Writing Discussion Board Posts

Online discussion boards provide an avenue for you to continue engaging in scholarly discourse outside of the physical classroom space. Discussion questions are designed to probe further into some aspect of the weekly course content. An advantage of online discussion boards is that you can carefully craft responses to the questions your professors pose without feeling rushed. Your professor may require you to post initial responses to their questions, responses to your classmates’ answers, or both. 

Tips for Success

  • Read the professor’s discussion questions/prompts at least twice over to make sure you thoroughly understand what’s being asked 
  • Refer to your course syllabus and rubrics that may provide insight into what your professor expects and what you will be graded on 
  • If something is unclear, email your professor right away!
  • If applicable, providing sources for the points you make in your discussion responses can generate a better discussion. These sources could include excerpts or citations from your textbooks, or from outside scholarly sources – but only if your professor asks for them 
  • If your professor does want you to include citations in your post, follow the required citation format 
  • Even if you don’t use direct quotes or citations, it’s important to back up your opinions with information provided from class lectures and class materials. Integrate what you’ve learned from assigned readings into your posts 
  • Don’t procrastinate! Respond promptly so that your classmates have time to engage with your posts 
  • Use language appropriate for your academic setting. No text speech
  • Thoroughly proofread your post for typos, grammar errors, and clarity. You want to make your point as clear and easy to understand as possible
  • Offer personal observations that are insightful and appropriate
  • Avoid simply repeating things that have already been said 
  • When responding to classmates, make sure you are providing constructive, thoughtful criticism. Give the kind of substantive feedback you would like to receive 
  • Respect other poster’s opinions, even when they differ from yours. Make sure that the tone of your post is clearly polite
  • Regularly participate in online discussions as required by your professor

An Example

Prompt: Refer to the attached reading. How is Bourdieu’s concept of social capital useful in a research context? 

Student A’s response: I loved the reading! Bourdieu’s concept of social capital is especially useful because it allows researchers to quantify and measure the effects of privilege. 

Student B’s response: I agree with A. The reading was really interesting. I loved how it was about society and power and stuff. 

Student C’s response: Ths reading is stupid and ur both wrong. Bourdieu’s a hack lol

Student D’s response: I agree, A, this reading was fascinating! The idea of social capital struck me too, and it makes me wonder how some of the insights of this research can be integrated into social policies. I’m a bit confused by the part about the transmission of class through language; can anyone explain that?

For a typical college-level discussion board, you’ll want your responses to engage with the text and go into more depth than the examples above. 

  • is an example of a student’s initial response to the question posed by the professor. The student engages with specific aspects of the text and answers the prompt. 
  • is respectful and engaging with A’s comment, but their response has no substance and does not answer the prompt. 
  • is disrespectful, uses informal text speech, has not checked for spelling errors, and also does not answer the prompt. 
  • is an example of a good response: it engages with other students’ responses as well as the original prompt. Note that D asks for clarification, prompting further engagement from classmates. 

If you’re contributing to an online discussion board for the first time, writing a post can be intimidating. Treating each post as if you’re contributing to an on-site classroom discussion can help you be confident and successful. 

Becca | 2020

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