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Dos and Don’ts of Online Class Discussions


By Melissa Venable

Many online courses will require you as a student to contribute to class discussions. These often take place asynchronously – where each person in the class adds his or her contribution and replies separately and at different times. These discussions take place over a period of time (perhaps over a few days or a week) and can take some time to get used to.

Online class discussions, like face-to-face class discussions, allow you to: 1) demonstrate your understanding of a course topic, 2) interact with your classmates and instructor, and 3) actively participate in the course. These discussions are often graded as assessments of your learning.

Review these steps to help guide your participation in online course discussions: Prepare, Post, and Provide Feedback.

Prepare

Before you post your contribution in the discussion area, take the time to thoughtfully prepare.

  • Complete assignments related to the discussion question: read assigned chapters and articles, view videos, listen to recordings, etc. It is tempting to want to skip this step, but completing these activities will give you the foundation you need to develop your post and respond to your classmate ' posts.
  • Do you have questions about what is expected? Review the discussion grading rubric (if applicable) and ask your instructor for clarification where needed.
  • Compose your response in a word processing program (like MS Word) and save it so you can retrieve later if needed. This step will not only allow you to more easily draft and edit your response before posting, but also allow you to re-create the post should it be lost while uploaded or accidentally deleted.

Post

Once you have prepared your response, you are ready to post it in the course.

  • Subject line – Most threaded discussions allow you to enter a subject line (similar to email) for your post. If this is the case, follow the instructions for your course. Is there a specific way in which you are required to enter your post? Sometimes instructors provide these directions. Check if you are not sure!
  • Due date – Your discussions likely have required time lines for your posts. Make sure you understand when your post is due and upload before that time. Posting an assignment late could result in a lower grade or not being able to post at all if the system doesn’t allow posting after the scheduled due date.

Provide Feedback

This is the part of the process that really makes the discussion a discussion – a conversation among you, your classmates, and your instructor.

  • Read through your classmates' discussion posts. How are they similar or different from your response to the question or topic?
  • Reply to several of your classmates' posts. Help to continue the conversation! Note: this may also be a requirement in your course. Often, responding to other students' posts will be part of your discussion grade. Check with your instructor if you are not sure.
  • Check back in on your post periodically. As you respond to other students, they will also respond to you! Again, keep the conversation going by adding to your post as well, replying to their replies, while the discussion is open.

Additional Resources

Read more about online course discussions:

Active participation in online class discussions is not only a course requirement but also a way to enhance your learning in the course and become a part of the course community. Join in the discussion!

April 18th, 2011 written by (learn more about our authors)

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