Instructors have requested the ability to comment privately on students' posts in context. This would allow instructors to provide feedback to a student which would be available to the instructors and the affected student, but not to other students in the site.
Currently, if an instructor wants to provide feedback on a student's forum post, the only options are the following:
- Reply to the post, in which case the reply is seen by all site participants.
- Send a separate message/email to the student.
- Enter comments with grades to be displayed to the student in Gradebook. There are several disadvantages to placing comments in the Gradebook:
- The comment is entirely out of context. The student may have to open multiple tabs/windows to try to match the feedback to their post(s).
- Grades/comments can only be entered at the forum or topic level. If the student makes more than one post in the same topic, it's not easy for the instructor to give individual feedback on specific posts.
- Gradebook comments are plain text only. Instructors cannot provide rich-text or attached feedback like they can in Assignments, e.g.: quote the post and comment inline, include links or embedded images/media, attach documents.
The proposed feature would be to add a Private check box that is available when replying to a post. The box would also need to include some role-based explanatory text to indicate who will be able to see the comment, e.g.:
- For Students: Private: Reply visible only to you and instructor(s).
- For Instructors/TAs: Private: Reply visible only to instructor(s) and the student who posted the original message.
- For Project Site Members: Private: Reply visible only to you and site administrator(s).
- For Project Site Maintainers: Private: Reply visible only to site administrator(s) and the member who posted the original message.
I assume the Private option would ALSO need to be available when a user chooses to Edit their post, in case someone accidentally makes a public comment and realizes they meant to make it private, or vice versa.
A new permission check box would be needed in the Forum Settings and Topic Settings Permissions tables, Read Private Posts. I would expect this to be enabled for users in administrative roles (e.g., Instructors and Teaching Assistants in course sites, Owners and Administrators in project sites) by default, and able to be turned off for various roles (e.g., Teaching Assistants) if desired.
Role-based explanatory text would also be needed on the page where the users who can see the private post are viewing it:
- For Students: Private Message: Only visible to you and instructor(s).
- For Instructors/TAs: Private Message: Only visible to instructor(s) and the student who posted the original message.
- For Project Site Members: Private Message: Only visible to you and site administrator(s).
- For Project Site Maintainers: Private Message: Only visible to site administrator(s) and the member who posted the original message.
Extremely Rough Mock-ups of Proposed Feature:
The check box to make a private post:
A private post in context:
New permission in Permissions table:
- Should users be prevented from creating entirely new threads as private? If new threads should not be allowed to be private, could the system differentiate if a user edits an initial post in a thread, to not present them with the Private box?
- On selecting to Edit a post, instructors/administrators should not be allowed to make a student's/member's private posts public.
- Suppose someone makes a public post, another person replies publicly to that post, and the user who made the initial post wants to change it to private. If this occurs, I assume the now-private post will need to leave an artifact visible to all users who do not have permission to view private posts. Basically, it would need to behave similar to how a deleted post behaves.
- Should there be additional restrictions on replying to a private post? For example, are all replies to private replies automatically marked as private also? Is this even something to worry about? I suppose a student could copy and paste from an instructor's private comments, or an instructor from a student's private comments, to create a new message anyway.