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Discussion boards are a common feature of many online courses. They are often the backbone of online classes, letting you communicate with your peers and teachers when it’s most convenient for you. As such, it’s important for you to deliver your best effort with each post. The following tips can help you improve your posts to online discussion boards.
- Uncover the purpose. Consider why your teacher chose to discuss this particular topic. For example, don’t post facts and figures if the purpose of the discussion is to post your personal reflections on the topic. Be sure that your postings meet the requirements.
- Be prepared. If the discussion board contains questions that are meant to evaluate how well you understand your other readings or assignments, complete those activities first. Your teacher will know if you haven’t completed your assignment because your answers may be vague or run counter to your readings.
- Eliminate errors. The writing in posts may not be judged as critically as a formal paper, but your teacher will expect your messages to be free mistakes such as spelling or grammatical errors. Determine if your discussion board has spell checking features. If not, consider typing your message in a word processing program first, and scan for errors in spelling or grammar before posting.
- Know the score. Find out how your participation in the discussion board will be evaluated. You may be given points based on the quantity of your postings, or the teacher will judge the quality of your comments. Carefully read any criteria that your teacher has shared and ask for feedback on how you are doing if you have concerns that you are not meeting the standards.
- Avoid overexposure. You may be tempted to share aspects of your personal life through the discussion board. This can be a good strategy when communicating your opinions and experiences as they relate to the topic. However, the sense of anonymity that comes from posting to a faceless crowd can sometimes lead to making comments that are may be too personal. You may want to consider typing your comments offline, allowing time to pass, and editing them before submitting.
- Back it up. Your teacher may require or reward you for posting comments that contain references from respected sources that back up your statements. Give proper citations that enable peers and teachers to locate your references.
- Make a date. Select times each week when you will commit to participating in discussion forums and reserve those times on your calendar. This is particularly important if you are engaged in several discussions and you have deadlines for making posts. Don’t lose track of them.
- Avoid piling on. Many teachers look at the quantity and quality of postings when determining your grade. If you simply type, “Me, too!” in response to someone else’s message, your teacher may give you a lower grade than if you presented a new idea, or offered a counter argument. Your posts should add value to the discussion, not just echo it.
- Keep on topic. Most discussions have a theme or “thread.” Follow the thread to keep your comments relevant to those previously posted. If you are allowed to do so, start your own thread to explore related areas of interest.
- Model your peers. Look to your peers and teachers as role models for ways to interact successfully in online situations. Consider how they use words to get their points across, but still maintain respect for others. Peer modeling can be instructive.
- Find the features. Your discussion board may offer special features that can aid you when posting. For example, you may be able to find all of the messages that you haven’t read yet. Or, you may be able to see where others have replied to your posts. Become familiar with these aids to help you manage your communication.
Posting to discussion boards is one way in which you can express what you know and share how you feel. Try out two or three of these tips at first, and add more as you become an experienced poster.
By Julie McAfooes
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