Revitalizing Your Discussion Boards with Discussion Hero

by Jacob Guerra-Martinez

Discussion Hero Welcome Screen

Discussion boards are a great way for online students to interact and network with each other. However, sometimes participation can lag. While this can be based on many factors, one of the reasons could be that students might be afraid to go against the rest of the class and simply agree with many of the posts. If this is the case in your course, you might ask yourself what you can do to bring the spirit of debate back into your discussions. Have no fear; Discussion Hero is here to help revitalize your discussions! 

What Is Discussion Hero?

Choose your side screen shot
Choose Between Being a Hero or Villain

Discussion Hero is a gamified discussion board created to make online course discussion boards more engaging and versatile. By utilizing gamification concepts, Discussion Hero encourages diverse points of view in a debate setting.  

How it works is simple: Students sign into Discussion Hero and can choose from two distinct roles: Heroes and Villains. Each is picked on a first-come, first-served basis. They can then choose from a large number of diverse avatars, each with its own unique superpower. They then use those avatars to engage in conversation as their alter-ego, using their unique character traits to engage others and challenge different points of view.  

Discussion Hero Features 

The Leaderboard

Not only does Discussion Hero allow students to choose their own avatars, but it also allows them to progress to three distinct levels as they continue to add posts to their assigned discussion. This is done through a Progress Meter that “levels up” when students meet certain criteria on a grading rubric that an instructor can customize. The more they post, the more prestigious the level. For example, heroes start out as Bystanders, then move up to Sidekicks, and finally, Superhero status. Villains also start out as Bystanders, followed by Minions, until ultimately reaching the level of Supervillain.  

Benefits of Using Discussion Hero 

While Discussion Hero might not be for everyone, it does provide a new and different approach for student interaction, one that asks students to maybe take a side they would not have once considered and allows the flow of discussion to take inventive turns. Instructors can also create anonymous discussions, allowing hesitant students a chance to speak up. A network graph also gives students a visual representation of the discussion board, where students and faculty can see the participation in a non-traditional way (a traditional view is also available.) Advanced features are also available that keep accessibility in mind.  


Discussion Hero Network Graph
The Network Graph (threaded discussions)

Discussions Boards are a wonderful way for students to connect. However, sometimes, participation is where it should be. Finding a creative (and fun) way for students to connect with each other is one way to help increase engagement. Discussion Hero does this by creating roles that allow students to debate each other in a fun and respectful environment.  

If you use Canvas and want to try Discussion Hero at your school, visit the Discussion Hero Community Edition Page. For those in the Northwestern University Community, visit the Learning Apps Page.

One response to “Revitalizing Your Discussion Boards with Discussion Hero

  1. Hello,

    Currently, I am working on my Ph.D. project that centers on gamification strategies to improve student motivation and comprehension in an online environment. In noticing Discussion Hero as a gamification LTI, I’d like to know if any peer-reviewed research has been done on the topic of gamification and specifically with Discussion Hero. I would appreciate you connecting me with the developers of the Discussion Hero project so I can learn more about how the concept was developed. I’d like to include their knowledge and possible research in my own research project.

    Thank you,

    Pamela L. Huntington

    Instructional Designer

    Merced College, CA

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