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3 Ways to Enrich Your Online Course Discussions

Submitted by on February 22, 2013 – 10:00 am3 Comments

While your LMS discussion tool helps to foster student interaction, you may feel limited by its structure and capabilities. It’s time to bring some variety into the way students interact with you and each other. Here are three ways to cultivate rich, real-life conversations in the discussion area of your online course:

1. Let students post audio and video responses.

With audio and video, students pick up on verbal and visual cues as well as personality and cultural uniqueness that typed responses do not always capture. Take a look at this video in which Daniel L. Randall from Brigham Young University shares examples of his students’ video responses and explains the power of video to drive engagement and learning: (We recommend you watch the entire recording, but if you’re short on time, start the video at 13:49.)
Using Canvas to Create Community in Online Courses, Daniel L. Randall, Brigham Young University from Instructure on Vimeo.

Tools we recommend–

  • YouTube, which allows students to record and host videos to upload in the discussion area of your course.
  • Video feedback recording tool (as found in the Canvas LMS), which allows students to record directly inside the course.

2. Require students to respond using blogs or wikis.

Wikis and blogs can transform course discussions into student-centric experiences that cultivate peer-to-peer teaching:

  • Using wikis, students can collaboratively build on each other’s discussion responses to create cohesive, interconnected content in a single location.
  • Using blogs, students can discuss and respond to each other in an environment where personalized learning takes place.

Whether you choose a blog or wiki, the goal is the same: provide students with a discussion space outside the LMS to create a deeper sense of community and foster active learning.

Tools we recommend

3. Allow students to decide how they respond.

By choosing the technology or tools they prefer, students become more autonomous, active learners.

Tools we recommend

blooms digital pyramid Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Author: Samantha Penney, [email protected]

Share Your Experiences

What methods or tools do you use to enrich course discussions? Share with us in the discussion section below. [social-bio]


  • Verena ROberts says:

    Very odd – I was juts having this conversation with a colleague today. She is instructing an online course (uni) and I am taking one. I was talking about how discussion threads are the death of me – and how my “discussion” group decided to meet in weekly Google Hangouts instead of posting threads. While at first we were doing both (writing posts and hangouts) our instructor has now encouraged us to just do the Hangout and record a short summary – and post it. WAY Better way to learn!

  • melissa says:


    Any tool that works best for a group to collaborate, is great. Google Hangouts can serve as an excellent form of synchronous collaboration. Wikis and blogs can be very effective for asynchronous collaboration. Thanks for sharing how your group is using Google Hangouts and posting a summary of the discussions.

  • Sarah Linden says:

    That’s awesome, Verena–i bet those discussions are far more impactful now. I love that you’re instructor is now encouraging the Google Hangouts! Sounds like that might be a route he/she will use with future courses.