By asking students to think through responses and positions before sharing their ideas in writing, online discussion encourages engagement with course concepts or readings and reflection on course content. In addition, an online discussion can benefit ESL students, shy students, and those less willing to speak up in a face-to-face setting. Everyone has the opportunity to be heard in an asynchronous environment.
Effective Online Discussion
Teaching by discussion is at the heart of an online learning environment and can be a very strong learning tool for a face-to-face course as well. Here are some guidelines for online discussions:
- Ask open-ended questions that allow for interpretation and encourage analysis (Toledo, 2006).
- Be aware of the various roles the instructor plays in an online discussion (Brown, 2002).
- Provide students with a grading rubric for online discussions; rubrics clarify expectations and grading procedures. Different types of rubrics can be created depending on your needs, such as these six examples of online discussion rubrics from Middle Tennessee State University..
- Engage students in questions that allow them to make predictions and then revist/reconsider/reflect on those predictions (Linn & Slotta, 2006, p. 91).
- Integrate illustrative work (photographs, text, video, audio, etc.) and example cases/stories to enrich the question/engage the student (Linn & Slotta, 2006, p. 91).
References and Additional Readings
Biesenbach-Lucas, S. (2003). Asynchronous discussion groups in teacher training classes: Perceptions of native and non-native students . Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7,(3). 24-46.
Brown, D.G. (2002, November 26). The role you play in online discussions. Campus Technology Magazine. Retrieved from http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2002/11/The-Role-you-Play-in-Online-Discussions.aspx
Martyn, M. (2005). Using Interaction in Online Discussion Boards EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 28(4). 61-62.
Mazzolini, M. and S. Maddison. (2003). Sage, guide or ghost? The effect of instructor intervention on student participation in online discussion forums. Computers and Education, 40(3). 237-253.
Meyer, K. (2003). Face to face versus threaded discussions: The role of time and higher order thinking . Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(3). 55-65.
Murphy, E. (2004). Recognising and promoting collaboration in an online asynchronous discussion . British Journal of Educational Technology, 35(4), 421-431.
Oliver, M. and G. Shaw. (2003). Asynchronous discussion in support of medical education . Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1). 56-67.
Linn, M.C., & Slotta, J.D. (2006). Enabling participants in online forums to learn from each other. In A.M. O'Donnell, C.E. Hmelo-Silver, & G. Erkens (Eds.) Collaborative learning, reasoning, and technology. (pp. 61-91). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence erlbaum Associates.
Stansberry, S., Haulmark, M., & Sheeran, L., (2003). "I Agree" Does Not Constitute Discussion: Applying Theoretical Frameworks to Assess Student Learning in Asynchronous Online Discussions, National Social Science Journal, 20(1). 91- 101.
Toledo, C.A. (2006). "Does your dog bite?" Creating Good Questions for Online Discussions. International Journal of Teaching and Higher Education, 18(2), 150-154.