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Teaching with Technology:
Discussion Boards, Blogs and Wikis

Faculty and students can communicate and connect through a variety of means online.  Three common methods that work asynchronously are discussion boards, blogs and wikis.

Discussion Boards are web-based forums where students and faculty can post observations and content and others can respond with comments.  Topic threading allows members to communicate about specific concepts in their own time and pace.  The threaded discussion builds over time, members do not have to be on at the same time, but the discussions can be rich due to the ability of respondents to reflect before responding.  The threaded hierarchy helps highlight individuals as well as themes, again reinforcing community.

Blogs – short for weglog - are more of a one-way journal, with entries posted in chronological order.  While comments can be added, the focus is usually on an individual’s commentary.  In addition to individual commentary, blogs can have embedded links and files that can be downloaded, which make them ideal tools for publishing on the web. Knowledge of html coding is not a requirement for posting to and editing blogs.

Wikis are essentially openly editable web pages, which means that anyone (or those with permission) can edit the pages in a wiki. Wikipedia is a popular example of a wiki. Content can be added, shaped and modified by anyone with access to the wiki.  Due to the open nature of wikis and the tracking of changes, content can be quickly updated and validated by participants, leading to improved collaboration among students.
Some potentially valuable instructional uses of these asynchronous communication methods in higher education include:

  • Building community through shared and safe discussions
  • Active learning through collaboration between students and faculty
  • Increased use of student-generated content

The CTE offers a workshop to assist faculty members with exploring the instructional uses of these tools:  Discussion Boards/Blogs/Wikis: How Do You Choose?.  Faculty members interested in learning more about how these assessment tools might be used in their teaching are welcome to contact Jeff Nugent at the CTE (jsnugent@vcu.edu).

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Virginia Commonwealth University | Center for Teaching Excellence
Last modified: June 20, 2013
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