The dreaded, threaded discussion! One original post and two replies is a routine way of facilitating a discussion activity for students outside of the classroom. But so often a well intended activity turns into repetitive “I agree” and “good point” posts, rewording the original poster’s argument or summary.
There are methods to foster better collaboration, for example breaking the class up into smaller groups and retooling questions into case studies. But if you’ve already tried these methods, and find that they don’t quite fit your needs, consider swapping the discussion forum for a blog.
In a fully online course elective with students who were not necessarily experienced “online learners”, swapping a discussion forum to a blog produced on average 3 or more paragraphs of writing per student on the same prompts used in previous semesters. We observed the students made deeper connections with the materials and included real life examples and personal experiences.
And then something unexpected happened! The students indicated the assignment was more engaging and they actually preferred the Blog format in this class compared to Discussion Forums used in other online courses they had taken previously. Students were required to comment on at least two other student blogs per week. A few students emerged as entertaining writers and attracted far more page hits and comments as they engaged their peer audience.
Is a blog really that different from a discussion forum? You may be able to keep the prompts and questions you’ve already composed and simply swap out the tool.