How do you engage with your online students? How do your students engage with one another? Online discussions afford many opportunities for student engagement and rich learning outcomes. However, creating and managing effective online discussions can be one of the most vexing of design challenges. Is an online discussion really a discussion at all? How? what are the many, many ways of “discussing” online? In this week, we’ll consider the art and science of online discussions, the variables that make or break them, and all (or at least some) of the various forms and shapes they can take.

Read + Discuss

Check out and participate in the discussion on our #readinggroup channel in Slack.

Here are some questions that might challenge you (culled or inferred from the readings):

  • Are lengthy discussion posts (deep, broad, complex) really “discussion”? What do we/you mean when we say discussion? Does the value lie in length and complexity or is the value in the exchange?
  • “Discussion forum” is often the easiest answer to the question “how can I get students to engage with one another?” but has it become a default interaction that most faculty don’t consider deeply? Are there other ways students can engage with one another that might be more pedagogically sound?
  • How much time will students spend writing, reading, and responding to discussion posts? How much time do you have to read and respond to their posts each week?

Join the discussion anytime. If you’re interested in a faster-paced conversation, join the live chat on Tuesday at 1PM in the #live-chat channel in Slack.

Supplementary reading if you want to sink your teeth into some research:  A. Darabi et al Cognitive presence in asynchronous online learning: a comparison of four discussion strategies

Check out this week’s case study and share your thoughts on our #case-study channel in Slack.

Build Something:

Choose from the options below, build inside your course platform, then post a link to the build in our #build Slack channel. If you need to, consider reframing the concept of “discussion” as well as the outcomes you expect from the student-student and student-you interactions.

Experiment with a discussion platform other than Blackboard, WordPress, and Slack (your choice — see readings above for some options or get in touch to ask for ideas). What’s possible there? What’s not? What practices would you pair with the tool to foster interaction? Create a sample discussion assignment that capitalizes on what this tool can do.

Write out at least two possible workflows for a discussion board. Can students see other posts before their own? Do you require responses? What is and what is not required? How quick are deadlines? Post discussion board rules/guidelines in your course site.


  1. Create your build on your chosen platform (LMS or other) and then share a link to our #builds channel in Slack to get feedback.
  2. Use this form to self-report your progress this week.