Discussion Board Best Practices

from "5 Ways to Ace Discussion Boards" by Devon Haynie

1. Read directions: The biggest key to doing well on a discussion board is simply reading the teacher's instructions, says Noam Ebner, who leads the online graduate program in negotiation and conflict resolution at Creighton University's law school.

2. Say something substantive: While online instructors want to hear student opinions on discussion boards, they want those opinions to be backed up by facts. Citing sources from inside and out of class can cut back on plagiarism and make a student's argument seem more legitimate, Reese says.

"I get the most points when I’m able to pull out even one journal article and use those references in my posts," says Erices, who lives in Colorado with her husband and three children. "Even when it's not required, it makes your point stronger."

Students should also keep in mind that discussion boards are meant to be conversations, where each post builds on the previous comment.

"Good response posts are response posts that do not only agree or disagree," says Ebner. "When you read another student's post, you have the ability to expand the conversation." To do that, students can reference material or, when appropriate, relate it to their own life experience, he says.

3. Don't procrastinate: "Participate early and not at the deadline," says Brian Redmond, a senior lecturer within the psychology department at Penn State. "If everybody participates at the deadline, the quality of the conversation is very, very surface level and doesn't delve anywhere close to where it should be for a thoughtful and informative discussion."

Erices, who always starts posting early, agrees. "I find that it's so much easier to participate, but it's also interesting – it becomes a learning experience," she says. "You can then build onto others people's comments and professors value that a lot."

4. Ask a question if you're confused: "Contact your instructor if you don't understand what you are supposed to be doing," says Reese, with Daytona State. "Don't be influenced by others, they might not know what they are doing."

5. Review words for clarity and tone: Use text speak in a discussion post, and your instructor will not be LOL, experts say. Students should write in clear, complete sentences. Swear words, writing in all capital letters and using multiple exclamation points are off limits.

Students should read over their posts for tone to make sure they don't offend their peers, Reese says. While an occasional, well-placed smiley face can be beneficial, "we don’t need cats and Popsicles," she says.

Note from Doc:

Since our classes are small you are only required to post your initial answer (a well-crafted paragraph, trenchant to the topic) and to respond to one peer post.

Your initial quality answer and one quality response (i.e. a well thought out and crafted paragraph) will allow you to earn an average score (C).

Your initial quality answer and two quality responses will allow you to earn an above average score (B).

Your initial quality answer and three or more quality responses will allow you to earn an excellent score (A).

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