Facilitating Online Discussions

Facilitating Online Discussions
A significant amount of online learning and collaboration can be accomplished through discussion boards. Therefore, it is important that teachers are aware of how to facilitate meaningful discussions that engage learners and promote a cohesive online community.
When using discussion boards in an online course, students can:
  • Become active learners.
  • Become reflective learners.
  • Discuss lectures, assessments and assigned readings with other students and teachers.
  • Present their own viewpoints and consider other diverse perspectives.

Discussions in an online course are very much like face-to-face discussions and require preparation and active management. Here are some tips for both planning and facilitating a successful discussion.

When using online discussions boards, you should:

These steps may be helpful to conduct your online lesson:

  1. Tell your students why you are using an online discussion in your course and how this relates to the learning outcomes. Set clear expectations about the requirements of online discussions.
  2. Use open-ended questions which target higher-order thinking skills. To facilitate a deep and meaningful discussion, your initial discussion post should be interesting, engaging and perhaps controversial so that it allows for a number of different perspectives from your students.
  3. Relate discussion activities to assessments. In order to help students to see why a particular discussion is relevant, give them a prompt that indicates how the discussion will help them with their future assessments.
  4. In large classes, divide your students into smaller groups of 5-8 to provide an opportunity for all to participate in the discussion. You can learn how to set up groups with their own discussion board in Blackboard by viewing this video.
  5. Let your students know when you will be monitoring and replying to discussions. For example, “I’ll be in the discussions every Friday” or “I’ll be checking the discussions three times a week”.
  6. If you are grading your discussions, reward good work by assigning marks based on the quality of posts, not frequency. You should also make rubrics available to your students in order to guide the quality of their posts.
  7. Make discussions engaging by varying the types of discussion activities. Examples include: structured debates, case studies, building FAQs and collaborative project work.
Creating a Discussion Board in Blackboard:

You can also view a video guide here .

  1. Log into your Blackboard course and go to the Discussions area.

  2. On the main Discussion Board page, click Create Forum.

  3. Type a Name. Students will click this name to access the forum. Optionally, type instructions or a description in the Description text box and set the Forum Availability to Yes.

  4. Change the Forum Settings to choose whether to allow anonymous posts, file attachments, thread creation, subscription, grading and member rating of posts.
  5. Press Submit.
EDC Support Updates
  • Webinars: Be sure to check our line-up of live online Webinars and if you cannot make it to a session or want to review previous sessions you can access the videos online here
  • Our Blackboard Templates can help you build engaging and interactive online classes

Previous Newsletters
Quickstart guide
Making teaching videos from home (webinar)
Using uRewind to support video assignments
Designing open-book take-home assessments
Building engaging online learning
Turnitin and online feedback
Teaching and learning at PolyU after the disruption
New Website on Online Teaching and new resources for teachers, DLTCs, HoDs, CLOs and students
Using Microsoft Teams to Deliver Synchronous Online Classes
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