Whether you are a seasoned online student or are taking your very first online class, online discussion posts (also known as the discussion board) is central to your online learning experience.
A discussion board is not just a place where you are checking off a course requirement. It is a place where you can get to know your fellow classmates as well as your professor. It is also your opportunity to share information with others and most importantly, to get help. So, you need to create stellar postings if you really want to make an impression or ace the course.
How to write discussion posts in 7 easy steps:
- Understand the purpose of the discussion posting
- Prepare yourself
- Read the posting directions carefully
- Think about your point
- Gather supporting facts
- Write your response
- Post on time
Step 1: Understand the purpose of discussion posts
In the classroom, students and professors hold discussions about the subject matter. Discussion posts duplicate this interaction when you are online. In the virtual classroom, you use the keyboard instead of your voice.
So when posting, remember to keep your tone and language conversational. It is also generally a good idea to respond to other people's postings and really do your part to facilitate a real conversation.
Step 2: Prepare yourself
Before writing a single word, make sure you have prepared yourself by doing any course work required — reading, assignments, research, etc. No one wants to read a post that rambles on and doesn't have a point
Step 3: Read the discussion posting directions carefully
What is it you are being asked to comment on? Make sure you know what you are supposed to write about. Sometimes it is a personal response, sometimes it is a chance to absorb the material by restating the ideas presented in the reading, and sometimes the discussion board is a combination of ideas.
It is also a good idea to read all the related discussion questions and points you are being asked to comment on before you start the reading and other assignments. That way the topic will be on your mind when you are studying.
Step 4: Think about your point
What is it you want to say to your fellow classmates and your professor? Try to limit yourself to the topic and make sure your point is relevant. An "A+" posting will make that connection between the theories and ideas and real life.
(Hint: You can always e-mail your professor for clarification if you don't understand something, just do it early enough to get the post in on time.)
Step 5: Gather supporting facts and points of view
Any strong point must also have backup documentation. That backup can come in many forms including the course material, the news, research studies or even your own personal experiences. Including these points in your posts will also demonstrate your knowledge and understanding in the topic. It is a good idea to have these points jotted off to the side and handy so when you write the posts you are not breaking your train of thought.
For any reference that you do make in your post, be sure to cite it properly. Even if it is a discussion posting, not giving others credit for their work is plagiarism. Your citation doesn't have to be formal, just make sure others can find the information from the citation; give the title, author, and date. You can check out BibMe.org or OttoBib.com to help automate your formal citations.
References also helps forum members better answer your questions, as they can clearly see where your coming from.
Step 6: Write out your response
- When writing the actual post, but be sure to use& the tools in your course management system to write your response. Use bullets and paragraphs to format the text, if available use the preview tool and especially make use of the spell checker.
If you don't have those tools or are uncomfortable using them, use your favorite word processing software or text editor, like Microsoft Word, and then copy and paste (<Ctrl-C> and <Ctrl-V>) your posting to the discussion board.
Follow the rules of discussion postings. If you are supposed to write a response to the question and respond to other postings, make sure you do that and do it well. To select the best posting to respond to, think about the classroom environment — if somebody said that in class, would you respond? If so, go for it. If not, move to the next posting.
Most courses have rules for discussions in the syllabus or course introduction; make sure to read these before writing that first post.
Give meaning to your posts. Don't ever write only "I agree" or "Good thought" or any other short response to another posting. Be sure to include details. For example: "I agree with Brian" is much different than "I agree with Brian. I had a similar experience where Theory XYZ came into play…" and the second one will get you a much better grade than the first.
Remember that it's OK to disagree with a classmate's posting. But be polite if you disagree and make sure you explain why.
Express some of your self in your discussion posts. Sometimes a quick story makes a better point than a long ramble about the theory. Applying the class information to real life is what discussions are usually about. Sure, you took the quiz and know the information, but can you make the connections between real life and the information?
Step 7: Post on time
Nothing is worse for a professor than reading through a lively set of discussion posts and finding the late ones at the bottom. It's like coming up to the professor after class to contribute your information. Remember, the early bird gets the worm (both on and offline)!
If you are asked to post to a question and then respond to others do the first posting early and the responses towards the end of the time allotted for the assignment. You will be noticed if you start a good discussion.