Unlike a traditional classroom setting, where you have regular face-to-face interactions with your instructors and classmates, in an online classroom, interactions happen via discussion board assignments wherein students are required to write discussion posts to put forth their thoughts and ideas.
Discussion posts are how instructors and students interact in an online class. Think of it as a classroom discussion - the only difference here is that instead of voicing their opinions, students are made to write them.
Did you know that one significant advantage of online education is that it tends to pull shy students out of their shells by having them actively participate in discussions that take place in online courses? This is what makes discussion posts an integral component of online classes.
With the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, many schools and colleges are taking online classes. If you’re in the same boat, you ought to know how to write discussion posts while adding value and staying professional.
In this article, you’ll learn how to write a strong discussion post and respond to your classmates’ posts on the board.
How to Write a Strong Discussion Post
Because discussion posts are written, you need to ensure everything you post is professional, well-thought-of, and meaningful because your grades depend on it.
Wondering how to craft the perfect discussion post? Here are six valuable tips to help you stand out in your online course.
Understand the prompt
Preparation is key. Before starting your research, you must read the discussion post prompts and guidelines carefully. Refer to libraries, course material, eBooks, and other online sources to be well-versed in the topic so you can take a stand and present a strong argument.
It’s essential to keep a tab on all the relevant external sources to your response, as you will be expected to integrate them into your answer. The more research you do, your post and subsequent responses will be meatier.
Refer to the scoring rubric
Every discussion board ought to have a scoring rubric. While most instructors share it with the students beforehand, you can always ask for it if you haven’t received it.
Once you get your hands on the rubric, the trick is to work backward. Read the scoring rubric thoroughly and understand how you will be evaluated. Pay special attention to what the prerequisites for scoring the highest grades are - that is what your post needs to reflect.
From critical analysis and writing quality to class participation and etiquette - the online discussion scoring rubric covers all these aspects.
So, before submitting, ensure your discussion post has all the elements to score well.
Present evidence and examples
The same holds for writing discussion posts, just like you’re told to back up your claims while writing essays.
Every claim you make needs to be backed by solid evidence and examples. Using evidence in your arguments strengthens them and lets you put forth your point more effectively.
The different types of evidence you can incorporate are statistical, anecdotal, documentary, or even results after conducting your research or survey.
Make sure you use quotations while stating evidence or cite the sources accurately. You can also choose to paraphrase a section of a text and put it across in your own words.
Here’s a video by Greta Kishbaugh on how you can add value to your discussion posts
Draft the answer before posting
Many students make the mistake of immediately writing the actual post on the portal and hitting ‘send.’ Call it confidence or laziness – either way, this approach is not advisable.
It’s a good idea to draft the discussion post on a text editor tool before you choose to send it. This gives you time to assess the writing flow, make corrections, and ensure you have covered all the key points. Pay close attention to your tone of voice and language.
Even though discussion posts seem like participating in online forums, they are, after all, an academic form of writing and need you to be professional.
Express yourself clearly
You might think writing pages for a discussion post will get you noticed, but that is not true. Regardless of the length of your post, what matters most is its quality and the insight you provide.
You rarely get a second chance to explain yourself in online classes. Hence, expressing yourself with the utmost clarity in the first instance is essential. How do you do that?
Start with organizing your list of ideas before drafting. Use simple language with accuracy and stick to only answering the question. Make sure you avoid repeating yourself and going around in circles.
Every discussion is time-bound. You don’t want to be one of the last to respond, have nothing unique to offer, and get hidden under all the other posts – all of this can have a negative impact on your grades.
Hence, as soon as you are asked to send a discussion post, ensure you get working and aim to be one of the first few to send in the post. Once you have posted your response, you can focus on responding to others and building on their arguments.
As per Brian Redmond, a senior lecturer within the psychology department at Penn State, participating at the deadline does not make for a thoughtful and informative discussion which completely beats the purpose of discussion forums in online courses.
How to Respond to Discussion Posts
A huge aspect of being part of online classes is responding to your classmates’ discussion posts. How you reply will impact your grades and the impression you want to make.
Remember - it’s a discussion. Students are not expected to make their individual points and sit back. You’re expected to fuel the discussion, find new angles and take it forward in a productive way.
Here are four tips to keep in mind while responding to discussion posts.
Just as you are expected to be polite in any public forum, the same is expected of you in an online classroom.
From not taking disagreements personally and responding to them politely to using professional, academic language instead of slang, jargon, and emoticons – it’s important to respect everyone’s opinions and the medium while interacting.
Before writing anything controversial, think whether you would say the same in real life – if not, it’s best to keep it out of your discussion post. You must be sensitive to people’s gender, culture, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs.
Another simple yet critical point to remember is to ensure you do not use ALL-CAPS because that comes across as rude and appears as though you’re screaming.
Yes, that’s exactly what you should not do.
Make it Meaningful
Firstly, making statements like “I completely agree with you!” or “Good post” is an absolute no-no. This is not a mutual praising society. Instructors want to know your unique point of view here, and you need to be able to put forth a strong argument with substantial evidence to back it up.
Even if a classmate has posted something you resonate with, you can begin by saying that you agree with them and then go on to add your unique perspective or relate it to your life experience by sharing an anecdote. You cannot be a yes-man or silent spectator; you must think of ways to build on that conversation.
Speaking of evidence, given the medium, feel free to attach a video, audio clip, or link that supports your argument.
Write in Context
While elaborating on your agreement or disagreement, keep it contextual and make correlations to your syllabus and what you’ve learned in the course. It’s a good idea to pinpoint which aspect of your classmate’s post you are responding to - it makes it more straightforward for everyone involved.
Many students have a habit of straying and writing lengthy posts that add no value. This diverts attention and makes for an unnecessary read. You don’t want to be that student.
So, while drafting a response, write it in context and make it relevant to the prompt and discussion area. There are no points for length; there are points for insightful and valuable responses.
It’s always a good idea to end your response with a probing, open-ended question that takes the discussion forward. You can ask a thoughtful question to understand the logic behind someone’s explanation or a follow-up question to have a classmate elaborate on their response.
Asking questions shows you’re genuinely invested in the discussion and interested in taking it forward. That being said, your questions need to encourage people to think and add value.
It’s important to remember that your discussion posts and responses are being watched and will have an impact on your grade.
So, whether it’s doing qualitative research, drafting a well-structured post, or maintaining decorum, you must put out accurately crafted, original, insightful posts to make a positive impression and stand out.
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Last edit at Jul 27 2023