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Succeeding with discussion boards

Discussion boards can be one of the strongest tools for inciting a group discussion in an online environment. They can be used for ice breakers and getting to know you activities, formative discussion activities and module FAQs. However, they do require set up, signposting and interaction in order to make them successful. 

1) Set-up and seed
Ensure that the thread is set up with an appropriate title and a brief of the discussion or the question being asked as the first thread post. You may also choose to respond to the thread as an example of what students should be doing - usually you would do this in an icebreaker or getting to know you activity. 

2) Communicate
Ensure that students are aware that this discussion thread exists and that you expect them to contribute to it. In our distance learning modules, we include a hyperlink in the learning content directly to the discussion board thread so that students are directed to the tool. 

3) Moderate, prompt and summarise
When students are responded to, they feel as if they have contributed and that those contributions are valued, and are more likely to continue to contribute. You may choose to respond to each post individually, or you may choose to weave posts together, linking comments coherently (perhaps into themes), prompting students to consider areas they may not yet have touched on, add your own comments and ask a further question if necessary. 

Moderating difficult situations

Whilst setting expectations with your online students, you will have directed them to some guidelines on online etiquette that will set out guidelines, including that people should interact courteously with others. However, there may still be cases where interactions become inappropriate or combative. In situations like this, you can: 

  • Challenge the post publicly if you can do this without causing a negative atmosphere
  • Contact the student directly to discuss their comment
  • Delete the post if necessary
  • Remind the students of posting guidelines.

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Page last updated: 23/05/2017

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