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Discussion participation is a substantial part of a student’s overall grade in online classes. 

Encouraging students to participate:


Discussion in Discursive Classes

In discursive classes, where the main activities are reading, writing, and discussion, it's crucial that you “talk” regularly with your students about the current issues open for discussion. This includes:

  • reading all the posts in every discussion topic;
  • responding to students' comments;
  • and making substantive contributions to the conversation several times a week.

Keep in mind that your contributions to the discussion can include more than just text! The posting interface lets you embed images, videos and other materials from the web. You can also upload files and even record your own video directly into the interface.

Discussion in Studio Classes

In studio classes, where students are focused on developing their art and design skills, the bulk of your time each week should be spent in reviewing, critiquing, and discussing their work. 

  • For students, participation in these classes often consists principally of asking questions — and reviewing and discussing one another's assignments. Their participation in the module discussion topics (if there are discussion topics per se) may be less important than their active engagement in the critique discussions.
  • As the instructor of a studio class, your participation in the weekly discussion topic may also be fairly limited. However, it's still important that you read all the posts to make sure students are not getting off track — and answer any questions addressed to you.
  • In addition, studio instructors should be actively engaged in conversations with your students about their work. Encourage them to ask questions about your critiques. Ask them to explain how they will apply your feedback to future assignments. Facilitate peer review discussions. 
To give students time after their assignments have been submitted to review and discuss each other's work, you can extend the closing date for your assignments. (You need to edit an assignment topic to extend its closing date: LEARN MORE.)

Best Practices for Online Discussions

Here are a few suggestions for managing a discussion online: 

  • Set the default for your discussion topics to the List Layout.
  • When you open a topic, first sort by New/Unread and then expand all the comments. This ensures that everything new is at the top — and that the entire conversation is visible as you scroll down the page. Encourage your students to follow this same practice.
  • Give students explicit instructions as to how they are to respond to discussion prompts. You may want to try some different approaches before you settle into the best one for your class. Here are a few ideas:
    • Ask all students to make a post in response to the initial discussion prompt. Require them also to make comments on other students' posts. To ask a new question and start a new conversation, they can make a new post.
    • As an alternative, you might make several posts at the start of the module, each with different discussion prompt, and then ask students to make comments in response to your posts and to each other's comments.
    • Another possibility is to ask a few students to lead the discussion by asking initial questions in one or more posts (which creates several conversational threads). Ask the rest of class to make comments in response to these posts and to other comments.
  • Ask students to direct comments to a specific classmate by noting in their subject line the name of the individual and the comment number to which you are responding (e.g., In response to Jane Doe, Comment #003). Model the practice for your class to help everyone get into this habit.
  • Encourage students to make their posts more engaging by including images or web links or videos. Do the same with your own posts.
  • Create a wrap-up post at the end of the module in the form of written comments or a video recording. This wrap-up is a great opportunity to acknowledge student contributions, reinforce important concepts, and answer any final questions.

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