April 22, 2019

Posting Pointers: Make the Most of Online Class Discussions

By B&SC Blog Team

Posting Pointers: Make the Most of Online Class Discussions

Students enrolled in online degree programs are quick to learn that online discussion posts build the foundation of grades and academic success.

In a conventional classroom, you can observe the overall tone of the discussion before chiming in. But online college students only have a block of text and a blinking curser, you really need to put some thought and preparation into how you represent yourself and the topic at hand, said Anne McKenna, business adjunct instructor for Bryant & Stratton College.

Online college students can’t simply be present in an online class discussion, they must participate.

“I think the best rule of thumb really is the golden rule: Treat others as you’d want to be treated yourself,” she said.

That means take the time to read not just the question, but also the responses from other students. Yes, you have a minimum number of words to meet and sources to cite, but your responses should also be thought-provoking, grammatically correct and relate to the other posts and the original discussion starter, McKenna said.

“Good discussion posts really all revolve around getting your point across and making sure you are also furthering the conversation,” she said. “Typically when our students participate in a discussion, they’ll be required to answer a question and write an initial post. You can certainly get your point across without using 500 words, but you need to really choose those words carefully and make sure you stay on topic.”

Online students must be present in the moment, not just logged in Posting for the sake of having a presence in the discussion is not enough.

“Just posting one after the initial discussion, saying ‘That was great,’ ‘Keep up the good work,’ that’s not really something that’s going to further the discussion,” McKenna said. “You want to stay on topic, you want to really make sure you’re answering all the questions that are being asked in the post question and really try to address it in a way that’s going to make the instructor and fellow students really see that you’re answering all the questions.”

Even though you’re not physically in front of your instructor and classmates, your responses speak to your academic efforts and the progress of the class as a whole, she said. Correct spelling and punctuation is key for online collegestudents posting in class discussions. McKenna recommends a spell-check on every post, no matter how brief.

“Look at your voice, grammar mistakes, everything’s spelled correctly, capitalizing sentences, those kinds of things,” McKenna said. “Re-read everything before you post it. We all get a little post-happy; understanding this is an academic citing and taking that once-over before you submit things is a really, really good tip for students.”

Online discussions also give students the chance to show what they know.

“It’s really a tool for the instructors in an online class to use to make sure the students are understanding the topics and really grasping it and understanding what’s happening throughout the rest of the virtual classroom,” McKenna said.

Good discussions also often foster a sense of community among students and lead to new levels of communication, she said.

“(Students often) end up having a side discussion of three or four or five or six posts going back and forth,” McKenna said. “While it’s important the instructors see the students know what’s going on, more important I think is the students can have these side discussions and really dig into the topic more.”

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