Discussion Board Posts 101

In online courses, the discussion board is central to the experience of the class.  It is within the discussion board that the interaction, debate, and critical thinking that are so crucial in any college course happen.  For this reason, in many online classes, discussion board postings count for a percentage of the final class grade!  Crafting an intelligent discussion board post is critical to your success in your online class.

Discussion board postings are central to an online class (photo by kodomut).

Most course syllabuses for online classes will give guidelines for discussion board posts.  Make sure to read, understand, and follow those guidelines.  Many professors will tell you the number of original discussion board posts and the number of replies to other posts they want per week or per chapter, a minimum word count per post or reply, and due dates for discussion board posts to be submitted by.  Following these guidelines will allow the class to engage in discussion more meaningfully and will likely be reflected in your discussion board grade.

Post meaningful discussions and replies.  There’s nothing more frustrating than a discussion board full of posts that say little other than, “Yes, absolutely, that is correct!” In crafting discussion board posts, try to make original points.  Use your life experiences as well as your textbook to make your posts clear and unique. In your replies, if you agree with the poster, explain what, specifically, you agree with.  Try to add a point from your textbook that summarizes or illustrates what you agree with in the post.  If you disagree, do so respectfully and clearly, giving specific examples and reasons.

Be kind to your classmates. Communication on a discussion board is sometimes more difficult than face to face communication.  It is particularly difficult to convey emotion and tone though text, so be aware of these challenges. Make sure that your posts and replies are constructive, aimed at helping everyone achieve a better understanding of the topic, rather than simply being critical. If you are confused or lack understanding about another poster’s meaning, ask them to clarify.

Post daily, if possible.  Discussion boards are designed to resemble a conversation between classmates.  It is easier to have a profitable discussion if everyone is posting and following up daily.  This makes it possible to have engaged debates and to exchange information in a time-sensitive manner.  If your classmates have to wait days or weeks for you to respond to their posts, the process of conversation will be more difficult and less likely to aid in understanding.

Make sure to avoid plagiarism in your online discussion boards.  While formal citations are generally unnecessary (although make sure to check your syllabus or ask your professor to be sure) it is still important to give attribution if you are taking another person’s idea.  If you are quoting, use quotation marks and tell your classmates where the quote is from.  If you are summarizing someone else’s work, make sure you give credit to your source.

To facilitate learning, keep your posts on topic. While it is natural for discussion boards to go on tangents from time-to-time, try to keep your original postings and replies limited to what is being discussed.

Please use proper grammar in your discussion board posting. While proper academic writing is generally unnecessary in your discussion board posts (again, though, check your syllabus or with your professor to be sure!), following the basic rules of grammar and spelling make your posts easier to read and understand.  Capitalize, use proper punctuation, and employ spell check before posting.

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