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We know that the discussion board is the heart of any online classroom. One of our responsibilities as online instructors is to craft and facilitate quality discussions that will help students meet the learning objectives of the course. But what types of questions make for good discussions? What are some ways to ensure that the discussion that falls out of an instructor’s prompt will be a good one? A discussion of Bloom’s Taxonomy here would be appropriate and largely help answer all of these questions. But, thinking further, a fruitful online classroom discussion isn’t just dictated by the question itself, but also by the entire approach to the discussion that falls out of the initial prompt.

I found a good webpage from Brown University that helps us ask ourselves the right questions that will help us craft good discussion prompts and help the classroom discussion thrive and inspire over the course of the week. I’ll summarize Designing Online Discussions: Key Questions below.

  1. What should students gain through participation in the discussion? Do you want to expose misconceptions? Apply abstract theories to real-world, concrete situations? Or maybe help students synthesize the gist of a long reading assignment? Your answer to this question will guide the writing of your prompt.
  2. How will you start the online discussion? Develop a sense of community through allowing for introductions, creating small groups rather than having one large discussion going on, and establish clear ground rules so students know what is expected of them so that the discussion flows in a comfortably consistent manner that is still challenging and conducive to critical thinking and creative expression.
  3. How will you facilitate the online discussion? Decide the maximum amount of participation you yourself are able to provide your online class and commit to that amount and schedule it throughout the week. Its not just about the prompt, its about how you encourage participation, critical thinking, application, and synthesis of information throughout the entire discussion.
  4. How will you assess the discussion? “Identify how the discussion board is connected to the course grade, if you will grade student posts, and how the discussions might prepare students for other graded course assignments & assessments” (Brown University, 2017). Make sure students know how you will be evaluating their posts, provide feedback so students know what to keep on doing and what to shoot for next time, and collect feedback (throughout the course, not just at the end) that helps you understand how to improve your facilitation approach.

Have any other tips to share as far as crafting and facilitating good online discussions? Please comment below!

Good luck to all as you head into the fall semester!

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