Discussion Forum Activities
The discussion forum is an environment where you can participate in a "virtual discussion" with your instructor and other members of your course. The forum is one of the most dynamic, interactive features of this course. Often instructors will post questions in discussion forums for you to review and respond to. In addition, you are encouraged to read other students' responses and engage in online dialogue with them. If you are asked to participate in a class discussion forum activity, note that the following approach will help you be most successful:
- Click on the "Discussions" button located at the left of your screen. "Discussions" is where all the forums for the course are located.
- Click on the forum in which you are going to participate.
- Read the first link, otherwise known as a thread, which is posted by your instructor.
- Read any or all of the other threads in the forum.
- After you have read all the threads, click on the thread to which you would like to respond. The thread may be the instructor's original posting to the forum, or it may be a student's thread to which you would like to respond.
- At the bottom of your selected thread, find the "Reply" button and click.
- In the new window that appears, enter the subject heading and message to be posted in your thread. (Note: you may wish to create your message in a word processing program, revise and proofread it, and then copy and paste it into the discussion thread message box. You will also have a copy of your work to resubmit if you run into technical difficulties.)
- If you want to upload an attachment, enter the appropriate location of the file to attach, or click on "Browse My Computer" to find the location of the file you would like to attach.
- Once you are finished entering your subject heading, message, and any attachments, click "Preview" to view your message before it is posted.
- When ready, click "Submit" to post your message.
- Please refer to your User Manual located in the "Help" section of the course for more information on or assistance with Discussion Boards.
- Contact your instructor if you have any questions or comments about discussion forum activities.
There can be multiple forums in your online course. A few examples are listed below.
- Student Coffeehouse
This forum is for discussion between students. The instructor will rarely stop by. Use this space to make friends, share your thoughts and ideas about the class and its subject matter, get clarifications from other students about how to do assignments, or just chat. It's recommended that you stop by here at least once a week. Participation here may be factored into your participation grade for the course.
- Technical Help Forum
This space is for postings requesting or supplying technical help. Your fellow students experience the course from the same perspective as you, so they can be a great source of technical advice. By using this forum, you can also find out if a technical problem is specific to you or if everyone is experiencing it. If you are experienced online, let your instructor know. They may be able to give you extra credit or a better participation grade for providing some technical support to other students.
- Module or Assignment-Specific Forums
The rest of the discussion forum modules are for communication regarding specific parts of the course content or required for particular assignments. They should be labeled clearly with either a module or assignment name. Make sure you post your responses in the right place or you may not get credit!
Starting a New Thread in a Discussion Forum Assignment
Once in the discussion forum you wish to participate in, click the "Create Thread" button to add a new thread. Fill in the resulting box and "Submit." For good results, keep the following in mind:
- Read any prompts carefully.
A prompt is the assignment to which you are responding. In some cases, the prompt will be posted as the start of a thread in the discussion forum. In others, the prompt will be listed under "Assignments." In either case, read the prompt carefully. Make sure that you understand everything that it requires before you start to respond. If you have questions, ask for a clarification from your instructor, or at least let others know what you are unsure about in your posting.
- Post something that shows thought.
One of the great things about discussion forum communication is that you can think before you respond. Discussion forum prompts are almost always open-ended questions, so even if it seems that the assignment only needs a short answer, assume that you should provide some explanation or narrative about that answer. The challenge is to do this without getting too long-winded!
- Include examples and supportive arguments, not just opinions.
Discussion forums are not just a place to put opinions and feelings. You should also include specific examples, statistics, quotes, and other support materials. On the other hand, you are encouraged to include your opinions too. These will make all of the details more interesting!
- Cite your sources.
It's usually okay with your instructor if you borrow ideas from your readings or conversations, but you should attribute these ideas to their source. You can give the official citation of reading material (online or in print) or simply attribute ideas from your classmates. For instance, "In her posting, Shelly said ... That made me wonder about ..."
- Post your response early in the assignment period.
If you wait until the assignment due date, others will not have a chance to respond to what you have said. Your instructor will not have as much time to notice or think about your posting, and a lower score may result. Post your first message early in the assignment period, then return later and respond to others. You'll get more out of the experience and get a better grade.
It's called a discussion forum because people are actually supposed to discuss things! Clever, huh? That means it will only be useful if you respond to others, not just post your own messages. You will not get the best results or grades from this kind of communication if you don't react to your classmates.
Replying to a Post
To respond to a message, simply enter the appropriate forum, and click on the subject of a message. Read the message, and if you want to respond, scroll to the bottom and click "Reply." Type your message and "Submit." Here are more hints:
- Don't agree with everything.
"Good idea!," "I agree," or "I think the same thing" are not worthwhile responses. They don't add to the conversation. If you do agree with the poster, then try to add another example or clarify the point more. It's OK to have a different opinion. On the other hand...
- Don't disagree with everything.
You won't impress anyone by being critical of every posting that is made. Try to be generous in interpreting others. Ask clarifying questions if you are not sure you understand.
- Search for balanced replies.
When you respond to others, try to include both positives and negatives about what they have said. Tell them what you like about their ideas or compliment their intentions. Then let them know what part of their response they should consider giving more thought or looking at again.
- Replies should be useful.
A good reply will give everyone following along more to think about. If it is critical, the critique will be specific, clear, and point toward possible improvements. Often, asking more questions is the best sort of reply. A good reply will encourage the poster to respond again. Hopefully, they will look forward to more interactions with you in the future.
- Attack arguments, but don't attack people.
Don't get personal in a discussion forum. At the worst, be generous and assume that it is the person's idea that you don't like, not the person. Ad hominem attacks (against the person) will lose friends and participation points for you. So will racist, sexist, ageist, and other bigoted comments. So will profanity and obscenity. Let's stay civil!
- If you encounter difficulties or the argument gets too hot, let your instructor know.
Your instructor will be checking the forum regularly, but may miss a critical posting. If someone posts something that upsets you, talk to your instructor about it. In some cases, he or she might help clear up misunderstandings, or if necessary, delete an offensive message from the discourse.