Instructional Design - DISCUSSION FORUMS
A discussion board is an asynchronous communication tool that allows one individual to post a comment or question online. Other individuals who are members of the same discussion board may read that comment/question, and respond with their own remarks. Discussion Forums link messages by subject. Thus, all messages on one topic are grouped together, allowing users to follow connected threads of thought. A Followup is a response to a message by another student in your class or perhaps by your instructor. Each message and its follow-ups form different "threads."
Things to Keep in Mind..
- Discussion boards allow for all students to participate in the conversation, unlike in class, where sometimes 1 or 2 students can dominate the conversation
- Discussion boards allow students to post over a period of time, which gives them time to reflect more on the topic
- Discussion boards provide a record of student comments, so the discussions can be revisited later, and the comments can help provide a record of student performance and participation
- Anyone with access to the discussion (or course, if password protected) can participate in the discussion; this can allow for students, faculty and experts outside of the normal classroom to participate in the conversation
- It is important to keep in mind that, if not properly controlled, discussion boards can have hundreds of posts; this can be difficult if not impossible to read; to avoid this, make sure you specify to students how many comments and follow-ups they are supposed to make; in addition, you may choose to only read a portion of the posts- enough to gain a sense of the conversation without having to read every single comment
- Create a separate discussion board for each unit/lesson/topic; this will make it much easier to sort through
- Create a separate discussion called something like "water cooler," where students can go to post personal messages to each other; this will help keep the assigned discussions free from clutter while still allowing the students to socialize online
- In a large classroom, you may want to divide the students into groups, and each group can then have a separate discussion area
- Within each group, you may want to assign a particular student to moderate the discussion, and sum up the discussion for you
- Make clear in the beginning the requirements of participating in the discussion; this includes how many and what kinds of posts to make, nettiquitte issues, whether anonymous posting is allowed, be sure to make clear the due dates for posts, etc..
- It is not usually necessary for the professor to read every post in a discussion, but it is necessary that the students realize their instructor is present in the discussions; skim through the discussions to note if the conversation goes off-track and, if so, redirect it; If the conversation seems stuck, make a suggestive post to stimulate the conversation; you may want to post a summary of the ideas brought out in the discussion after everyone has posted; the biggest complaint with online discussions is that a professor will turn the students loose with the discussion boards and the students never hear from the professor again