Engaging Students in Online Discussion

W. P. Carey Online Academic Services
F2F, we rely on verbal and visual
communication to discuss class topics
Some students contribute, some just listen
and take notes
Participation is not necessarily required or
We assume by being in class, students are
absorbing information
Online discussion is different
Require facilitation by the instructor
Must be structured
Instructor must be aware of the different
strategies and techniques needed to facilitate
online instruction
Instructors need to find the online discussion
technique(s) that works for their class
How can you promote student engagement in
the discussion board?
What types of questions do you ask?
What can you do to keep the conversation
How much time will discussion boards take to
Bonding and social interaction are important
Social cues need to be brought in by the
Start by having students introduce
The more shared knowledge students have of
one another, the more sharing of social cues
The more social cues, the more motivated
they will be to participate in online discussion
Provide the rules of Netiquette that you
Outline the traits you expect to see
Critique an online article or website
◦ Keep a list as you find these for your next class
Debate or discuss a controversial topic
◦ Have students take a side
◦ Make sure all are being respectful
Form teams for group discussions
◦ Can then report back to the whole class
◦ Smaller teams makes easier discussion
Count discussion towards grades
Define participation requirements
◦ Guide, checklist or rubric
◦ Give requirements to each student
State beginning and end dates for
Encourage Netiquette
◦ Polite discourse adds value
When possible, ask students to relate the
material to personal experiences
◦ Increases motivation to respond
◦ Connects prior knowledge to new knowledge
Create extra discussion areas for small group
When asked a question from a student, give
prompt response
Inform students of what you consider timely
Do not feel you need to respond to every
student in the discussion
◦ Get the conversation started
◦ Stay in the background, but keep them on track
◦ Summarize at the end of the discussion
Use the discussion board for exam
Have students provide exam questions to the
Recommend extra stuff
◦ At some point, send recommend a book, website,
◦ Tell the students why this recommendation is
Use white space
◦ No one will read a long block of text
Use the book, but don’t teach the book
Pre-write your questions
◦ Even replies
Well structured questions
◦ Open-ended
Participation requirements
◦ Example 1 initial post, 3 responses to classmates
“Something to think about”
Great for those who do not like public
What is Bloom’s Taxonomy?
Bloom’s Taxonomy is a useful tool for instructors to
assist with the formation of assessments at the desired
level of learning. Some lessons and classes are very
appropriate for usage of the lower level of the
taxonomy; other courses and lessons should require
higher levels of cognitive mastery. Evaluate a recent
test/assessment that you have been exposed to as a
learner. Discuss the level of Bloom’s (cognitive level)
this test/assessment measured? In your opinion, was
this an appropriate level of cognitive measurement for
the course/activity? Why or why not? Recommend a
more appropriate assessment for the situation and
defend your recommendation
Please be sure to respond to 2 of your classmate's posts
as well in order to earn full credit for the question.
Use different types of questions
Do not use questions with only one answer
Ask open-ended questions
Ask higher-order thinking questions (Bloom’s
Ask probing questions (Socratic method)
Play Devil’s advocate
Ask for clarification
Make students defend answers
Include the assessment criteria in the course
◦ Syllabus
◦ Course announcement
◦ Instructions for questions
Make sure the criteria measure both quality
and quantity
A rubric can be helpful
Students feeling overwhelmed by too much
◦ Plan and streamline discussions
Unorganized conversations confuse students
◦ Time release
◦ State dates for conversations
Students stumped by online tasks
◦ Provide directions if you want items cut and pasted,
URLs, etc
◦ Provide guidelines on length, due dates, etc
Student comments lack justification/evidence
◦ Model ways to support arguments
◦ Cite research and theories in your own posts
Comments unrelated to course readings and
course concepts
◦ Students often do not realize this is expected of
◦ Set expectations-tell students to use readings
Students are too nice on the web
◦ Assign devil’s advocate, pessimist, optimist roles to
Peer camaraderie is lacking
◦ Assign online buddies
◦ Tell students who to comment on/interact with
Struggling to teach not preach
◦ Don’t lecture in the discussion board
◦ Encourage students to run the discussion topics
◦ Assign leaders each week
Difficulty forming a community of learners
◦ Encourage casual interaction
◦ Have a “hanging out” thread
Time consuming to grade discussion boards
◦ Students may post high amounts of material
◦ Set grading criteria
◦ Make sure the criteria is based on quality on not
◦ Use the power of Blackboard to assist with grading
Technological issues
◦ Try and avoid last minute work
◦ Make sure you and the students know the support
Any Questions?
Call or email me with anything
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