Facilitating Online Discussions

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How to facilitate an online discussion

In Muilenburg and Berge’s article A Framework for Designing Questions for Online Learning, they present advice on how to start and maintain a robust online discussion (Muilenburg & Berge, 2006).  Download Article

The rationale for using online discussions

Constructing a good question

Questions to promote deeper learning

Uses for online discussion

Online discussions can be used as single-serving activities, as ongoing activities throughout the course, and everything in between. They can prepare students for a new topic before they come to class. Just as easily, they allow you to continue a classroom discussion after a class period ends. If you do teach a face-to-face class then be sure to refer to each virtual discussion to make sure students see the value and participation and connections between the two. There are dozens of reasons to conduct online discussions. You can use them to:


Use a discussion forum to allow students to reply to your prompt and each other. If you want a more interactive discussion, consider a critical thinking activity such as a case study or debate. Ask students to support their original posts with outside sources. Then, ask students to reply to two or more students. Make sure students support their replies as well. Let them know that answers like, “good job”, a smiley face are not acceptable. Model what a good peer reply should look like. We looked at the when and why of virtual discussions.


To maintain student participation over time:

lynda faciliate online discussions

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