Online discussion forums were a popular topic at the inaugural eLearning Conference this past April, most likely because they are a tool you can use whether you’re teaching face-to-face, hybrid, or online courses, as long as you’re utilizing Sakai or eCollege.
Why are online discussions beneficial?
- Online discussions are an opportunity for students to participate in class in a non-threatening environment, where they can consider and revise their responses before posting.
- They allow all students to participate, instead of only a consistent handful of students who are willing to raise their hands in class.
Many Rutgers-Camden faculty members have shared their successes with online discussions. However, it’s important to conduct online discussions correctly in order to experience these successes. According to a study conducted in 2010 by Beckett, Amaro‐Jiménez, and Beckett found that:
- Students were disappointed when there was little or no participation by instructors in discussion boards.
- Students felt frustrated when grading expectations were unclear.
Grading online discussions
Faculty experiences have shown that online discussions are most productive when required as part of the course grade and graded with clear expectations. Grading can be done using discussion rubrics. Rubrics help clarify the expected quality of student work by describing what a contribution should contain. Rubrics can contain criteria such as number of postings, quality and/or originality of content, and even references to course lectures or readings.
Examples of discussion rubrics:
- Basic discussion board rubric
- Detailed discussion board rubric
- Another discussion board rubric example