How do I use discussion forums to create an engaging online learning community?

Tips for Effective Use of Online Discussion Forums

Asynchronous discussion forum can be used in your online classroom to promote both peer to peer interaction and student interaction with the instructor. The following tips will help you to use discussions forums in your course to create an engaging online learning community.

1. Build Community with a Social Discussion Board

  • Use the discussion board for “icebreaker” activities. This gives the instructor opportunity to get to know the students and the students an opportunity to get to know each other.
  • Create secondary forums such as a “Virtual Lounge” or “e-Café” where students can request assistance from one another, chat about the course, or other topics.

2. Demonstrate Student Knowledge of Key Concepts 

  • Use a section of the discussion board as a place for students to review important concepts and share ideas, allowing students the opportunity to learn from each other by clarifying understanding of key concepts

3. Critical Thinking 

  • Use well crafted forum prompts (see this article) to encourage students to critically analyze ideas, concepts and philosophies taught in class.
  • Allow students to form, defend and reflect on their own position on certain topics.
  • Use higher order questioning techniques and learning activities (i.e. case studies) to encourage critical thinking.

4. Reflection

  • Ask students to share a synthesis of the learning experience or to describe personal value of the experience

Tips modified from:

Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation: Resource Guide, 2009 Teacher Resource Stream:

How to Prepare and Moderate
 Online Discussions for Online Learning: Contact North 2013

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