- Begin with some type of course content—typically a reading or video—designed to elicit student response.
- Require students to make an initial post that responds to that content in some well-defined way. Then, require students to return later to respond to one or more posts by their classmates. Be specific about when students should complete each component. By iterating through this cycle several times with relatively short time between deadlines, you can get a little bit closer to the feel of an in-class discussion.
- Craft discussion questions to be as clear and as specific as possible so that students can build off of the question for a sustained response.
- Make sure there are clear purposes and outcomes for the discussion: How does this activity help them meet course outcomes or prepare for other assignments?
- Assign roles to students so that they understand when and how they might respond to you or their peers. For example, students might “role play” as particular kinds of respondents or you might ask them to do particular tasks (e.g. be a summarizer, a respondent, a connector with outside resources).
- Build in simple accountability: Find ways to make sure students are accountable for the work they do in any online discussions or collaborations. Assigning points for online discussion posts can be tedious, so some instructors ask for reflective statements where students detail their contributions and reflect on what they learned from the conversation.
- Moderate your own participation. Intervene if necessary to keep the discussion going, but be even more patient with silence than you would be in a face-to-face discussion, keeping in mind the asynchronous nature of an online forum. Let the conversation develop between students. In particular, be aware that countering a student’s perspective with an alternative perspective can have a chilling effect on a conversation, so try to allow those alternatives to arise from other students whenever possible.
- Remind your students that an online course forum is an extension of the classroom, and the same expectations of civility and critical thinking apply as when you’re face-to-face. You might want to share with your students eLearning Industry’s “10 Netiquette Tips for Online Discussions.”
- Brown University Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning Ways to Support Student Assignments During Times
- Jenae Cohn and Beth Seltzer, Stanford University Teaching Online in Times of Disruption, for SIS and PWR
- Online Learning Toolkit Emergency Online Instruction Checklist
- Pepperdine University Center for Teaching Excellence: Keep on Teaching
- University of Washington Center for Teaching and Learning Teaching and grading during the coronavirus outbreak
Updated March 10