As with other aspects of online courses, conversations that occur naturally in a face-to-face classroom must be intentionally planned and addressed in an online setting.  Online discussions take more time than face-to-face discussions, as responses must be written and allowances made for different students’ schedules.1  Online discussions have advantages too, such as allowing students the opportunity for more thoughtful, prepared responses.2  Here are some strategies to facilitate meaningful discussions in your online class.

  • Have clear expectations and grading policies for participation.  Convey these in the syllabus as well as on discussion forums or assignment instructions.1
  • Make sure your discussion topic is relevant to your learning outcomes.1
  • To save time, and to keep discussions focused, have smaller groups of student-led discussions rather than large discussion boards.1
  • Recognize students’ contributions.  Where eye contact or a nod would suffice in a face-to-face conversation, online discussions require more deliberate recognition such as a comment or question.2
  1. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/7-assessment-challenges-of-moving-your-course-online-solutions/?utm_source=cheetah&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2013.12.02%20Faculty%20Focus%20Update
  2. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/art-science-successful-online-discussions/?ET=facultyfocus:e95:229249a:&st=email