When it comes to online classes, discussion boards typically form a vital crux of group participation. It is through this medium that students share their ideas, interact with each other, clarify doubts, offer suggestions and learn in the process.
As an online teacher, you are responsible for facilitating engaging discussions while enabling students derive value from it. It’s important to note how you are approaching these discussions – are you letting it run on auto pilot? What is your tone like? How clear is your communication?
All these factors have an impact on the students’ learning experience. So, in order to make this a productive space, here are 5 practical ways to manage online discussion boards and set it up for success –
Respond to Everyone
It can be rather intimidating to be the first one to answer a question in a large group. Being the online instructor, you need to create a welcoming environment for your students and appreciate those who respond.
You must look into every assignment or query and take time to form a constructive reply to each one of them. Don’t rush to give your judgement on answers in the form of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ as that might impede the others from sharing their point of view.
Your students need to know that they are dealing with an active, approachable and enthusiastic teacher. Due to the lack of facetime in this medium, it is imperative to take extra efforts to make them feel like they are being heard.
Give Specific Instructions
It’s easy to complain about receiving poorly written discussion posts but take a moment to think about how clear your instructions were in the first place.
Establishing specific instructions while designing an online discussion is extremely important because it sets the tone ahead. From the number of words and deadline to the writing style and grading parameters – you must clearly set forth your expectations so students can work accordingly. It is also a good idea to share examples with them for better understanding.
By doing this, you save time and are able to create an engaging and fruitful learning atmosphere.
The most effective way to get students to learn is by asking the right questions. While multiple choice questions have their own place, it’s the in-depth, complex questions that really challenge students to do a deep dive and work on their critical thinking skills.
So, make sure your eLearning course has open-ended questions that opens the forum for a lively discussion wherein students can share their unique view-points and justify it with strong examples. This keeps the excitement levels soaring high while letting everyone learn more about new perspectives.
Apart from just answering the question you put forth, students need to also interact with each other on online discussion boards.
A good way to ensure this is by assigning roles and responsibilities to students for increased participation. For instance, you can have a student facilitate the discussion, get someone else to summarize the points at the end of it, someone to pose counter-arguments, etc. These roles can be rotated every week for everyone to get a chance.
This way students are able to take ownership of the discussion and will eventually feel more involved.
Work with Small Groups
It’s a good idea to hold small group discussions rather than having all your students in one. When lesser people are involved, everyone gets the scope to voice their opinion and that leads to a deeper discussion rather than one that is bustling with too many responses and ends up beating the whole purpose of having a discussion in the first place.
So, always break your class into smaller groups of 5 to 6 people to drive more focused conversations and achieve higher levels of interactivity.