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Weekly Tech Talk

Tips for Promoting Interactive Discussions

Issue Date: 05-26-2017

The discussion board is a tool for sharing thoughts and ideas about class materials. Depending on how you set up your course, you access the discussion board from either the course menu or a course area, such as a content area, learning module, lesson plan, or folder. The main Discussion Board page displays a list of available discussion forums. A forum is an area where users discuss a topic or a group of related topics. Within each forum, users can create multiple threads. A thread includes the initial post and any replies to it.

When creating a forum, instructors have the option of allowing or not allowing students to start threads. A moderated, graded forum used to evaluate student performance will be tightly controlled, and you cannot create threads. Other forums are designed for students to share opinions and thoughts on course topics. Course groups can have their own discussion boards that members create using the groups tool. Group discussion boards are available only to users who are members of the group. If a group discussion board is available, students can access it from the groups link in the course menu or in the My Groups area.

Here are some tips for promoting interactive discussions in your courses:

  • Clearly state expectations in Syllabus. This helps students understand what you expect from them in each of their postings.
  • Create a Rubric for your discussion board. Having a rubric for your discussion board requirements helps students understand where they did well and where they need to improve.
  • Encourage collaboration in welcome announcements/emails. Remind students that discussions will only be as good as participants make them.
  • Ask students to post an introduction. This allows students to get to know each other. You can suggest students to ask each other questions pertaining to their experiences in later discussions.
  • Recommend students post early in the week. You may want to consider setting a due date for initial posts and then another due date for responses to classmate.
  • Encourage students to share personal experiences. Ask students to share personal experiences in every response so that other students can learn from their experiences. This will promote follow up questions and initiate a deeper discussion. 
  • Suggest multimedia postings. Students can use other approaches beyond text. This may include audio or video recording, PowerPoint, avatar, or any other media they can come up with.

  • Take advantage of the content editor. Include pictures, video, or text formatting in your postings for students to respond to. You can propose them to do the same.
  • Assign discussion board leaders. Students can be assigned to be a leader (moderator) for one or more of the course’s discussions. They could be responsible for asking follow up questions and keeping the discussion alive. Click HERE for a tutorial on how to set up discussion moderators.
  • Offer bonus points. Consider offering bonus points for students that have excellent contributions.

Tags: Instructional Design Tips, Course Tools, Course Tools: General Course Tools Tips, Course Tools: Discussion Board

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