You may have heard other faculty comment, or may have thought yourself, that the Discussion Board would be nice to use, but it’s too difficult to grade and no real discussion occurs. It might not seem to be worth the trouble. The strategies below, however, can help you to incorporate effective and engaging discussions in Blackboard for your classroom, hybrid, or online class.
Crafting an engaging discussion prompt
To address one common complaint about discussion boards: students just agree with one another or keep repeating the same information, you’ll need to craft an engaging discussion question. While it’s tempting to use discussion questions from the textbook, try to look for other sources for your discussion questions. Is there a short YouTube video that addresses a relevant topic? Is there a guest speaker who could talk to your class?
Include open-ended questions. Are there multiple viewpoints on the topic?
Could students respond to your post by uploading a video, instead of writing a response? They can even use YuJa to do this.
If you’re concerned that the same responses will be repeated, consider putting your students into small groups so that the number of viewpoints is limited.
Another strategy is to require students to post before they can see any other student posts. They must craft an answer on their own prior to reading their peers' posts.
Do you teach in a discipline where problem solving is a major component? Consider posting a complex problem for students to solve together. Students first post their own answers and rationale, then work together to come to a consensus on the answer. They can post their answer as a group along with their process for solving the problem.
Efficient and Meaningful Grading
While you’ll want to be aware of what your students are writing in the Discussion Board, it isn’t necessary, or even desirable, to respond to every student post. Not only is this too time-consuming for you as the instructor, it can also squelch student engagement. Students may wait for you to respond instead of replying to one another. It is a good idea, however, to gently guide students who are getting too far off topic, or who are posting incorrect information.
One strategy to use when responding to students' posts is to write a summary announcement for each week, or each unit. You may already post a weekly announcement, and this can be included.
Rubrics can be used to help students when crafting their responses, and when you grade student work. Not only will your expectations be clear to students, but it will make the grading process more efficient for you.
Discussions for all types of courses: Classroom, hybrid, and online
While instructors may equate discussion boards with online classes, they can also be a valuable tool when used with classroom and hybrid classes.
In the flipped classroom model, students could participate in a discussion before class, so that they are ready to engage in an activity in class. The Discussion Board is also a place where discussion can continue after class.
The Discussion Board is ideal for use in hybrid courses. When there is limited time in the classroom to engage in discussion, moving discussion online can leave time to utilize additional learning strategies in the classroom.
The Discussion Board can help to build community among students in the sometimes-isolating environment of an online course. Students get to discuss and debate with one another, even though they may never meet face-to-face.