Active Learning Strategies for the Discussion Board

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      Beth Nettles
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      The discussion board is standard fare in online learning. It is used to facilitate debates, collaboration, and discussions about course content, generally in an asynchronous format. The instructor provides a prompt, then students are expected to thoughtfully respond to the prompt and, frequently, to other students’ replies. Unfortunately, too often the discussion board becomes a boring activity students have to endure and the instructor has to laboriously grade.

      Riggs and Linder, in their article “Actively Engaging Students in Asynchronous Online Classes”, insist “a well-designed and well-facilitated discussion board can be a rich space for active learning.” Active learning methods ask students to fully participate in their learning by thinking, discussing, investigating, and creating. Here are a few suggestions from the article for enhancing your discussion board exercises.

      1. Treat the discussion board as a presentation space. Have students prepare a brief video presentation using the tool provided in the LMS or use external tools such as VoiceThread or FlipGrid.
      2. Use the discussion board as a resource library. Instruct students to research, look up information, find a source for the current topic being discussed and provide a link to the source document, website, or video. Have the students post why the selected resource is relevant to the topic at hand.
      3. Create an image gallery in the discussion board. Ask students to submit images, photos, or memes along with an explanation regarding the relationship of the creative work to topic of study. Alternatively, create a reflection assignment by posting a provocative image and ask students to document emotional reactions and analyze how those emotions shape their beliefs.
      4. Make the discussion board a group workspace. Divide students into small groups and use the discussion board as a break out area where they can collaborative solve a problem, create a data set, or debug some code.

      The examples above provide alternatives to the standard text-based posts of discussion boards. With a little thought and creativity, you can create an environment where active and engaging learning can occur. What active learning strategy do you employ with your discussion board?

      Riggs, S. A., Linder, K. E., & IDEA Center. (2016). Actively Engaging Students in Asynchronous Online Classes. IDEA Paper #64. In IDEA Center, Inc. IDEA Center, Inc.

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