In the online classroom Discussion Boards (DBs) are an important way we establish ‘community’ with classmates, instructors and peers. It’s how we ‘participate’ in class, and it’s the way we can develop our conversations by applying critical thinking skills. Every student wants to know how to develop a quality discussion board post. Generally, stand-out posts have similar characteristics, which we can easily learn and apply. I always say, writing is a muscle that with practice we can strengthen over time. Persistence will get us to our goals and if you’re having trouble developing your discussion board posts, then consider applying the following strategies.
- Read, read, and read – Log into the classroom early and make time to read through the weekly topic. Review the unit introduction, read the syllabus, and the instructor announcements. Next, navigate your way to the Discussion Board Assignment details to read the directions of the assignment. When you’re ready, make your way to the Discussion Board Thread to make your first post.
- Develop your post - As you begin to develop your response, make sure you have the questions of the assignment visible. I suggest you develop your post in a Word document, which you can then copy/paste into the DB thread. This approach makes things a little easier when it’s time to run your spell/grammar check as well as ensuring you’ve met the word count requirements. Be sure to answer all the questions asked in the assignment details.
- Know the ‘deliverables’ - Assignment details are clearly stated in the Assignment Overview section of the discussion board. Here you can see the due date, points possible as well as the deliverable length requirement. It’s important to carefully read the assignment details and understand the expectations. Helpful tools in MS Word and in the DB forum, make it easy to track your word count progress.
- Support your opinion – Even though many discussion board questions ask for reflective answers which may include your personal opinion, you are still expected to support your position with references to your course materials. You may use the textbook, intellipath®, M.U.S.E., or any other credible academic sources to support your opinion. Be sure to reference the material in the post and cite sources as needed. If you’re having trouble with this be sure to talk to your Instructor for assistance.
- Minimize errors – Not only will you lose points for spelling and grammar errors but also you will quickly lose the attention of your readers. Posts should be grammatically clear so that your classmates understand your message. Simply proofread your work before you post the reply.
- Posts should have good flow - A good post should read like an academic paper. Work on developing flow in your response by starting out with an introductory paragraph; next, develop your discussion and emphasize the main points clearly and in an organized manner. Use transitional words or phrases that help the reader follow along with your conversation. Including a conclusion is a great way to summarize your opinions and research.
- Review the Rubric – The rubric is a great tool that you should use to help you compare your post against the expectations of the assignment. I suggest using the rubric as a checklist and before you submit your work cross reference it against your post.
- Discussion Board policy - Make a plan for the week as to when you’ll submit your posts and keep the Discussion Board policy in mind. At AIU the expectation is that the first post must be made by the end of the day on Friday (midnight CST), and then two more posts should be posted on separate days between Saturday and midnight (Central time) Tuesday. Submitting your first post as early as possible will not only show leadership in the classroom, but also will allow the most opportunity for your classmates to engage with you and your conversation. My suggestion: log in early and post often as this will maximize your classroom experience.
- Don’t forget about the Peer Responses – Each DB assignment also requires that two peer responses be posted. These posts should also follow the same guidelines as above but are typically more concise. A simple “I agree…” doesn’t count as a substantive response. Use this as an opportunity to make a connection with your classmate. Provide classmates with constructive feedback that adds value to the weekly discussion topics. These posts should also aim to continue the conversation. Ideas include asking questions, sharing a personal example or relating information to the course materials.
- Talk to your Instructor – If anything is unclear to you about the assignment directions and/or expectations don’t hesitate to ask your instructor. You can easily reach out via email, or by phone. Your instructor has Office Hours posted in each class which is a great opportunity to meet with them, as well as ask questions.
Remember the purpose of the Discussion Board thread is share ideas and experiences as they relate to the course content and the DB question. As a nine year veteran of the online learning environment I have had the opportunity to see and learn which type of posts add value and demonstrate learning opportunities to the classroom and which one’s need improvement. Make the most out of this learning opportunity and have fun engaging with your classmates!