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Guidelines for Student Participation in an Online Discussion Board or Forum

written by: Laurie Patsalides•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 1/31/2011

Many new online students come into the online learning environment unaware of what to expect. One of the online student's responsibilities will be to know how to use the online discussion boards and using discussion boards with ease.

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    Introduction to Discussion Boards

    In an online class, the discussion board is vital to the success of the student and the class. It is the communication vehicle, if you will, between all the members in the course. It is important for the student to learn what the discussion boards are and guidelines for student participation, because the boards are an important assessment tool for the instructor.

    The online discussion board or forum can used as an asynchronous or a synchronous discussion board. This means, discussion can occur in real time or not in real time. Instructors can use either or both. Discussions occur by way of posts. You can find a great understanding of an asynchronous course, here on Bright Hub.

    When you exchange ideas with other students through the discussion boards, the coursework becomes more engaging, and you will become both a self learner and collaborator with your peers.

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    The Teacher Begins the Discussion

    The online instructor will use the forum to help the student to develop an understanding of the coursework. Students will gain a better understanding of coursework through responding on the discussion boards, because the teacher will pose thought provoking inquiry based questions that are directly formulated from the required reading material.

    Using the boards is one of the ways the instructor will provide a connectedness with the online student and enhance professor-student interaction, so it is imperative to participate.

    Teachers may also use the discussion board to:

    • Add RSS feeds- these are feeds that are continually updated that the instructor will expect the online student to read. Professors are often using twitter to add feeds to the discussions.
    • Add studycasts (review of coursework) or podcasts (instruction via online video)
    • Create quizzes relevant to the course content and the discussions
    • Plan projects/ teaching (group) collaboration

    In the beginning of the course you will receive information about the teacher's requirements for the discussion boards.

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    The Student Analyses and Contributes

    Forum discussions are designed to help you gain and provide peer feedback. This means, when participating in the discussions, one must be self reflective. Simple responses on a discussion board may make you seem as if you are uninterested, or not knowing the material, so be sure to share as much as you know.

    It is the student's responsibility to read the required material the same as in a traditional course and post accordingly with an educated response. So consider the responses on discussion boards as a form of assessment and take it seriously! Do not try to skim through the reading material and bluff on the forum, because it will be very difficult to do.

    Be advised, online students also have the responsibility to be able to interact with others different than themselves or with who do not share the same opinion. To be successful, one must be open, and have a willingness to listen and share.

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    How You are Graded for Posts

    In most online classes, you will be evaluated as a part of your grade for the ability to use the forum. You will be graded on participation (how often you use the discussion board), and how well you use it to provide reflective responses.

    The professor will also use student responses to the posts to assess communication, writing and language skills. Be sure to write professionally and spell check!

    It will also likely be a part of the course requirements to post at least twice a week, if not more. A more stringent online course professor will require a daily post from students.

    A sample rubric (how you will be assessed when using asynchronous discussion boards) can be found here.