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Discussion Basics for Instructors

This article is archived and is no longer updated. Go to the latest information on discussions.

Online discussions provide some unique benefits. Because students can take time to ponder before posting ideas, you may see more thoughtful conversations play out. You can observe as students demonstrate their grasp of the material and correct misconceptions. You can extend your office hours by reaching students more often during the week so learning is continuous.

Building a sense of community among students is crucial for a successful online experience. With the discussion board tool, course members can replicate the robust discussions that take place in the traditional classroom.

Discussions can serve a range of purposes:

  • An online meeting place for social interaction among peers.
  • An additional medium for collaboration and the exchange of ideas.
  • A medium to pose questions about homework assignments, readings, and course content.
  • A way to demonstrate the understanding or application of course material.
  • A record of discussion that members can review at a later point.
  • A graded activity that demonstrates understanding or application of course material.

Flexible and Reflective Communication

After you determine what you need, you can create asynchronous interactions occurring over extended periods of time. This allows for more flexibility, as well as reflective communication.

Asynchronous communication offers convenience and flexibility to all participants, including the following benefits:

  • Locations and time zones do not affect participation.
  • Participants can carefully consider and reflect on the initial message before responding. Hopefully, more thoughtful conversations can occur.
  • You can accommodate different learning styles. For example, students who are shy about speaking in class may feel more comfortable responding to discussion threads.

For smaller course groups, you can also offer the group discussion board tool, available only to the members of the group.

Your institution controls whether this tool is available.

To Learn More

To learn more about group discussions, see Group Discussions.