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Tips for Participating in Online Discussions

student at computer

Online discussions (discussion forums) have proven to enhance student learning. It is an excellent way for students and faculty to learn collaboratively, discuss issues, seek clarification, and develop critical thinking skills. Here are some tips that will help you to participate effectively in the discussion forums in your courses.

  1. Read all orientation materials and instructions first.
  2. Review any guidelines that have been established in the course regarding expectations for online discussions.
  3. Actively participate in the discussion. Your learning is enhanced only by your active contribution.
  4. Stay current with reading and responding to messages. Plan on checking and contributing to the forum every few days (at least twice each week).
  5. Always use netiquette during the online discussions. Encourage netiquette among all participants. (LINK NETIQUETTE TO OTHER DOCUMENT - See page after next)
  6. Ensure the content of the postings to the discussion forums stays on the topic. Use a separate folder to post general announcements.
  7. Only communicate one idea or thought per message.
  8. Try to develop a sense of "discussing" the topic. Dialogue directly with your peers. Not all comments need to be addressed to the facilitator.
  9. Use probing, questions, and examples to encourage critical thinking during discussion forums. Some examples of questions that can be used in discussion forums include the following:" What is the rationale for that decision? "
    " What are the underlying themes (emerging patterns) that are coming from...?"
    " How would you explain this situation to...?"
    " What conclusions can you draw?"
    " What is the rationale for your conclusions?"
    " How does...relate to...?"
    " What do you think would happen if...?"
    " How are ... and ... similar? different?"
    " What would be another example of ...?"
    " What are other situations where...could apply?"
  10. Personalize contact by using the names of other participants. "Sara, I really appreciated your comments about…"
  11. Remember that postings to discussion forums are public. If you want to communicate with someone privately, send an email.
  12. Make sure you contact the Help Desk if you are having any difficulty.
  13. You can develop your response in a wordprocessing package, and then copy and paste in into the message being posted. Note that you will lose any special formatting that has been used.
  14. If you are sending an attachment, use the wordprocessing format and version (for example, Word 2000) that has been agreed to by the participants in your course. If there has not been anything specified, save the document as an RTF file.

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