What Worked– shifting much of the learning management from the instructor to the students.
When managed efficiently, discussion boards can encourage experimentation, divergent thinking, exploration of multiple perspectives, complex understanding, and reflection more effectively than many face-to-face interactions. Instructors acknowledge spending the bulk of their time in discussion forums. The following strategies are designed to create a robust discussion environment without becoming too time consuming for the instructor to manage:
Discussion Board Structure
1. Set up with announcements the first week of class, as well as an email message to students highlighting discussion board requirements. (This same note can be posted elsewhere in the online classroom).
2. Develop databases of ‘past’ questions, replies, responses that can be re-purposed.
3. Encourage discussion board best practices e.g. make good use of the subject line to organize discussions to make them easier to scan; set standards regarding quality and quantity.
4. Post a list of prior student comments relevant to the discussion; encourage student participation by viewing what others have said.
Discussion Board Interactions
1. Instead of responding to each student’s post individually, group like posts and summarize, question, probe. Make sure to include each class member’s name in the salutation who participated in the thread.
2. Post instructions in the discussion forum that students are required to post a response to the student who posts directly after that student in a thread.
3. Ask limiting questions, e.g. “List one reason why”.
4. With large classes, break students into groups to answer individual questions, e.g. Group One answers question one, etc.