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Discussion Boards

Engaging in asynchronous conversations with peers

Overview

Teachers can encourage meaningful conversations between students during and outside of class by utilizing tools that allow students to engage with each other virtually. Discussion boards provide an opportunity for students to share ideas/opinions, demonstrate understanding of the material, and create a social presence in a virtual class environment. Discussion boards also promote equity by allowing all students’ voices to be heard and shared, especially for students who may be intimidated by sharing in a large group or may be unable to join a live class.

Approach

Teachers can incorporate discussion boards seamlessly into their class and have students engaging in academic dialogue asynchronously for deeper understanding of the material. Here are some ways that teachers can weave discussion boards into their courses:

  • Responding to class content: Students add their reactions, questions, and takeaways to a class discussion board after watching a pre-recorded lesson. Students must also respond to each other’s posts, which helps foster a sense of community.

  • Sharing knowledge: Students work in pairs to cover specific material and post their notes in a class discussion board. Other pairs review each post and can ask any clarifying questions.

  • Writing exercises: The teacher poses a writing prompt and students write their answer in a class discussion board. Because this task can be done asynchronously, students have the time to craft a well-written response and present evidence to back up their answer.

  • Addressing difficult material: Students can post anonymously (depending on the platform) to share their thoughts without the fear of judgment or peer pressure. Teachers still moderate the content to ensure appropriate responses.

Schools can use a variety of websites for discussion boards:

  • Learning management system (LMS): Many LMS platforms, such as Blackboard or Canvas, have an existing discussion board section that can easily be accessed by students enrolled in the course.

  • Integrated apps: Google Suite for Education offers Jamboard, a collaborative digital whiteboard, where students can share their thoughts and ideas on sticky notes.

  • Third-party platforms: Teachers can use free platforms such as Padlet or Kialo to set up discussion boards for their students.

  • In-house platforms: Some schools that have IT and financial resources can build their own secure in-house platform.