Your online discussion forums are a major part of the learning community in your online course. This is where students interact, engage in the content, and share with each other; just as they would in a face-to-face class session. In the first week of your course, you want to ensure students understand your expectations and are functioning at the level you expect. Here are some tips for nudging them to engage as you wish.
- Ask Questions. Nudge Students. As you read the discussion posts, watch for students who write too briefly, too vaguely, or just not quite on. Reply to that student’s post and graciously ask some questions. Probe. Nudge them to expound. Invite further thought. This lets the students know you are reading the posts, and also publicly encourages all students to think more deeply.
- Email Students Individually. If a student is way off track in their discussion posts, sometimes it is best to address the issue individually. Recently in one of my classes, I had a student who couldn’t seem to follow directions. Sometimes her answers were posted in the wrong forum; sometimes she only had part of the required response. It took a few specific, directive emails to help her get back on track and find the directions. Sometimes one student dominates the discussion, replying to every single post. You may wish to encourage them to step back a bit and let others comment. These types of corrections may be best done individually.
- Model. There is a delicate balance between dominating the discussion and being “present” in the discussion. But often it helps students to see you model appropriate discussion. Show by example with thoughtful replies.
For Further Reading:
- Eight Tips for Facilitating Effective Online Discussions
- Facilitating Online Discussions: A wealth of tips and suggestions
Reflect. What works for you in online discussions? What ideas would you add to this list?