The Dos and Don’ts of Discussion Boards

Anyone taking a distance learning class will know what a Blackboard discussion board looks like. It is the primary interface tool students have between one another, and the closest thing digitally possible to a class room group discussion.

The new Blackboard is the backbone of many online courses. photo by Shonk

The new Blackboard is the backbone of many online courses. photo by Shonk

The discussion boards are very basic, and serve their purpose well. Like a comment page on Youtube or Imdb, they allow people to post new discussion topics, and to respond to other. And also to respond to the responses. This allows for discussions to develop between two people, up through the entire class getting in on the action. The professor’s job is to read and evaluate all the posts, and to jump in and mediate when necessary.

Hopefully, that should never be necessary. But you never know – some people can’t debate, they need to argue. And that brings me to todays subject; the Dos and Don’ts of Discussion Boards.

You will be using these a lot, so go ahead and book mark this blog now, because it’s stuff you need to know. It will help you get along with your class mates while making your voice heard, which is the best possible way to get a good participation grade for your discussion board activity.


Use correct spelling. Or, barring then, at least use an adequate spell checker.

Use proper grammar. This isn’t grade school, this is higher learning. Know the difference between their and there and they’re, remember to use quotation marks when quoting someone, and other little but important details like that. In a discussion board, your writing is your voice, so try not to sound stupid.

Always use manners. You don’t know who these other people are, and something a message can get lost in translation. So never over-react to a post, and always be courteous. If for some reason you can’t respond to a post courteously, simply choose another topic to discuss in another thread. Like everyone’s mama used to say, if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.

Stress the important points of the week. Remember why you are posting: to demonstrate that you understand the course material for the week. Don’t go overboard bringing up material or topics from previous weeks. Remember your words here count toward your overall grade, and use them to show your professor you know your stuff.


Talk about yourself to excess. It isn’t a chat room, stay focused on the topic, and don’t give unnecessary details about your life.

Troll. Trolling, for those who don’t know, is luring people into arguments either by being intentionally obtuse, or using inflammatory statements. This is common on every single website in the history of the internet, but it does not belong in the classroom. Don’t troll your classmates, even if they really deserve it.

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