Day 12: Nurturing a Lively, Vibrant Online Discussion

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).

Your Presence

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.

Your Turn

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?

This post is Day 12 of the 20 Day Challenge to Teaching Interactive Online Courses.

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