Course Discussion: Participation
I can't think of anything to say.
Some students find course discussions difficult. Discussions can serve many purposes. Unfortunately, they rarely reach their goal without clear guidelines for student participation. Participants need to be aware of the purpose of the discussion and their role in making the discussion a success.
Develop Clear, Concise Guidelines for Participation
While some students find online discussions easy, others are easily frustrated. Provide students with suggestions that will help them become successful participants.
Below are helpful hints for students:
- If you're unsure about the assignment, be sure to ask questions.
- If you get behind or anticipate a problem, be sure to check with the instructor early.
- Practice netiquette. Be polite and respectful of others.
- Encourage your classmates.
- Provide weblinks that contribute to the discussion and make your links hot.
- Make it clear what's fact and what's opinion. If you state an opinion, support it with an example or persuasive argument.
- Don't assume the students have read all the postings. When referring to an earlier posting, you may wish to restate the problem or quote a posting.
- Cite sources to support your views.
- Review your post for spelling and grammar errors.
- Show respect for your classmates.
- Re-read the instructions for the activity before you submit your posting.
- Re-read your message before you press "SEND".
Some students need starters for their comments. Here are some ideas:
- Your statement is important because...
- You made me wonder about...
- Your statements reminded me of...
- Your statements supported my opinion that...
- I disagree with your statements because....
- I'm confused by your statement that...
- I relate your statements to...
- An example to support your statement is that...
- The pros and cons of this approach are...
- This discussion brings up an important question...
- Based on the proceeding arguments, I conclude...
Encourage Probing Questions
Students may need help generating quality questions for their peers. Teach students to ask probing questions.
The following list can help you and your students extend the conversation through questioning:
- Assumptions. What assumptions are you making? Are you assuming... If so, ...? Can you justify this assumption? Is this assumption always true? What if...?
- Clarification. What are your most important points? How does this relate to that? Can you give an example? Can you summarize the key points? What do you mean by ...? What are the causes and effects? What are alternative viewpoints or perspectives?
- Evidence. Can you provide examples and nonexamples? Can you explain your reasons? Can you justify your position? Can you cite sources that support your argument? What resources did you use to identify information? What resources did you ignore? How did you evaluate this information?
- Focus. How can we approach this topic? What is the main issue and supporting questions? What alternative views can we consider?
Students need to be aware of the purpose of the discussion and their required role.
Create a set of guidelines for course discussions.
Be sure to include general suggestions as well as specific examples.