Ed Discussion

As of May 2022, Ed Discussion is available to all Penn faculty, staff, and students. A Canvas integration is available for all courses taught through Penn Canvas.

On This Page


Ed Discussion is a tool that provides a platform for students and instructors to interact through threaded discussions. Students can answer one another’s questions, work on and run code together, embed videos, annotate images, and share documents. Instructors can endorse student responses and their own feedback.

Ed Discussion’s features foster community and peer learning. Additionally, students may opt to use Ed Discussion to ask questions about the course, which could reduce emails to the instructor. Ed Discussion is highly customizable with categories for certain questions or threads and an easy-to-use search and filter tool.


Accessing Ed Discussion

If enabled, Ed Discussion can be accessed by you and your students from the course menu in your Canvas site (see instructions below for adding Ed Discussion to Canvas).

You can also log in with your Penn email address at edstem.org/us/login. This is how your students will access Ed Discussion if your Course is not in Canvas.

Add the Mobile App

Ed Discussion can now be added to your mobile device as an app to allow you to receive push notifications once Push Notifications are enabled in your settings.

Before you start, you’ll want to check which email you’ll use to login to Ed Discussion:

  1. Log into Canvas (canvas.upenn.edu) with your PennKey.
  2. Select any of your courses that use Ed Discussion.
  3. Enter Ed Discussion from the left hand Canvas course navigation.
  4. Click your profile picture/initials on the top right corner of the screen.
  5. The email listed here will be the email you’ll use to login to Ed Discussion.

Next, add the mobile app:

  1. Navigate to https://edstem.org/us/help/push-notifications.
  2. When prompted, login with the email you’ve identified in the steps above.
  3. Follow the directions for your device (IOS or Android) to add the mobile app.
  4. Lastly, enable Push Notifications in your settings.

Adding Ed Discussion to Canvas

To add Ed Discussion to a Canvas course site, please submit a request to canvas@pobox.upenn.edu or use the following instructions:

  1. Click Settings from your course navigation menu.
  2. Click the Navigation tab near the top of the page.
  3. Locate the Ed Discussion link, and drag it into the “Drag and drop items to reorder them in the course navigation” list. Alternatively, you can click the three vertical dots on the right of the button and select Enable.
  4. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save. This will add the link to the course menu.

Students can now access Ed Discussion through the course navigation link in Canvas.

We recommend waiting to activate your Ed Discussion course until after your Canvas site has been published. By clicking Activate in your Ed Discussion course, students will receive a notification that the course is live but if your Canvas course site has not been published they will not be able to access Ed Discussion.

Getting Started 

Login with your Penn email to view Ed Discussion’s Getting Started (Instructor) Guide and the basics of Using Ed Discussion.

Tips and Tricks

We recommend clicking the Sync with LMS button (located in Settings) frequently, especially during the Add/Drop period. This will ensure all enrolled students are pulled into your Ed Discussion course.

Ed Discussion has lots of helpful features to make communication more efficient. Click on the following links and login with your Penn email to read more about Ed’s Moderation Tools, how to Pin and Schedule Posts, and edit equations.  

Additionally, instructors can use the new lightening bolt icon located to the left of the format text button shown in the picture below to create short polls:

Lighting Bolt icon shown next to the format text box which leads to a poll or spoiler option
Example of Poll settings
Images sourced from Taylor Kahney at courseware@wharton.upenn.edu

Chat Tools

Instructors have the option to enable Chat tools within their Ed Discussion courses. This allows instructors to:

  • Initiate and engage in private communications/chats with students
  • Set up public and private chat channels
  • Allow students to send each other direct messages
Ed Discussion chat example with an instructor messaging a student to make an appointment for office hours

You can learn more about Chat from Ed Discussion’s help guide.

Currently, this feature can only be enabled by submitting a request to canvas@pobox.upenn.edu.


As an instructor, you can view and download analytics depicting participation stats, such as views, threads, and answers, for a certain point in time. Access your Course Analytics by clicking the tab boxed in red below:

Ed Discussion dashboard with the graph bar symbol located in the top navigation bar highlighted

You can also view details on top contributors in the class. These stats can then be downloaded and viewed in .csv format for further drill-down capabilities, such as user email addresses, roles, and specific activity metrics. The image below shows how these metrics appear from your Analytics tab:

Analytics sample view showing participation, views, threads, answers, and comment metrics

For more detailed guides, please log in to Ed Discussion, select your region, and then go to Help with Using Ed Discussion. If you are already logged into your Ed Discussion Dashboard, click on the person icon found in the upper right corner of the screen and click Help.


By using Ed Discussion to ask questions instead of emailing your instructor directly, the whole class can benefit from your question. Keep in mind that courses can use Ed Discussion in many different ways, so be sure to check your syllabus for important guidelines from your instructor.

Accessing Ed Discussion

For courses in Canvas, click the Ed Discussion link on the left hand navigation menu of your Canvas course page to access the discussion for the course.

Ed discussion canvas link

If your course is not in Canvas, log in with your Penn email address at edstem.org/us/login.

You can also download the mobile app to receive notifications.

Quick Guide

Read the Student Guide to Ed Discussion to get started.

Understanding Thread Icons

  • Threads with a blue dot Blue dot icon are unread. These are threads that you have not seen.
  • Threads with a green checkmark Green checkmark icon are questions that have been resolved. This means that the question has already been answered.
  • Threads with a purple pin Purple push pin icon have been pinned. Pinned threads are generally reserved for announcements or important information.
  • Threads with a blue ribbon Blue ribbon icon have been endorsed by course instructors. This is usually done by instructors to distinguish high-quality content.
  • Threads with a heart signify agreement. Hearts are private and do not reveal identities. 
  • Threads with a star are bookmarkedto refer back to later. Stars are private to the individual. 
  • Threads with an eye icon selected   are those in which you are subscribed to receive thread activity email notifications.
  • Threads with the “S” icon indicate a student has answered a question thread.
  • Threads with the “I” iconindicate an instructor has answered a question thread.

Conduct in Online Discussions

Please be polite and respectful while interacting with your peers, TAs and professors in Ed Discussion. Note that while you can choose to Post Anonymously in Ed Discussion if you’d prefer, instructors and TAs will still be able to see who created the post.

Below are some general recommendations on how to interact in online discussions to create a welcoming space where everyone can learn. (Your syllabus may have more specific guidance.)

Online culture

  • Tone – Tone is a very important part of online communication. Before posting online, read your message out loud. Ask yourself if you would say this to a colleague or acquaintance in a face-to-face discussion. Avoid sarcasm, which can be hard to interpret online.
  • Peer support – Make an effort to understand, respect, and support your fellow students. People have different perspectives, but everyone is here to learn and to learn from each other. Assume the best intentions first when engaging with others.
  • Confidentiality – Do not share information about others and their experiences without their expressed permission to do so. 

Posting Etiquette

  • Search before posting (someone may already have posted about this)
  • Do not post potential HW answers or code to Ed Discussion publicly (check “private”)
  • Be specific and well defined in your questions (describe how you tried to solve the problem first)
  • Accept any follow-up answers after receiving them by manually clicking on the green tick
  • Answer time on questions can vary by course. Visit a TA’s office hours if you need an immediate response
  • Tag a category for your post to help others find it

Adapted from https://online.seas.upenn.edu/student-knowledge-base/ed-discussion/ 

Getting Help

For additional help or information, please contact your Local Support Provider or submit a request to canvas@pobox.upenn.edu.

Last Updated: 7 Apr 2023