Maximizing Learning through Discussion Board Rules

How to Use Discussion Board Rules to Enhance Your Learning

Discussion boards allow students to participate in class discussions beyond what is possible in a regular classroom setting. These forums can also serve as a repository of information and references.

One of the most important things to remember when participating in a discussion board is that what you say online may be taken out of context. Here are some tips for making sure your comments are constructive:

1. Stay on Topic

Online discussion boards are meant to be a conversation amongst students and a professor. Just like a term paper or an in-class response, discussion board postings should stimulate thoughtful dialogue and academic engagement.

Postings appear in threads, with replies indented below the original post. The original post is called the TS or OP (thread starter or original post). Replies are meant to continue discussion of that topic, not to start a new conversation.

Postings in a discussion forum lack visual and verbal cues that contribute to tone, sarcasm, or personal side conversations. This makes it easy for a discussion to veer off topic. This is why it is important to stay on topic when posting on a discussion board. The simplest way to do this is to read the entire thread before posting your own response.

2. Be Informative

When posting on a discussion board, it is important to be informative. Oftentimes, students will post responses that do not provide any evidence or background for their positions on topics, or only make brief, generic statements. For this reason, it is a good idea to ask students to use real-life examples from their own personal or professional experience in their discussions.

In addition, when responding to a classmate’s post, be sure to include details on the topic in order to help drive the conversation forward. It is also helpful to connect ideas that were expressed in other student’s posts to the broader course material. This will help students become more engaged in their learning, and make it easier for professors to assess student participation.

3. Don’t Be Personal

Many students find discussion board participation an essential component of their online learning. It’s a place to share ideas and opinions with classmates from all over the world. This video reviews effective strategies for posting on a forum and provides guidelines to ensure that your posts are meaningful.

It’s okay to disagree with fellow forum participants, but avoid personal attacks or challenges that can be interpreted as hostile. It is also important to remember that the “freedom of speech” protections that so many people quote in defending their behavior on any site does not mean that they have a right to violate the rules set by the owner of any site.

Keep in mind that reading lengthy discussion board posts can be tiring, so aim for brevity.

4. Read the Thread Before Posting

Many different kinds of discussions can take place on a forum. If your class has a forum for general queries and one that is more academic, provide clear instruction on what students should expect in each forum.

In any discussion forum, it is important to read the thread before posting. Especially if you are going to reply to another user’s post, look at the previous comments to see if your reply is necessary and appropriate. Creating a new topic or thread can be redundant and distracting to the discussion.

Avoid using fancy formatting, such as crazy fonts and anything animated. Online learners already spend too much time staring at screens; they don’t need your added eye-weary distraction. Instead, use your message to tell an interesting story or make an enticing hook for your audience.

5. Check Your Spelling

Remember that a lot of people — other students, the course instructor, the college technical staff — may read your discussion board postings. Do not write sloppily; spell-check your postings. Do not write in all caps (which is considered shouting online). Avoid slang words, too. Also, try to be concise; you don’t want to be a reading nuisance for the other participants.

Running a spelling and grammar check before you post can make the difference between sounding like a fool and sounding knowledgeable. It only takes a minute, and it’s worth it! Follow these rules of “netiquette” and you’ll be a welcome participant in your class’s online discussions. Good luck!

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