discussion board assignments

Modeling Discussion Board Posts with Discussion Labs

Discussion is one of the biggest challenges for online students, and poor discussion is one of the biggest complaints among online faculty. Student responses are often perfunctory, lacking the depth the instructor desires. But rather than laziness, poor discussion often results from students not knowing

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blogging assignments

A Simple and Effective Way to Add Blogging to Your Courses

Most online instructors fall back on tried-and-true writing assignments and the LMS discussion forum to facilitate student engagement with material. But papers do not provide the opportunity for students to engage with other students on their ideas, and discussion forums track the conversation into pre-established

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facilitating effective online discussions

Seven Ways to Facilitate Effective Online Discussions

Unlike a lot of faculty teaching today, Brian Udermann learned about the potential of online discussion boards almost by accident. It all happened about 15 years ago when he noticed the online discussion forum feature in his institution’s new learning management system and decided to

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student engagement

Classroom Discussions: How to Apply the Right Amount of Structure

While preparing for a Teaching Professor Conference session on facilitating classroom discussions (much of which applies to online exchanges), I’ve been reminded yet again of the complexity involved in leading a discussion with students new to the content and unfamiliar with academic discourse. hile preparing

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Online discussions: typing on keyboard

Three Simple Ways to Energize Online Discussions

Online course discussions are routine in online and blended classes, and they are gaining popularity in face-to-face courses as well. Proponents of online discussions tout that their use can help with community- and relationship-building, can push students to go deeper with course content and demonstrate

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online student: PBL

Using Online Protocols for Discussions

After teaching online for a number of years, I grew weary of the normal “make an initial post, then respond to two others” discussions. Was there another way to engage students? How could I make discussions more meaningful and in-depth? Were there ways to ensure

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online group work

Discussion Board Expectations

I rely a lot on discussion boards in this course and use the adjective “substantial” to describe the level of responses students should submit. Since this is a graduate level course, participants’ work should be of graduate level quality. While there is no

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Effective Ways to Structure Discussion

The use of online discussion in both blended and fully online courses has made clear that those exchanges are more productive if they are structured, if there’s a protocol that guides the interaction. This kind of structure is more important in the online environment

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Structuring Discussions: Online and Face-to-Face

I found a nice set of online discussion activities that strike me as good in-class discussion activities as well. One of the reasons discussion so often fails or doesn’t realize much of its potential is the absence of structure. The discussion is too

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Discussion is one of the biggest challenges for online students, and poor discussion is one of the biggest complaints among online faculty. Student responses are often perfunctory, lacking the depth the instructor desires. But rather than laziness, poor discussion often results from students not knowing what makes for a quality discussion post. That uncertainty leads to student replies that are shallow, off topic, or restatements of other posts.

The solution is to provide training in online discussion, something that is usually absent from online programs. We have filled this void with three live, 30-minute virtual labs for our first-year experience students. These provide a walkthrough of how to read, review, and create responses to discussion board questions. We offer them during the first week of the course so that we can use actual course discussion prompts as examples; the labs are hosted by each student’s instructor so that the instructor can track student improvement throughout the course.

An important component of these labs is modeling good discussion posts. Students also learn how to use the grading rubric to guide their discussion board responses. We created a discussion board lab for each of the key components of the grading rubric. Each begins with the instructor reviewing the discussion board prompt with the class and guiding students though the process of responding to it.

Lab 1: How to write a good main post

The goal of this session is to help students understand how to read the question and develop a strategy to respond completely and comprehensively. During the session, the instructor references the grading rubric to outline the requirements for the response and then helps the students develop responses to the main question. The instructor teaches the students to identify key words from the question and how to incorporate these into their responses.

Screenshot from virtual lab 1: How to write a good main post. Includes the following tips: "break down the question in parts/questions," "include a key word from each part/question in the main post," and "give the details (additional insight, information, explanation)." Sample posts follow. An assignment rubric except is also shown.
Figure 1. Modeling how to write a good main post using the grading rubric

Lab 2: How to infuse course content into posts

The goal of this session is to teach students how to reference and cite sources. While the course does not have specific citation expectations, students must note and incorporate course content in their response. The instructor provides examples of how to integrate course content into the response and how to elaborate on this reference to demonstrate learning.

Screengrab of virtual lab 2: How to infuse course content into posts. The helpful tips it outlines include "mention something from the lesson," "mention where you got the information," "elaborate on the information," and "ensure that the information is accurate." Sample post follows. An assignment rubric except is also shown.
Figure 2. Models how to use learning resources to support responses as indicated in the grading rubric

Lab 3: How to write a good peer response

The goal of this final lab session is to aid students in developing substantive peer responses that further discussion. The session begins with the instructor going over the grading rubric to provide guidance regarding response requirements. The instructor then uses examples to model substantive responses that build upon the post and keep the discussion aligned with the course content. The instructor also provides practical strategies on how to align a response to the discussion prompt, reference learning content, pose follow-up questions, and offer suggestions or insights to other students.

Figure 3. Models how to write a good peer response using the grading rubric and examples


Instructors make note of which students attend the voluntary sessions and any improvements in their discussion board writing over the course of the semester. Instructors also recognize students’ improvements in their feedback, especially for students who attended the sessions. Through the discussion board labs and as reinforced in instructor feedback, students demonstrate increased confidence and competence in responding to the discussion board prompts as the semester progresses.

Student feedback shows that they have overwhelmingly found the labs beneficial and left them no longer intimidated to engage with their peers in discussion forums. This simple intervention during the first course of students’ studies provides important skills that help them succeed across their programs.

Marva Brewington, PhD is an assistant professor and Anna Charisse Selga, MBA, is the online program chair of General Education—New Student Experience at American InterContinental University.