Creating Great Discussion Board Postings

Creating Great Discussion Board Postings

Do you find it challenging at times to answer the required discussion questions? Is it difficult to think of something new to say when you need to post your participation messages? Online students may find it frustrating to create meaningful discussion question responses and interactive participation postings because these messages take time to develop. In addition, many students do not know how to engage other students in an online conversation. To create a great post, you need a substantive, error-free, and value-added response. Let’s look at each of these three key areas, along with easy-to-use methods that will help you develop your online messages.

1. Your discussion question responses need to be substantive.

In other words, your messages must demonstrate that you have contributed something relevant to the discussion. This requires posting more than an opinion or general overview of the topic – you need to take time to formulate a reply.

Here are some techniques that will help you create substantial discussion question postings:
•    Think of your discussion question answers as an assignment, which requires the development of a well-written and insightful response.
•    Use critical thinking skills to analyze the topic and provide support for your analysis from the assigned readings.
•    Apply what you’ve read and learned to your work as a student and/or your career. Are there any relevant issues or problems that you could address now through a new solution?
•    Share new ideas with your class and ask the other students to provide you with their perspective and feedback.
•    Summarize what you’ve learned based upon your understanding of the materials and ask yourself: What were the highlights of reading? Were there any “aha” moments? Are there any points you would like to ask your instructor or other students about for further clarification?

2. Manage the mechanics of your postings.

This is another challenge for many students – posting messages that do not contain errors. Students who are used to communicating in short phrases through text messages may struggle with learning to write in complete sentences or thoughts. There are important considerations to keep in mind before you post your message, along with techniques you can use to create well-formatted postings. Here is a checklist that you can follow:
•    Be sure to check your spelling and grammar before the message is posted. An effective technique is to type your response first in a Word document so that you can utilize the spelling and grammar checkers.
•    Check the word count of your discussion question response if there is a required minimum or maximum number of words.
•    Use a professional tone and avoid being too casual. Read the posting aloud as a means of self-checking it.
•    Don’t post a reply if you experience an emotional reaction to the message. Give yourself time to review the message and decide if you can respond in an objective manner.
•    Keep track of the due dates for the discussion question responses.
•    Use a calendar to track the number of messages posted throughout the week. Students often lose points for not fully meeting the participation requirement.
•    Create your postings through the use of an outline, with an introductory sentence, the body of your posting, and then an overall wrap up.
•    Unlike discussions in a tradition classroom, the online discussion board gives you an advantage of being able to allocate time and prepare your responses in advance. Allow yourself time to conduct research and develop a well-written message.
3. Participation postings must add value to the discussions.

This gets to the heart of engaging other students in an online conversation. One approach is to imagine that you are sitting in front of another student – how would you talk to them? Visualizing an actual conversation is a helpful starting point for students to use.

Here are some techniques that will help you create meaningful participation postings:
•    Avoid the use of short comments, such as “I agree,” for your reply because that adds little value to the discussion.
•    Agree or disagree with another student, but always explain your position.
•    Use another student’s response as a building block and add additional thoughts, ideas, perspectives, or suggestions in your reply.
•    Always end with a question, as this is the most effective method of creating a conversation and generating a follow up reply. Asking for clarification about something another student has written is a way to engage them in a discussion as well.
•    Keep your replies focused on the required topics by sharing information from the assigned reading or other sources you’ve found.
•    Discuss a career-related problem that can be addressed by something you’ve read, either in the readings or another students’ message.
•    Relate the topics and theories to the real world and provide examples from your career or work experience.

Development of effective online communication through discussion board threads requires a commitment of time and thought to write substantive and well-formatted responses. As you engage other students in a discussion, you are likely to find that you have an opportunity to enhance your own understanding of the topics because you are sharing ideas, experiences, and perspectives. Creating great discussion board postings can be a fun way to learn and at the same time feel connected to your online class. 
By Dr. Bruce Johnson

Photo © Tetra Images/Corbis 

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