Why Create a Private Discussion?
If you are using Desire2Learn (D2L) then private discussions will allow you and your students to communicate confidentially within the online course site. Rather than receiving emails from unknown personal accounts (and likely ignoring the emails), or being asked to reply to a cryptic email which lacks basic details (such as which course, which section, which student), a private discussion area allows you to easily manage your 1-on-1 communications with students.Setting Up Private Discussions (pdf) - how to set up a 1-on-1 private discussion with each student.
Video Demonstration of Private Discussion Process (Flash)
Not only does this help keep your email box clean, but it also assists with FERPA issues, so that students who have private concerns are not feeling compelled to post them in a public discussion forum.