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Promoting Interaction Through Discussion Boards

Promoting Interaction Through Discussion BoardsAdobe Stock: 109334180

Part 1 Social Activities

By Professor Karen Kortz, Physics

It is important in online classes that students connect with each other to help build an online learning community and reduce isolation. This can be done through discussion boards. As a result, discussion boards can address the federal requirement of including Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) and OSCQR Standards 29, 30, 31, 40, 41, 42, 43 and 47. These OSCQR standards, in part, satisfy OSCQR level 1 and 3 reviews. 

However, writing good discussion board prompts can be difficult, as weak prompts can lead to stilted discussions and lack of interest from the students. One overall strategy that can make prompts better is to make them personal – ask students to apply topics to their own lives, reflect on their own performance, or give them choice based on their interests. 

Discussion board prompts can be broadly divided into those that promote social activities and those that promote cognitive activities. Below are some of my favorite prompts that promote social activities and metacognition (students thinking about their own learning). These prompts are not specific to a particular discipline. 

  • Introduce yourself. I ask students to introduce themselves, include a picture of themselves or something they are passionate about, and describe what they are more concerned about or excited about after reading the syllabus. 
  • Success strategies. This is one of my favorite discussions because it really promotes community between the students. A bit before halfway through the course, I ask students to reflect on how they are being successful in the class. I then ask them to post 2-3 strategies that they are doing that are helping them succeed in this class and why they think the strategies help them. I let them know that the strategies may be related to time management, studying, motivation, etc. And I ask them to be specific about this class and not strategies in general. 
  • Reflection. Near the semester's end, I ask students to reflect on their course learning by responding to one of the following prompts: 1) What are some big ideas you learned over this class? 2) How has the way you think changed? How has your ability to do things changed? 3) What do you think you will remember even after taking the last exam? 
  • Share an assignment. I ask students to select an assignment they completed to share with their classmates and reflect on it. I give them many prompts to choose from for their reflection including: What are you most proud of? What would you do differently if you did the assignment again? What is the one thing you particularly want others to notice when they read the assignment? What did you learn about yourself as you worked on the assignment? What were some of the most interesting discoveries you made while doing the assignment? What skills will you take away beyond this class from doing the assignment? I include this post either halfway through the course or at the end of the course. 

In Part 2 of this blog, I will discuss discussion prompts that focus on cognitive activities.

There are more tips about developing discussion on How to Create Engaging Discussions.

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