new group category.
  3. Give your group category a name. A good example would be “Private discussion groups” or “Single user groups”.
  • Add a description if desired.
  • Under Enrollment Type choose Single user, member specific groups. 
  • For Restrict Enrollments to, select No restrictions (unless you are only doing this for a select group of students).
  • Click Save to create your group category. 


  1. Your single-user groups are now ready for a Discussion. Follow the next step to set up your Discussion.


Create a Discussion for Single User Groups

  1. Go to Activities & Assessments Discussions. If you’ve already created a Forum, you can skip to step 6.
  2. Select New → New Forum.
  3. In the Properties tab under New Forum Details, give your forum a name and description.
  4. Select the box for Create a new topic in this forum with the same title.
  5. Click Save and Close.
  6. Navigate to the Forum and Topic you’ve just created. From the Topic dropdown menu, choose Edit Topic.
  7. Under Topic Type, select Group or section topic, everyone can access this topic but students only see threads from their own group or section. You will receive a warning stating that this change cannot be undone, select Yes on this warning to proceed.
  8. Under Group or Section Category, select the name of the groups you set up earlier. 
  9. Select Save and Close.