Discussion forums are an exciting part of online college degrees. This area is the foundation for two-way communication with your instructors and classmates. The discussion forum is the heart of the online course as it serves as a platform for learning and engaging.
As an online learner, you hope that your post will draw other students’ attention to validate your opinions, add insight, and build a stronger learning experience. Classmate feedback can be priceless to your learning process as an online student. After you make such an investment, it can be discouraging to see that nobody responded to your discussion post.
There are a few things online students can do to make your discussion posts stand out to your peers and to your instructors in order to get more responses and help increase your grades. This article will highlight some great tips for creating the perfect discussion post for your online college courses.
- Make sure that your posts facilitate comments. Sometimes in a discussion forum the questions can be worded so that everyone’s responses are similar. In this case, you will want to go the extra mile by adding a question at the end of your post so you are facilitating a question and answer-type conversation among your classmates and instructor.
- Beyond answering just the questions, incorporate your experiences with a related subject matter. People love to read stories, because it helps them feel an emotional connection to the content.
- Current events are an effective way to get people involved in discussion forums. Local or national news stories may tie in perfectly content discussed in your online classroom’s forum. For example, an article about mortgage fraud might be beneficial in a discussion forum about ethical decision making.
- Don’t be afraid to intertwine the course content learned in different courses to supplement your discussion forums. Learning is funny: even though we might just think that all courses are taught in isolation, they all really combine as pieces of a larger puzzle.
- Ask a thought-provoking question or taking a controversial stand. After you learn the material, you can step back and look how you can apply it in a difficult situation where your original answer might seem counter-intuitive. Don’t be afraid to ask the “Yeah, but what if…” questions.
- If you say the same thing everyone else says, you can expect the same results. Add something different, something of value, and look at the changes to your response rate.
- If your post is easy to read, it is likely that more people will read and respond. In such case, if everyone is using single spacing, use single spacing. If everyone is formatting the text to the left, format it to the left. If everyone uses size 3, use size 3. If everyone is using a specific font and color, use the specific font and color. You want to avoid any distracting colors, fonts, or awkward spacing, or other odd formatting. Take a look at your posts, to see how similar they are to your classmates’ posts. If they are quite different, then change them.
- Avoid spelling or grammatical errors. You lose credibility and your instructors and fellow students may discount the quality of your posts if your posts are riddled with errors. Don’t let the reader try to interpret what you are saying: say it clear and precise.
- If you want to maximize the amount of responses, respond to several peers each week. First, identify a group of peers whose opinions you value (by judging the quality of their posts and responses to other classmates) and make sure to respond to at least one of the members of that group each week.
- Try to respond to every one of your classmates throughout the course. When you show that you value your classmates’ contributions, they will value yours. Remember the saying; the best way to make a friend is to be one. Well, the best way to be responded to in the discussion forum is by providing good responses to your classmates.
- Craft a catchy title. When you are standing in line at the grocery story you are often drawn to read the headlines for all of the magazines, periodicals, and tabloids by the catchy titles and headlines on the cover. If something is on a topic that interests you, you are more likely to pick up the magazine and read it. If there is a story or a question/dilemma you bring up, how can you advertise that in your subject. Can you use exciting or emotionally charged words to pique your audience’s interest? What about the using of creative language tools such as alliteration?
There are many strategies that you can employ to make your online discussion posts stand out to gain attention from your classmates and instructors. It’s as easy as increasing the quality of your content, change formatting, post early, and marketing yourself through a catchy title.
About the Author: Jared Eutsler CPA,CMA,CFE,CFM, is a full-time faculty member of the School of Business at Rasmussen College, where he teaches accounting degree courses. Jared has a range of work experience that includes running the operations and accounting for real estate companies, working as an Auditor for Ernst & Young, and operating his own CPA firm. Jared has a Master’s degree in Accounting and Information Systems from Arizona State University and a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Grand Canyon University.