Your online discussion forums and any live sessions you conduct are a critical component of your “faculty presence” and “learning community” in your online courses (Swan, 2002; Gosmire, Morrison & Van Osdel, 2009). In classes where there is no interaction, students frequently complain that they feel like they did not “get anything” for their money. They feel like they could have just read all of this on their own and why did they need the instructor? To address this challenge, today we examine tips for vibrant online discussions.
Asking Good Questions
- Ask questions that lead to critical thinking and higher level thinking.
- Invite students to share opinions, take sides on an issue, to analyze options.
- Invite students to share their experiences as they relate to the content (Freed and Lim, 2001).
- Spark students’ interest with current news (Rochester Institute of Technology 2008)
- Use student moderators. Have them take turns asking quality questions based on the content. If needed, teach them how to ask good questions.
- Split students into groups of 3-7 for online discussion. This makes the conversation easier to follow (Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 2010).
- Integrate personal stories. Share professional experiences. The online environment can be lonely and students want to know each other and the instructors (Lowenthal & Parscal 2008; Muirhead 2004).
- Weave student comments into your posts. Quote, name, and challenge them (Lowenthal & Parscal 2008; Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 2010).
- Write short paragraphs and resist declarative statements (Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 2010).
- Summarize and comment on the discussion at the end of the week (Lowenthal & Parscal 2008).
With practice and over time, you will find the strategies and online teaching behaviors that fit your style and beliefs about learning, as well as meet the unique needs of online students.
Weekly Routine Reminder
Just a reminder of this recommended weekly routine:
- Review and grade all new work.
- Send your weekly email.
- Ensure all student emails from the previous week have been addressed and answered.
Reflect. How are your online discussions going so far? Are students active, engaged, and wrestling with application and synthesis of the content? If not, what can you do to nudge them to further interaction? What ideas from this list do you want to try next?