Topic: How to use discussion boards for sessions and / or presentations  (Read 495 times)


You might be thinking of holding a virtual, hybrid or hyperlocal conference where presentations either are held as a live stream or presented as pre-taped videos or audio slide shows. Especially in these cases, you want to make sure that attendees engage with each other. In an academic setting, discussions about sessions or presentations can help both the presenters to get viable feedback on their research and attendees a deeper understanding of the subject matter. For that purpose, you can activate a discussion module that lets users discuss whole sessions or single presentations online.

To get information about the use of online resources in connection with your ConfTool installation, please consult our entry on the topic:
How to connect ConfTool to external resources for a virtual conference.

(A German version of this article is available.)

Activate discussion boards

First, please make sure that you have already created an agenda in ConfTool. Discussion boards can only be used when sessions are available. They are an integral part of the online schedule.
Please head on over to the settings of the individual sessions. You can activate the discussion function for each session separately:

Overview => Scheduling => Create, Configure and Delete Sessions

In the section "Settings for Discussion Boards (Chat Function) of Sessions and Presentations" for the two options "Access to Discussion of Session" and "Access to Discussion of Presentations" you can define if you want to allow access and if enabled, which particular user group you want to grant access (see image 1).

You can then enable the function for discussions boards on this page:

Overview => Scheduling => Main Settings for Conference Session Overview

In the section "Users Can Post New Discussion Messages for Sessions and / or Presentations" activate the module and set a start and end date (see image 2). When the phase is over, users can still access and read the discussions, but no longer post messages.

The option "Send Automatic E-Mail Notifications to Authors" allows you to define if all users who are identified as authors of a presentation that is being discussed will automatically receive an e-mail notification as soon as a message is posted to a discussion related directly to their presentation. As per default, these users are subscribed to these presentations and will have access to the related discussions on the menu page "Your Discussions" even if they did not contribute anything to the discussions (see below).

How to use discussion boards

Users can now go to the ConfTool agenda to start discussions about sessions and/or presentations.
To start a discussion, click on the speech bubble icon with the plus. To engage in a discussion that has already started, click on the icon with one speech bubble, in case only one message has been contributed to the discussion so far, or the icon with two speech bubbles, in case there is more than one contribution to the discussion (see image 3).

You can enter your contribution to the discussion in the text field and then send it by clicking on the paper plane icon. You can edit or delete your own messages. Hover over the message and click on the edit or delete icon (see image 4). Admins can always edit and delete any message.

If you want to reply to a specific message by another person and continue the thread, hover over the message and then click on the “reply to message” icon. Continue to enter your idea in the text field that appears and send the reply by clicking on the paper plane icon (see image 5).

You can subscribe to a discussion when you click on the bell icon. You will be automatically subscribed to a discussion once you enter a contribution to the discussion ("Subscribed"). In that case, you can decide to receive e-mail notifications about new contributions to the discussion when you click on the bell icon again ("E-Mail-Notification"). As an author of a presentation, you can also decide to receive e-mail notifications even if you have not submitted a contribution to the discussion (see image 4).

Keeping track of discussions as normal user

You can always get an overview of all the discussions to which you have sent messages or to which you have subscribed when you click on “Your Discussions” on the overview page in your account:

Overview => Your Discussions

Use the “Filter by Discussion Type” or the search field to narrow down the number of sessions. The label “NEW” highlights discussions with new messages that were sent since you last accessed the discussion. In the column “Action”, click on “View Discussion” to see all messages of the discussion (see image 6).

Keeping track of all discussions for admins

As a user with Admin or Conference Chair rights, you can act as moderator for all message boards. You can initiate discussions by asking initial questions. Start a discussion on presentations or sessions on the main agenda page just like a normal user:

Overview => Conference Agenda

In order to keep track of all active discussions and edit or delete messages or whole discussions if they do not adhere to proper standards, please proceed to this page:

Overview => Scheduling => List of Discussions

You will get an overview of all discussions to which at least one message has been sent or that have been subscribed to by at least one user. You can search, filter and reorder the list. Click on a title to receive more information on a session or presentation. Click on "X authors" or "X subscribers" to see a list of the users who have sent messages or subscribed to a discussion. In the column "Action" click on the corresponding link to edit and delete messages or to delete a whole discussion (see image 7).