Digital Learning Blog

Spotlight on Online Discussions

June 24, 2022  / Digital Learning  / Tags: Online Teaching, Discussion Forum

Spotlight:  Online Discussion Forums


Online discussion forums can be frustrating to instructors and students.  In this series, I will address three common questions about online discussions:

      1. Are students prepared for the online discussion?
      2. How can you create engaging online discussions?
      3. How do you effectively and efficiently assess participation and learning in the online discussion?


A great resource for faculty is the book:  Creating Engaging Discussions:  Strategies for Avoiding Crickets in any size classroom and online by Jennifer Herman and Linda Nilson.  This is a free ebook in the FGCU library.   For a quick overview of the book, please watch my five minute Vlog on the Department of Digital Learning Blog. 

Another great resource is the Vlog:  Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time by Linda Nilson we will dive into that resource in Part 3.

Comments for this series of videos is open and I hope you take a few minutes after each video to post your thoughts and ideas for online discussions.  Last, your Instructional Designer is always happy to meet with you and brainstorm strategies that will transform your online discussions from ho hum to aha! Give us a call.

Part 1:  Are students prepared for the online discussion?

  • Timing of discussion
  • Sense of Community
  • Discussion on discussion
  • Active reading note taking cloze worksheet (scaffold at beginning)
  • Annotation tools for active reading (collaborative)
  • Low stakes quiz to identify important elements (reflect discussion prompts)

Part 2:  How can I create engaging online discussions?

  • Choice
  • Student facilitated
  • Authentic/connected prompt
  • Visuals/media in prompt
  • Visuals/media in responses
  • Variety of response types
    • Concept map
    • Roleplay
    • Debate
    • Cartoon strip

Part 3:  How do I assess participation and learning in the online discussion?


    • Canvas analytics (timely)
    • Post/reply consistency
    • Specs grading
    • Rubric


    • Reflection on change (student)
    • Takeaways (student)
    • Rubric


    • Student facilitators
    • Announcement/video highlighting themes and questions
    • Specs grading
    • Only comment sparingly (like in a class discussion)