Communicate: Discussions Quest

posted May 20, 2016, 9:40 AM by Emily Kroutil
Discussion forums are commonplace on the internet.  My husband reads and participates in forums about Clash of Clans and World of Warcraft and I read and participate in discussion forums about teaching, diaper bags, and babies (embarrassing, I know....).  As a member of an online class, students and teachers can participate in discussion forums.  These forums can allow students to ask questions and get help from fellow students and the instructor asynchronously.  They are also a place for students and the teacher to discuss concepts presented "in class".  Some courses, such as environmental science, benefit from a discussion between students and teacher.  They can be effective when monitored closely by the instructor so the instructor can offer insight when needed and also keep the discussion relatively on track.  

Discussions can be used effectively if they are monitored closely by the instructor and the instructor can create a culture of using the resource correctly.  If not monitored correctly, discussions can be an off topic place where students don't get much academic benefit from them.  If the instructor doesn't "check in" with the discussions, the students won't learn much from the discussions because they don't have the instructor to monitor the discussions and provide feedback as needed.

When trying to make sure that I employ best practices when facilitating discussion forums, I will try to do the following from the Quest:
  • Respond to the first thread of all student responses and ensure that the post addresses the essential elements
  • Highlight selections from the prompt, reading, or thematic focus of the student's response in the initial feedback
  • Integrate audio commentary in the response
  • Link to external resources, readings, or websites for further study
  • Rely on the Socratic Method in all discussion forums
Online forums can be very useful if used appropriately and can quickly become off topic and unwieldy if not managed appropriately.