Fry and I recently discussed discussion questions on the DigitalEDU Dialogues podcast. We shared our best practices for discussions that we use as faculty and instructional designers. We share these insights so you and your students can use this powerful tool to connect, share, collaborate, and, yes, discuss.
The Right Questions for Facilitating the Exchange of Ideas
Unlike formal assessments, discussions should allow students to freely explore their ideas without the pressure of meeting specific word counts or providing extensive citations. “If you want students to discuss instead of regurgitate facts or provide a correct answer, you need a well-written, open-ended question, and faculty facilitation,” says Fry.
Use the Rubric to Discourage “Post and Go”
Many students are used to logging in, completing their posts and replies, and then checking the box for the weekly discussion. Fry suggests using the rubric to enforce participation more than once a week. She says she likes to use “A type of rubric that assesses the participation in a holistic manner where it rewards frequency, where it rewards the value of what you’re doing. It’s not that you made a verbose 500-word statement and answered this question. Did you further the discussion? Did you engage with students?” Fry provides examples by starting the discussions some weeks and encouraging students to focus on the quality of their contributions.
Think about how you discuss in face-to-face environments. No one wants to listen to the person who drones on and on. Approach online discussions in the same way. Encourage students to express their thoughts succinctly, focusing on the core of their ideas. This approach makes interactions more digestible and encourages more students to participate.
Engage, but Not with Everyone
Save Citations for Assessments
Save the formal citations and scholarly rigor for assignments and assessments. In the discussion board, let students explore their ideas without feeling constrained by the need to provide extensive references. Encourage them to draw upon personal experiences, course materials, and general knowledge to enrich the conversation.
Take advantage of the discussion board for collaboration, exploration, and experimentation. By encouraging informal interactions and fostering a supportive environment, we can empower our students to express themselves freely while enriching their learning experiences.
Let’s embrace the potential of online education and make our discussion boards a dynamic hub for students.
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