Communicate 2 – Discussions

Answer: What role or purpose do discussion forums serve in the online classroom and are they effective? How do discussion forums function as a teaching tool? How could they be used effectively and ineffectively? What are some best practices for facilitating forums online?

Discussion forums in the online classroom help to generate participation and involvement from every student including ones that were too shy to participate in a regular classroom. It can occur at multiple grades levels and within all content areas. It helps to develop a leadership mindset by encouraging thinking, practicing writing skills, and helping to develop democracy within the class. 

As a teaching tool, discussions can be a good indicator of how well a student is understanding material or concepts. It may be that another student can explain in a way that it is easier for the student to grasp.  It also gives students who need more processing time to gather their thoughts. It allows for collaboration and analysis of subjects while encouraging peer review and peaceful debates. 

Effective discussions are ones that matches to educational goals and encourages participation from everyone. Incorporating instances where students can relay their real-life examples are also beneficial.  Discussions become ineffective when directions are unclear, any hint of malice or violence is allowed, or when students disengage from the discussion. 

Some best practices for facilitating forums online are: 

  • Informing students ahead of time of discussion requirements and deadlines. 
  • Also, students need to know grading policies and expectations. For each discussion, make sure directions are clear. 
  • Be an active participant as the teacher. 
  • Provide an advanced schedule for the students. 
  • Address any issues that may arise immediately. 

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