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Discussion Board Do's and Don'ts – A handout for your students

Submitted by on May 23, 2012 – 4:42 pmNo Comment

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  1. Break up long postings into smaller, easier-to-read paragraphs.
  2. Demonstrate the same professionalism and courtesy you would at work on the discussion boards.
  3. Answer any follow up questions your instructor may have asked. If you are off topic or did not fully answer the post, your instructor may ask you a follow up question designed to help you answer the questions more fully.
  4. Stay on topic. You can ensure this by reading all the posts in a threaded message before responding or by rereading the discussion forum topic or prompt(s).
  5. Always find one positive aspect of another classmate’s post before launching into a critique.
  6. Acknowledge another classmate’s point-of-view whether or not you agree.
    1. Write as if you were texting, chatting, or instant messaging. Avoid slang and acronyms (“btw” for “by the way”).
    2. Use ALL CAPS in your response. Using ALL CAPS is considered yelling.
    3. Refer to yourself as “i”; address yourself as “I”. Use proper capitalization.
    4. Respond to another classmate’s posting only saying “I agree” or “I disagree.” This does not contribute to learning. Provide examples to support your position.
    5. Take comments personally. We interpret text messages based on our experiences. Because you have no cues other than the written word, you may make assumptions that were not intended.
    6. Make personal attacks on another classmate’s posting. If you disagree, do so objectively and respectfully. Always provide substantive evidence to support your position.
    7. “Say” anything that you would not tell someone face to face or anything that you do not want discussed in class.
    8. Post too late. Remember that your active participation is part of your grade. Simply “showing up” to class is not enough; you must create and establish an online presence in the discussion forums. Besides, you want your instructor and classmates to read and comment on your insightful observations!

Do not…

The most important thing to keep in mind is that our discussion board simulates the classroom discussion. It is an opportunity to explore the concepts we are studying.

  1. Full participation will make the discussion forums successful, as the comments in the forum will bring the classroom material to life. It will be real-world discussion.
  2. An “I agree” or “I disagree” does not contribute to learning. You will agree and disagree with the comments from other students; however, when that happens, provide examples to support your position.
  3. Compare and contrast statements from other students. With you acting as a third party, you will often be able to provide an objective analysis.
  4. Bring in a third-party resource to support your position. Perhaps you have found a website that adds to the learning.
  5. Don’t take comments personally. We interpret text messages based on our experiences. Because you have no cues other than the written word, you may make assumptions that were not intended.
  6. Above all, have fun and learn from each other.

Creating an Excellent Discussion Post

The Discussion Board provides a space to explore the concepts we are studying. Full participation will make the discussion forums successful, as the comments made on the board bring the course material to life.

When developing substantive discussion board responses, consider the three phases, below:

Phase 1 — Read Before You Write

  1. Consider the prompt(s) thoroughly.
  2. Recognize and underline the question(s) you are being asked.
  3. Connect the questions to the week’s readings, class discussions, or your notes, as appropriate to the discussion.
  4. Reflect and list all the possible responses.
  5. Isolate the strongest responses, or arguments that fit the discussion prompt(s).

Phase 2 — Write a Draft Before You Post

  1. Open a new Word document for each Discussion Forum post. (Note: You will copy and paste the final draft into the Forum.)
  2. Cut and paste the prompt(s) at the top of the Word doc to keep you on task.
  3. Begin each paragraph with the strongest response or argument that you isolated in Phase 1.
  4. Develop your response(s) by providing examples, quotes, or personal experiences—as appropriate to the discussion—to support your response(s).
  5. Review the length and content of your response(s). Having only 1-2 sentences is not substantive.

Phase 3 — Review Your Post Before You Submit

  1. Did you completely answer each of the questions?
  2. If necessary or required, did you use examples from personal experience to illustrate your point?
  3. If necessary or required, did you refer to class readings or discussions to demonstrate an understanding of the concepts?
  4. Did you proofread your post for typos and misspellings? Are the grammar and punctuation correct?
  5. Did you cite any references to the text or other sources you used in your discussion posts?
  6. Did you read your post out loud to yourself to make sure it “sounds” clear?

Effectively Responding to a Peer’s Post

Another component that enriches and enlivens the Discussion Board experience is responding to fellow classmates’ posts. In the same way that your own posts should be substantive, response posts should be meaningful and advance the discussion of the issues, ideas, questions that were raised in the initial posts. While you can be supportive of your peers by saying, “I agree” or “Wow, I never thought of that”, these statements alone are not sufficient.

To guide you in drafting acceptable response posts, refer to the options below:

  1. Validate the post by sharing your experience and stating how it relates to the course material or to the initial post.
  2. Agree or disagree with the post and explain why you agree or disagree.
  3. Expand on your classmate’s post to demonstrate that you understand the topic.
  4. Reply to a question posed by one of your classmates or by the instructor and support your statements with sources from the text.
  5. Critically evaluate the post and make a suggestion or respectfully point out an area of the assignment that was not addressed.
  6. Ask a probing question or ask your classmate for a clarification or an explanation of a point made in the post.
  7. Share an insight or something you learned from reading your peer’s posting or from your other reading.
  8. Explain how someone’s post helped you understand the material or made you rethink your own views.
  9. Offer an opinion and support it with examples from the text.
  10. Relate the information in the post to your course assignments and/or research projects.
  11. Challenge a statement in the post. If you would not let a statement go unchallenged in a classroom discussion, do not let it go unchallenged on the discussion board.
  12. Tie ideas together: Discuss how comments other students made relate to your peer’s post.
  13. Make sure you cite your sources for all references to the textbook and for any other ideas that are not your own.


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