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Online Discussions

A key component of online courses is online discussion. This is where students get to “try on” their understanding of course concepts, confront the alternative perspectives of their peers and receive correction of misconceptions by the instructor. Effective online discussions can lead to deeper learning. But not all online discussions work.

Problem Solution
Students don’t understand your expectations of an online discussion. Give clear expectations of what a good initial post and reply is and is not. Use a rubric to show expectations and grading criteria. Grade posts on these expectations.
Students feel they have nothing else to add. Ask questions that don’t have a single or known answer. Open ended questions lead to lots of possible responses and reveal the complexity of a topic. If answers will be similar, consider the discussion setting “students must post new thread before other posts are visible.”
Students have no one to talk to. Set deadlines for first posts mid week and require that students participate on 2 or 3 distinct days - giving points for timeliness.
Students don’t think their participation is important. Place emphasis on discussions in your grading scheme. Many faculty count discussion as 25%+ of the final grade. Consider summarizing the key points and clarify misconceptions in a closing post or announcement. This shows that you value the discussion and their contributions.

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