With the Discussion tool you can encourage peer interaction and conversations in your course.  Participants in discussions interact with one another by posting messages to discussion topics and reading and replying to messages posted by others.

The discussion tool:
•    Provides opportunity for continuing discussion for peer learning.
•    Messages are archived
•    Instructors can set up groups (that can be both public to all students or private to just the students in that group)
•    Instructors can allow students to post a comment anonymously if the comment is sensitive and the instructor monitors comments closely so that if there is an offensive comment posted, it can be removed quickly. This gives students a bit more willingness to speak freely (especially if the subject is delicate)
•    Sometimes online discussions give “voice” to the silent students because they feel more confident rehearsing what they are going to say (by typing) before posting.
•    The instructor can ask and award for 100% participation from the class
•    Sometimes responses can be more thoughtful and articulate because the students has had time to think about the question and (very important) the instructor has posted criteria and an example of what a “good response” looks like and the consequence for not posting well.
•    Instructors can set up a “Questions” Topic so that if a question is asked (either in email, face-to-face or in discussion) the question and the answer can be posted once. The instructor doesn’t have to repeat him/herself.

You can use the Discussion tool to:
•    Encourage students to share their reflections on course material with their peers
•    Set up areas for students to ask questions
•    Pose a question for the class to debate
•    Discuss the answers to an assignments
•    Create ideas for groups to work on group assignments
•    Facilitate peer writing review