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Discussion boards are often used to enrich the online learning environment and help create a community of learners. Responding to fellow classmates enlivens the discussion and enhances learning. Responses on the discussion board should be meaningful and advance the discussion of the issues and ideas at hand. While it is great to be supportive of your peers saying, "I agree," alone, it does nothing to further the conversation and is not sufficient. When drafting acceptable responses to peers, refer to the following tips:

  • Validate the post by sharing relevant research or specific real-life application to support important points. Do not hesitate to draw on professional experience or prior coursework.
  • Seek out opinions that you do not necessarily agree with. You will not always agree with your peer's conclusions, and that is ok. Some of the best discussions are born out of disagreement when conclusions are challenged objectively and respectfully.
  • Speaking of disagreeing, disagree while agreeing. Try continuing dialogue by drawing on outside opinions that you may not agree with. Provide counter points by citing reputable sources that conflict with your views.
  • Ask "what-if" or "why." Introduce another perspective by asking what-if questions or ask peers to expand the discussion by asking why.
  • Relate information to prior coursework or life experiences that can build on classmate's posts and sustain further discussion.
  • Sandwich criticism. Wrap negative critiques with positive comments. This ensures that your criticism is constructive.
  • When in agreement with peers, expand on the post in a way that furthers the discussion. Inject the discussion with points that others may not of thought of.
  • Reply to questions that others raise or pose probing questions that ask for clarification or explanation of points made.
  • Share insights that you gained through reading the posts of others. Explain how a classmate's post helped you understand a concept, come away with new perception, or made you rethink your own view.
  • Tie ideas together. Discuss how separate posts by others relate or tie concepts together.


Online Discussion Do's and Don'ts

Do - Actively participate in the discussions and reply to classmates to keep the conversation going. Don't - Simply reply saying "I agree" or "nice post." This doesn't stimulate discussion.

Do - Use proper grammar, capitalization, and spelling. Don't - Use text speak or text messaging language.

Do - Treat others with courtesy and respect. Don't - Make comments or remarks that are insensitive to peers' gender, cultural and linguist background, sexual orientation, political, or religious beliefs.

Do - Practice good netiquette. Don't - Use all caps. It is considered shouting and may be seen as impolite.

Do - Begin replies with a salutation. Ex: Hello, First Name. Don't - Use profanity.

Do - Include a detailed subject line that draws interest to your post. Don't - Stray off topic or respond with an unrelated comment.

Do - Re-Read, think, and edit your message before you click submit/post. Don't - Hesitate to ask clarifying questions.

Do - Cite information from credible sources to back up your points and support your stance on a subject. Don't - Cite findings from unreliable sources.

Do - Acknowledge classmate's point of view whether you agree or not. Don't - Forget to find positive aspects of classmate's posts before jumping into a critique.

Do - Disagree objectively and respectfully. Provide substantive evidence to support your position. Don't - Make personal attacks on a classmate's posting.

Do - Have fun and learn from the classroom community.