Last revised: 4/8/2016 by CAH
Online discussions are used to build dynamic learning communities, to synthesize key concepts, and to promote critical thinking skills. This article highlights tips for successfully facilitating online discussion forums.
Set Clear Guidelines
- Define discussion guidelines for student participation (see example).
- Clearly communicate deadlines for initial and response posts.
- Set expectations by using rubrics (How Rubrics Help You and Your Students)
Being present in the course is a best practice that cannot be over emphasized. Research has shown that when instructors are part of the discussion, students are more likely to participate. However, it’s important to strike a balance.
How often should you respond?
- Give students a chance to respond to each other before jumping in.
- Jump in when students are:
- Off track
- Not answering the questions
- Not connecting their post to the content
- Saying too much
- Provide encouragement when students:
- Give an excellent example
- Cite new, appropriate outside sources
- Provide meaningful feedback to peers
- Are creative
Address students who are way off base or inappropriate privately through email or provide feedback in the grading. Use the announcement tool if students as a group are slow to participate. Email students who are not present, encouraging participation and directing to the discussion guidelines.
Summarize Completed Discussions
Students benefit from having the discussion summarized, particularly if some are off track. Here are a few options:
- Wrap up the discussion within the forum
- Summarize the discussion in an announcement.
- Ask students to take turns summarizing their group discussions.