Effective Use of Asynchronous Threaded Discussions
Threaded discussions can serve as a learning tool that fosters in-depth, academic discussion, an arena in which students work collaboratively or conduct peer analysis, or simply a place where they can virtually communicate with each other. Threaded discussion used well can be an effective learning tool that encourages students to engage in higher order thinking activities.
Creating good questions is one of the most important factors in designing successful threaded discussions. The following are some question possibilities.
- The open-ended question: Ask for the how’s and the whys instead of the what’s.
- The controversial question: That the unpopular stand and get your students riled up.
- The naivet question: Ask the “dumb” question to get your students talking.
- The synthesizer question: Draw from related reading materials, asking your students to determine what a person would have to say about Person “A” because of “C”.
- The peer facilitator question: Have the students sign up for a facilitation week and give each student responsibility for addressing a major point/topical question, soliciting input from their peers, and posting a summary of the discussion at the end of the week.
Another important factor is keeping the discussions on topic. The following suggestions can assist in accomplishing this goal.
- Creating well-designed questions that keep students topic focused (see question possibilities noted above.)
- Provide a new discussion forum/area for each week or topic. If one forum is used for the entire term the threads may get rather long and
- Provide parameters or guidelines for what constitutes an acceptable response (rubrics work very well.)
- Revise threaded discussion questions when responses are off-target. If a question is not working well and students are confused, change it immediately and send out an email to students regarding the change o post a new thread with the revised question and associated questions.
- Bring a tread to closure by summarizing the issues presented and resolved in the discussion; pinpoint especially interesting and informative responses by your students. This summary can be emailed to the students, posted to the end of the threaded discussion, or posted in the weekly announcements of the course site.
- Give clear detailed directions to your students on what you want in their responses at the beginning of each thread.
- Provide an informal threaded discussion elsewhere in the course. This can be a good place for students to post non- content related questions or to socialize online.
- When appropriate post reminders that students stay on topic. If students begin to stray from the topic, post an item to the discussion pushing everyone back in the right direction. If the direction the students have strayed is a good one, reinforce it and allow the discussion to focus on the new topic.
- Provide incentives for students to participate in the online discussions by attributing a discernible percentage of the grade to this activity (can be tied to the rubric noted in item 2.)
- Privately reprimand and give constructive feedback to students who make off-topic postings or fail to meet posting requirements.
- Delete/hide threaded discussion postings by those students who refuse to play by the rules and then deny them access to the threads and lower their class participation grade.