Threaded discussions in online and blended courses can deepen learning and create meaningful dialogue and a real learning community. Setting the stage for threaded discussions is critical to success. Here are some suggestions from the Worldwide eLearning Instructional Design team.
1. State your expectations for threaded discussions in your syllabus. Here is some verbiage you may wish to include in your syllabus:
- Online Discussions – You will make weekly postings in a Blackboard discussion, critically reflecting on course topics,, assigned readings, course experiences, and your own academic/professional growth. Read the entries of all classmates and reply to the postings of at least two of them in a substantive way (more than “I agree,” etc.). The purpose is to encourage critical, reflective thinking and to generate dialogue with your peers. This dialogue is a very important component in your learning and is given significant weight in the overall course grade.
2. Give explicit instructions just before assigning the first discussion activity. Our Instructional Design team suggests that you include instructions such as these in the first module of your course, with your discussion assignment:
- How will our online discussions work?
We will be using the Blackboard Discussion board in this course for reflections and dialogue. I will place a prompt in the Discussion created for each module. I ask you to respond to the prompt for each module thoughtfully, with a paragraph or so. There are no right or wrong answers! After posting your response to each module's discussion, please read the postings of your fellow cohort members and reply to at least two of them.
- Where do you find the discussion board?
You can access the discussion from the Table of Contents for each learning module, or from “Discussions” on the red Course Tools menu. But please read the rest of these instructions before going to the Discussion board.
- Why should we invest time in doing this?
While you might think, at first, that this is a tedious requirement, it is actually one of the best ways to promote communication among cohort members, a proven key to successful and satisfying distance learning. I want you to feel connected to each other, and to learn from each other, so please reply to each others' postings in a substantive way (more than “Me, too” or “I agree”). This is your chance to share professional, collegial dialogue.
- Will the instructor be reading the postings?
Yes! I will be reading all postings, even though I might not post comments to all of them, every time. Your postings and replies will contribute toward your participation grade.
- What if we disagree with each other's opinions?
Just to set the tone, please remember that differing opinions are welcome in the discussions. I expect each of you to express your opinions honestly and professionally, and to honor the opinions of others, responding to them courteously even if you disagree. Learning how to conduct civil scholarly dialogue with colleagues, even when you disagree, is part of becoming a successful doctoral student. With an open mind, we often learn from listening to the perspectives of others.
- Your turn.
Please go to the Module 1 Discussion, "Discuss It," and post your response to the prompt that you find there. Read the posting of your fellow class members and reply to at least two of them. Your replies should be substantive, more than a quick "Me too" , "I agree" , "Ditto." Your replies should create a meaningful dialogue. Check back as often as you like to follow the conversation.
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