Engage Students and Increase Participation with Meaningful Discussion Boards

Back in classrooms does not mean we have to leave behind the opportunities to create meaningful asynchronous class discussion in Notebowl. This summer, ETS hosted a workshop titled “Engage Students with Meaningful Discussion Boards.” Since only a small number of faculty attended, the workshop turned into a rich discussion on how we use discussion boards with classes, and how we can get students to participate more on them. Below are some of the points raised in the presentation, as well as some of the ways we discussed leveraging Notebowl.

Getting Started with Discussion Boards

Notebowl has three types of discussion boards: class, group, and individual. If you are not familiar with how those work in Notebowl, I highly recommend checking out some of the videos ETS has made on discussion board in Notebowl before attempting to use them.

Framing Discussion Boards

  1. Build the discussion into course content and assignments
    • Show students why the discussion is important to the overall course.
    • Add links in the discussion board prompt that direct students to course readings.
    • You can link to discussion boards from a course schedule created in Google Docs. This is especially helpful if you use a module based approach.
  2. Provide VERY specific directions 
    • Be direct and specific with your prompt.
    • Include specific questions instead of a general statement.
    • Give set due dates for posting the initial post and the comments on others’ posts.
    • Consider doing this in Notebowl to help with due date expectations:
      • Set your due date in Notebowl as the due date for the initial post.
      • Use the option to “allow late” so that students can still be permitted to comment on each other after the first due date.
      • After the initial post is due, edit the initial due date to show the due date for comments.
  3. Encourage or require students to use media in their posts
    • Add visual appeal to the posts by incorporating different media like images, videos, audio, etc.
    • Using their phones, have students record a video, audio clip, or take a photo of something.
    • They can do Google searches to find stock images to add extra to the post.
    • Warning: make sure the media adds to the point of the discussion or students may not see the point.
  4. Incorporate other tasks within the discussion post
    • You can assign students tasks outside of Notebowl and then have them come back and give feedback in a discussion. This will help connect different activities with each other in the class.
    • Below are some options for interactive tools* that can be part of a discussion board activity.
  5. Increase comment quality using the 3Cs & Q Method
    • Have students try to use this method in their responses to each other focusing on ā€œIā€ statements.
    • 3Cs & Q
      • Compliment: Provide positive feedback on the initial posting.
      • Comment: State your opinion or your thoughts on the posting.
      • Connect: Make a connection between something you have learned/experienced/observed and the post.
      • Question: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
  6. Join in the discussion board posts
    • Participate in all discussions. This way students know that you are reading them and they need to participate as well.
    • Model the way you want students to post and comment on each other.
  7. Assign peer moderators to lead discussions
    • Assign students to lead discussion boards throughout the semester.
    • After modeling the way you want students to post, tell them they need to moderate each other in discussion and grade them on moderating.
    • You can even divide the discussion board into groups in Notebowl to have them split up to moderate the discussions.
  8. Leverage discussion boards for peer review
    • Group students into peer review groups using group discussion boards.
    • Have students share drafts of papers in the posts and have them peer review with one another.
    • Use Google Docs to make collaboration easier for students.

*Over the next few weeks, ETS will be adding more examples and demos of how to use some of the interactive resources mentioned above. Stay tuned.

Have an idea for a discussion board, but not sure how to frame it in Notebowl? Reach out to ETS at ets@denison.edu or contact your instructional technologist. We will be happy to discuss ways to setup discussion boards that will work best for your class objectives.

Welcome back and have a wonderful fall 2021 semester!

And here is a funny meme from the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.