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Using Discussion Boards in Online Classes

Discussion boards are the scene of much of the interaction that occurs between student-to-student and student-to-faculty.  It is where the social presence of both faculty and students is most evident.  Palloff and Pratt (2007) stated, “Given that the discussion board is the heart and soul of the online course, constructing it in a well-organized fashion is critical.”
Discussions should mirror the organization of the syllabus.  Typically, a course has some sequencing of units or lessons, either by week or by chapter in the textbook or by topics.  Discussion forums flow from this organization.  To achieve the deeper learning desired in any course, many factors have to be considered in constructing your discussion forums.


http://www.educause.edu/upload/presentations/NLII051/PS09/DBBook.html

Discussion forums can serve many roles.  In addition to forums for specific lessons and topics, many typically add two additional forums:

  • Faculty Office
    • Given that online classes are 24/7, the concept of “office hours” becomes somewhat moot.  Students need a safe place to ask questions, and if one student has a question, chances are others have the same question.  Answering a question in a public forum covers both the questioner and those who wondered the same thing.  It is a good idea to empower your students that if they see the question first and know the answer, they should feel free to respond.  This is the one forum where it makes good sense to allow “anonymous” threads.  There is no such thing as a dumb question, but some students are reluctant to ask, so this gives them a safety net.
  • Student Center
    • In a face-to-face class, students have the option of stopping by the student center enroute to or after class, and during breaks, students typically congregate outside the class.  Discussions in these settings can be on any topic.  It is therefore a good practice to provide this same outlet to your online students.

A good deal of the learning in online classes occurs with the interaction in discussions, so crafting the questions is critical.  Students respond to engaging questions.  Note the difference between these two:

  • Any questions about Chapter Two?
  • Chapter Two discusses the historical roots of management.  What do you see as the change which had the most impact in the past 100 years (and why?)?

You will get out of discussion boards what you articulate and model.  You should set expectations on participation, grade both participation and the quality of participation, and provide rubrics that give students the standards by which they will be judged.

Here are some sample rubrics others have used:

Sample #1 Grading Discussion Boards

A Weekly Scoring Rubric For Online Discussions

Sample #2 Grading Discussion Boards

Assignment-Based Discussion Board Rubric

The following points are what is looked for in your original postings to the Discussion Board and your replies to others postings (Total of 10 points for each Discussion Board assignment).

Original Posting (7 points):

  1. Mentions at least 2 specific points from the article or reading. (1 point)
  2. Relation of new information to old information learned in the course to date. (1 point)
  3. Relation of information in article or reading to personal experience. (1 point)
  4. Discussion at a critical level, not just recitation of facts from the article. (3 points)
  5. Length of posting approximately 1 word processing page. (1 point)

Note: Discussion at a critical level means discussing things such as your opinion of the point mentioned, why you hold that opinion, what you see wrong with the point mentioned, how you see the point consistent/inconsistent with what you have learned so far, implications for the future, consistencies/inconsistencies within the article or reading itself, and so forth. In other words, critiquing an article means analyzing the good and/or bad aspects of the article and justifying your analysis. Do not just tell me what the article or reading states...I already know this.

Reply to Others' Postings (3 points):

  1. Discuss one point you like/agree with, and one point you dislike/disagree with, and why. (2 points)
  2. Length should be about 1/2 page in length (approximately 100 words).

Sample #3 Grading Discussion Boards

Global or Weekly Discussion Rubric

A Discussion (90-100): Distinguished/Outstanding

Students earning an “A” for discussion activities have participated 3 or more times during the week and have posted outstanding information.

“A” discussion postings

  • are made in time for others to read and respond
  • deliver information that is full of thought, insight, and analysis
  • make connections to previous or current content or to real-life situations
  • contain rich and fully developed new ideas, connections, or applications

B Discussion (80-89): Proficient

Students earning a “B” for discussion activities have participated at least 2 times during the week and have posted proficient information.

“B” discussion postings

  • are made in time for others to read and respond
  • deliver information that shows that thought, insight, and analysis have take place
  • make connections to previous or current content or to real-life situations, but the
  • connections are not really clear or are too obvious
  • contain new ideas, connections, or applications, but they may lack depth and/or
  • detail

C Discussion (70-79): Basic

Students earning a “C” for discussion activities have participated at least 1 time during the week and have posted basic information.

“C” discussion postings

  • may not all be made in time for others to read and respond
  • are generally competent, but the actual information they deliver seems thin and
  • commonplace
  • make limited, if any, connections, and those art often cast in the form of vague
  • generalities
  • contain few, if any, new ideas or applications; often are a rehashing or summary
  • of other comments

D-F Discussion (10-69): Below Expectations

Students earning a “D-F” for discussion activities have participated at least 1 time during the week and have posted information that was below expectations.

“D-F” discussion postings

  • may not all be made in time for others to read and respond
  • are rudimentary and superficial; there is no evidence of insight or analysis
  • contribute no new ideas, connections, or applications
  • may be completely off topic

No participation in a discussion board activity will result in a zero for that activity.

 
 
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Last updated: 09/22/2009
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