Have you ever felt that your online students needed more direction on how to approach a discussion board? Have you thought that with just a bit more assistance students would really engage in the forum and take it to the next level, rather than just do the minimum required to get points?
I have written several useful tips that I would encourage you as faculty to share with your students. These guidelines will assist students as they complete the online discussion board assessment that is inherent in every online course.
Dear students: in order to make this essential assessment both worthwhile and meaningful please take a moment to review these helpful tips and thoughts on how to approach an online discussion board:
1. Firstly, be sure to read all the submissions by your classmates. Most learning platforms, like Blackboard, give your instructor and option to see which students have read what. However, please don’t approach an online forum with the reduced mindset that you HAVE to participate and that I am checking up on your level of engagement, because then in reality you will lose sight of the point of the exercise. For example, if you were in a brick and mortar classroom you would “hear’ all the comments, so why wouldn’t you read all the comments in an online class? The more you participate in the forum the more you will get out of it.
2. Despite what I just said please recognize that an online forum does not translate exactly to a discussion in a traditional class. Because the discussion board is asynchronous the responsibility is on all the members of the class to make sure that the conversation flows, and this only happens if students buy into the assessment and do the work. I promise it will pay dividends.
3. When you are commenting on the posts of your classmates, stay away from the “That’s a good point, Joe.” Or “I agree, Sue.” Those types of comments good places to start but please do not end there. Give your fellow classmates feedback and tell them why it is a good point or how it resonated with you. Put yourself in the role of your teacher and critically evaluate the post of your classmate by providing substantive feedback in the form of a detailed and well thought out response. Peer feedback is the most powerful kind! In addition to assisting your classmates it will help you learn how to critically evaluate a piece of writing. This is a life skill that will serve you long after you leave the classroom.
4. Remember that an online forum is meant to be a discussion, so always respond to those classmates that respond to your original posts. This develops community and rapport and quite frankly it is the polite thing to do. You wouldn’t ignore someone if they spoke to you, would you?
5. Finally, feel free to discuss your opinions on the topic, but always remember to be respectful of different positions that maybe voiced. If your opinion is backed up by facts, be sure to reference your sources appropriately. Some discussion boards are designed to not have a right or wrong answer whereas others ask for research to support a position. Be sure to recognize the difference and respond accordingly.
I hope you have found these tips to be helpful!