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  Discussion Boards

What is a discussion board?

A discussion board is a group communication tool used to share messages. A message can be a question or response, a comment, or an announcement accessible to members of the group. A message that opens a discussion is called a topic. A series of messages in response to an initial message or topic is called a thread. A discussion board can be further organized by categories or forums, offering an efficient way to create discussions that support a major topic or a particular type of discussion.

Most discussion boards support messages containing images or media files. A threaded discussion board organizes messages by threads.

What are the benefits of using a discussion board?

The primary benefit of a discussion board is the flexibility of accessing the discussion at any time. This type of communication is called asynchronous (not real time) communication. You can choose to reply at once, or you can go away and think about a response before coming back to reply; or as in a real discussion, you can simply listen without contributing. The archived discussion can be used to review interesting segments or to return when further contributions have been made.

While discussion boards might be considered "impersonal," they provide a more level playing field for shy and foreign students permitting them to contribute to class discussions.

Why use a discussion board for my class?

CourseWorks discussion board

 CourseWorks offers a discussion board for your course.

Discussions boards enhance classes in a variety of ways:

  • You can provide preparatory materials for classroom work, thereby optimizing class time.
  • They extend time for discussion beyond scheduled class time to allow for reflection and further comment.
  • Students can engage in critical debates, requiring a deeper level of participation than simply listening to a lecture.
  • They provide an outlet for all students to pose questions and receive feedback, not just from the instructor, but also from other participants.
  • They allow students to share information or references with each other.
  • They represent an archive of discussions useful for later review.

What is my role as the instructor when using a discussion board?

Establish rules for the discussion board and make students aware of your expectations. For example:

  • State the purpose of the discussion board.
  • Define the level of participation required by students and its effect on grading.
  • Use the syllabus to provide information on discussion board use.
  • Declare limits on length of postings.
  • Declare the level of participation students should expect from you. By defining different categories or forums, your level of participation can vary depending on the type of forum.

What are the types of discussion boards to consider my class?

A discussion board can be used in many ways. Using the category or forum feature allows the instructor to create different kinds of uses within a course discussion board. Here are some examples:

  • A Noticeboard: a place for class announcements
  • FAQ (frequently asked questions): answers to the questions that students repeatedly ask about your course, your research or department
  • General queries: a forum for general queries about the course.
  • Course discussion: a forum for topics seeded, moderated or monitored by the instructor


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