Instructional Strategy: Online Discussions

The asynchronous discussion strategy adheres to online learning in many ways. Students have more time to think about their answers and research areas in which they do not understand. When they have a clear grasp of the content, they can post a detailed analysis of their findings through writing. This luxury of time to think and learn is not available in your traditional course environment.

Discussion Boards are often used to discuss concepts, elaborate on ideas, current events, synthesis, research, simulate application/role play, or talk about non-class issues. The instructor will usually post the instructions in a new topic of a discussion and the students will follow those instructions to post their findings, thoughts, etc. It is a good idea to encourage students to reply to each other to stimulate a discussion and explore new ideas. To avoid destructive behavior, Acceptable Use Agreements may be used.

Excerpt from “Ten Ways Online Education Matches, or Surpasses, Face to Face Learning by Mark Kassop

“Academics have recognized for years the shortcomings of the faculty-centered classroom, but it has been difficult to break away from the paradigm. Whether the classroom instructor uses lecture, discussions, role playing, small group activities, or any other technique, it is still the instructor running the show. In an online environment, however, the instructor soon takes a back seat. Students are empowered to learn on their own and even to teach one another. Particularly in the discussion group mode, students have the opportunity to explain, share, comment upon, critique, and develop course materials among themselves in a manner rarely seen in the F2F classroom. In a recent online discussion about the meaning of deviance, students in an Introduction to Sociology course were asked to cite a human behavior that is considered deviant in all cultures. Twenty-five students contributed more than 125 responses in a week-long exchange in which various students suggested that rape, murder, homosexuality, terrorism, child abuse, and other behaviors are universally deviant. Other students noted how certain cultural contexts could make any of those behaviors (and all other behaviors) nondeviant to one or more groups of people, depending on their perspectives. Students served as instructors to their classmates, and together they worked toward learning goals more effectively than if they had been provided with the answer by the instructor.”

Application Examples:

1) Peer Evaluations can be incorporated into a discussion. For example a student may post their paper (through an attachment) in the discussion board and have other students evaluate his/her work. The student can then post a reply or constructive feedback in the discussion.

2) Critical thinking/current event exercises are also used in discussions. For example, you might require your students to read a chapter on the Economy then have them post in the discussion the effect that war has on the economy, and possible economy recovery options. You can then give participation points to students who reply and participate.

3) Research links for further discussion are a great way to take advantage of the information available on the internet. For example, you may post a new discussion that has 10 links to other web sites. Then in your instructions you might say, “Compare these 10 sources. Out of these sources, which one is the most reliable and why? Post your findings in the discussion area and reply to your fellow students.”

4) Cyber Cafe – Create a place where students can relax and talk about anything. You may start off the discussion with a description of yourself and your family. Encourage students to do the same. This is a great place for students to get to know each other.