Discussion boards are a great way to enrich the learning of your students in a course and create an active learning environment where students take their understanding of the content and create their own connections and meaning through discussions and the sharing of experiences.
The goal of discussions is to have your students think critically about the topic, form an understanding of how it relates to the real world and be exposed to different perspectives through peer to peer interaction.
Below are some best practices for creating and managing a discussion board.
Setting Up Your Discussion
- Write a specific discussion prompt which encourages students to think about the content in a real world context.
- Provide students with suggested peer response questions (ex: When replying to your peers think of the following questions: 1. …).
- Use Specific guidelines to make it clear what the expectation of their response should be (response must be within 300-500 words, support your response with something from your readings, etc…).
- Ensure students respond before seeing their peers’ posts by selecting the ‘Users must post before seeing replies‘ in Canvas so that they can write their response without peer influence.
- Have students respond to at least 2 of their peers. This exposes them to different perspectives on the topic and also allows them to provide a different perspective to their peers.
- Give a specific due date for both the initial response and peer response. This allows them time to review the content and respond to their peers and keeps them accountable for staying on track.
Rebecca Davis offers some great advice on giving feedback to students. She recommends instructors not replying to every single student thread. Instead:
- Comment on a few posts early on…then taper off.
- Highlight a few great posts and mention it during your next class.
- Point out any strong ideas, opinions or statements from the discussion board.
- Make it part of their final grade.
- Set up a rubric for efficient grading and clear expectations.
To learn more about best practices of creating and managing discussion boards, check out these links:
- “Make Online Discussions Manageable by Grading with Rubrics”(presentation created by Rebecca Davis)
- “Online Discussion Board Tips for Instructors” from The University of Waterloo
- “Effective Strategies for Online Discussions in Your Course” by Chris Mosier