Where I really hear my student’s voices? The online discussion board.

I started using discussion boards out of complete practicality. I had to be away for a conference, and I needed a solution for my evening class. I’ve come to use the discussion board in almost all my classes now because I find the use of discussion boards very helpful in engaging students in a different way. When I read student posts, I often realize that I may have been underestimating their interest or willingness to go into depth on a topic or theme.

A colleague asked me for some design tips. Here’s what I typically use.

 Planning:

  1. If you know you will be absent for the week, it’s good to give as much lead time as you can so students know what’s going on. At the very least, let students know at the beginning of your class this could be coming if you need to have a backup plan for an inclement weather week.
  2. Decide how you will grade or record the results of participation. In my case, I usually just count it towards attendance, but you can make planned online discussions part of a graded assignment.

Structure:

  1. For online discussions, I will usually create 4 questions, and let the students select 2 to answer.
  2. Students are directed to provide an answer that is 75 to 100 words.
    1. I set a deadline for this. If the class meets Monday, I will set a deadline that the first question/s be answered with a post by Wednesday evening at 11:59 p.m.
  3. Students are directed to provide two answers, one answer to two students.
    1. These answers should be 50 to 100 words and should be more than a “ditto” answer. They should provide positive support, challenging follow-up, or something that resembles a “yes, and…”.
  4. The answers should also have a deadline. If questions are answered by Wednesday, follow-ups should be completed by Sunday evening.

This is just a quick review of how I set discussion boards up.

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