Teaching online guidebook

Manage a discussion forum

Discussion forums are a great way to create and encourage social presence between teacher and students (student/teacher, student/student). They are asynchronous, meaning that students and teachers can post at whatever time suits them. 

Forums that don't relate to specific content are usually found at the top of the topic site. Other forums may be located in each week of the topic and are specific to the content for that week. A forum/s may be assessed.

You are advised to check these forums regularly (eg every 2 days) to monitor posts (for netiquette, issues, teachable moments).

Look for the discussion forum icon forum icon in the relevant week.


General discussion forum 
  • Ask students how they are going with the videos/readings – note taking, understanding/learning content etc.
  • Encourage students to share learning techniques and tips.
  • Look for tips in improving the topic site/resources over time (eg next teaching semester).

Weekly, task or subject-specific discussion forums

Model the thinking you want to see in your students through your own forum posts

  • Use for teachable moments around topic content for that week
  • Start with a trigger question to encourage participation 
    • What are the tricky concepts, the ones that are contestable, the misconceptions, the debates, the threshold concepts?
  • Use a personal perspective and tap into something interesting or topical to provoke conversation
  • Discuss key ideas that will help students with their assessments
  • Encourage students to practice ideas, be wrong, get feedback, try out an opinion (if not assessable)
  • Begin the forum discussion by posting something provocative yourself…a conversation starter. 
  • Invite or trigger discussion around a muddy point
  • Start with a question or other prompt (eg 'This week we will look closely at…', 'What is your experience of…?', 'This forum focuses on…').

Provide a 'hook' – aim to make your forum posts enticing and relevant to students (from their point of view), and guide their posts in challenging directions. 


How to