Saturday, January 13, 2007

Jumpstarting Your Course Discussion Board

Well, here it is…the start of another semester online. How do you get your students involved early? Discussions should be an integral part of your online course. But, don’t wait until you dive into content-related discussions to get students talking. Instead, have them jump in with non-threatening, introductory discussions that will 1) acclimate them to the technology and 2) start to build community among participants.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Create an introductions forum/topic for your students to get to know you and each other.
    • Introduce yourself and introduce the course
    • Ask students to introduce themselves—they will generally take their cue from your post, so if you include information like family, hobbies, study interests, etc., they will likely do the same
    • Create a fun or unusual icebreaker activity, i.e.:
      • One word—students post one word (or animal, city, piece of clothing, etc.) that describes them and why.
      • Unusual fact—students post an unusual fact about themselves
      • Unusual travel story—students post a brief story about a travel/vacation incident
      • Three things—students list their three favorite…websites, people, foods, jobs, etc.

  2. Create a casual forum/topic for your students to interact with each other on non-course-related topics, i.e., “Coffee House”, “Cyber Lounge”, etc.
  3. Create a technology help forum/topic for students to seek assistance on technology issues.
  4. Create a course help forum/topic for students to post course-related questions, i.e., where do I find…? when is the test again? etc.


  1. Define expectations. Create a rubric for graded discussions identifying your expectations for quality and frequency of posts.
  2. Define conduct rules. Provide netiquette resources.
  3. Clearly state the purpose of each topic/forum, including any social or help topics.

Building an active and engaging discussion board is critical to conducting a successful online course. Stay tuned for more tips and strategies to build and facilitate interactive online courses. Please share your ideas and experiences using the comments below.

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