Discourse for a faculty. Nested categories required - perhaps not?

Hello, I’ll keep it short. My sister wanted to revamp an old, ugly forum that not many people use because the UX was pretty bad.

Now they have changed the forum’s styles but well, it still looks like one of those 2005 boards but with 2010 design.

She asked me if I know any software which could do the job better and I said sure, I’ll run Discourse on my server to show you if that would be better; she really liked it, but it’s missing one thing: Multiple nested categories.

She needs some “browsing experience” or categories like B.Sc > Renewable Energies > Only for Students > Optional Subject something > Another Subject 1 > Exercises.

So that’s about 5-6 nested categories and sadly Discourse only allows two. I’ve looked at tags but they won’t do the job either because it can’t be browsed well etc.

How can I solve this issue, with Discourse, of course? I’m guessing there isn’t a way without coding a lot myself and revamping categories and more?

1 Like

I am a teacher and I’ve used discourse in the classroom… I think 5-6 nested categories would be problematic. . . from my experience things would get lost. I believe that 2 levels is more than enough. The tagging feature can help you zero in on a particular subject or exercises. There would be lots of ways of setting up a class. Here are a few ways:

  1. B.Sc (Top Level Category)
  2. Unit 1 (Category Level 2)
    • Assignment 1 (topic) tagged: assignment, u1
    • Assignment 2 (topic) tagged: assignment, u1
    • Discussion on Subject 1 (topic)
    • Discussion on Subject 1 (topic)
    • Unit 1 Resources (post, closed topic) tagged resources, u1
  3. Unit 2 (Cat Level 2)
    • Assignment 1 (topic) tagged: assignment, u2
    • Assignment 2 (topic) tagged: assignment, u2
    • Discussion on Subject 1 (topic)
    • Discussion on Subject 1 (topic)
    • Unit 2 Resources (closed topic) tagged resources, u1
  4. Meta Course Discussion
    • Feedback and questions (topic)
  5. Chemistry (top level)
  6. etc.
  7. etc


  1. B.Sc
  2. B.Sc Assignments (Cat, Level 2)
    • Assignment 1 (topic) tagged: assignment, u1
    • Assignment 2 (topic) tagged: assignment, u1
    • Assignment 3 (topic) tagged: assignment, u2
  • B.Sc Discussions (Cat, Level 2)
  • Unit 1 Discussions (topic, closed topic) tagged resources, u1

I was also going to suggest using tags and perhaps systematic naming of topics.

Some of your levels can also be handled via permissions.

For example, there is no need for “Student only” as you can just set permissions of the renewable energies category accordingly.

And you could consider adding the degree (B.Sc.) to what is now the second level category, i.e. B.Sc. Renewable Energies > Subject

Finally, as much as I like discourse, as a teacher I would think twice before I use it in class. There are numerous platforms out there that are designed specifically for classroom work, esp. handing in assignments, returning feedback etc. I think I’d use discourse only if my course has a strong online discussion component, because that is where discourse shines.

I know @pfaffman used Discourse when he taught - he should have some good thoughts.


My students loved Discourse. . . instead of just having a classroom of 30 students, the conversation widened to include 90 students. I just used it as a supplement, not as learning management tool. Student writing improved when they know that in addition to me my classmates would read what they wrote.

The problems for me were. . .

This is not an issue, as things are not going to be graded there. It’s just meant as a common place to post questions and stuff. Accounts don’t have to be deactived either afaik.

The reason for me to deactivate the accounts was to stop my former students from getting emails and digests. I suppose I could have created a new categories and restricted it to current students. . . The archive could have been useful.

@Moter8, you may also want to read this and browse the other communities that are educational based, to see how they set things up.