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Managing the Discussion Board

Effective Discussion Board Management

Becoming an online educator can seem overwhelming, as students needs are many and varying, but the following article informs online teachers about what they should know:

One of the bullet points discussed in the article highlights discussions, most online platforms have a discussion board. Online facilitators must understand that this is where the heart of the learning happens as student construct knowledge through conversation.

Exceptional facilitators must have a frequent and active presence in the discussion. It is recommended that you respond to at least three student responses to the discussion assignment on four different days during the assignment week.

When you ask students’ questions, it is important to validate the students’ answers with a confirmation post. Without doing this, you do reinforce the student’s learning and do not place value on their opinions and responses.

You should never reprimand a student in the discussion area. These comments should be expressed in a constructive manner during grading or through a personal email.

Instructor presence, when frequent and planned, on discussion boards increases student engagement in the boards – both in the quantity and quality of postings.  However, it can be exhausting to maintain numerous conversations over the course of a semester, the following articles offers insights to becoming an effective online teacher:


General Tips for Online Instructors:

  • Be active on the boards so students know you’re listening.
  • Summarize students’ thoughts, tie points together from various posts, or ask probing follow-up questions to encourage students to think more deeply or about a different aspect of the prompt.
  • Anticipate this natural fatigue. Don’t be afraid to reach out to students, individually and as a class, reminding them of discussion board participation expectations.
  • The lowest number of student responses occur in discussion board activities asking students to critically evaluate their peers or voice disagreement.
  • Set clear expectations for etiquette, tone, and participation in activities that will ask students to critique their peers. If possible, save these types of prompts for the middle or end of the course, after students have already formed a community and gotten to know each other.

Resources for Student Discussions

Creating opportunities for student to become engaged in discussions is challenging, the following articles identifies three reasons students will not engage:

One of the most daunting tasks for an online instructor is to moderate a large number of discussion posts. It’s why many of us fall to the old, 1 post and 2 replies fallback: it’s easy to measure.


Managing the Discussion

Discussions can be excellent alternatives to traditional tests or exams and can be measurable based on specific rubrics for the discussions, such as word count, synthesis and evaluation requirements. In the video below, The State University of New York interviews online instructors about the benefits of the online discussion. Many online discussions tend to be stronger and more focused due to the time available for reflection that students don’t always have in face-to-face courses.

Dr. Curtis Bonk from Indiana University discusses some specific discussion management strategies to help ensure productive engagement and assessment in the video below.

Figuring out the best manner in which to assess student learning from discussions is an arduous task, but the following article offers insightful ideas to consider when creating opportunities for student learning:


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Please check out our website for more details about course and support services, or you can enroll in one of our professional development on our Canvas Course Catalogue. For any other questions please contact onlinepd@vcu.edu

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Managing the Discussion Board

Discussion in the online environment is a concrete manner through which your students co-construct new knowledge. In order for it to be engaging and not exhausting we have a few recommendations which will help you navigate the online discussion board.
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