Responding to your classmates in the discussion forum is an essential part of online courses. In the discussion forum, students have the chance to interact with one another and share their individual points of view. Although responding to your classmates’ posts may seem like a simple task, many students have a difficult time writing thoughtful responses which promote discussion and student interaction. If you find yourself writing responses such as “Nice work! I agree with everything you said!” use the tips below to improve the quality of your responses and promote meaningful conversation:
• Ask open-ended questions to promote discussion. Open-ended questions require individuals to write more than a simple one- or two-word answer. Open-ended questions require the use of critical thinking skills and allow individuals to reflect on their thoughts and feelings about a particular topic.
• Don’t be afraid to disagree. It is okay to disagree with what someone has to say or play the "devil’s advocate." However, when you choose to disagree, remember to do so respectfully. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and it is okay for you to offer your own interpretation.
• Give reasons for your opinion. It is important to provide reasons for your thoughts and feelings about the topic. You may even choose to make a personal connection or share a personal experience with your classmates. Applying class information to real-world situations is a great way to demonstrate that you truly understand what you are learning.
• Think outside the box. Online discussions can get boring when everyone’s posts begin to sound the same. Don’t be afraid to propose a new idea or ask a probing question to generate conversation.
• Include outside resources. It is often helpful to include outside resources in your responses. Share an article or a website that is relevant to the topic of discussion. Introducing new, relevant ideas from resources, other than the provided class materials, can help take learning to the next level.
Remember, the online discussion forum is a place for you, your classmates, and your instructor to exchange information. Be open minded to others ideas, but feel free to express your own opinion as well. Following these tips can help you and your classmates engage in more meaningful online conversations. And as always, be sure to post your responses on time.