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Top Ten Tips for Using Learn Discussion Boards

Ideas for using the discussion board tool in Learn

To engage students in discussion and to further build a sense of community online, careful consideration should be given to how the discussion boards on Learn are configured. There is a balance to be had here between structure (carefully defining each and every forum and thread) and autonomy (if all the students can create new threads, this becomes quickly very disorienting for students and teachers; if threads become too long, students will disengage).

The Learn discussion board allows for threaded discussions to take place in a course. The board is split up into Forums, which may be used to separate discussions on different topics. Within each forum users may post threads which are the conversations themselves. 

Tip 1

Consider your cohort size. If it a smaller group (~30 or less), open discussion forums might be fine. If it is a large cohort, consider creating private groups of ~30.

Tip 2

Be clear about what discussion board etiquette looks like. Consider the following:

  • Be concise.
  • Advance the conversation.
  • Respond to your fellow classmates with points raised in their posts.
  • Draw on the course concepts in your posts. Reference them if you do.
  • Be considerate, respectful, and encouraging. You are only as good as your fellow students. They have ideas and insights that will make us better. Support them as you want to be supported.
  • If you have questions or items you want to discuss outside this structure, email your tutor or post to the Support forum.
  • Remember, these discussion boards are university spaces. Consider your language when you post.

Tip 3

Consider starting new threads for each question you are asking within a forum. It will help students navigate and respond more readily. Unpack your questions. If at all possible, link directly to the resource you want them to discuss.

Tip 4

As a tutor, try to summarise a series of posts rather than respond to each and every one. Let the conversation develop its own momentum before wading in.

Tip 5

Try to refer to people by name when summarising. It goes a long way to acknowledging their contribution.

Tip 6

Encourage the use of media in posts. Learn supports this. It can potentially make a thread more engaging. Consider a thread that is a video or audio recording of you asking the question.

Tip 7

When a discussion is complete or when you are moving onto the next set of activities, consider a post from the tutor thanking everyone for their participation and directing them towards the next discussion. This signals to the students it is time to move on.

Tip 8

Use the Subscribe function to receive email alerts when new posts are created.

Tip 9

Forums can be searched by key word and date posted.To narrow your search results, you can use the filter and sort functions.

Tip 10

You can use the Collect function on the forum page to gather all the posts made to different threads. After you collect posts, you can filter, sort, and print them.