Teaching online guidebook

Discussion forums

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).

The General discussion forum icon forum icon is in module 0. If you set up other discussion forums for specific subjects in modules/weeks, you can click on them quickly from the Activities block.


Guide students

As with announcements, encourage students to respect cultural/other differences by using inclusive language and professional communication. Appropriate communication is a requirement for every workplace, so forums are an authentic activity.


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 to improve the topic site/resources over time (eg next teaching semester)
  • You could have a topic Q&A forum, answer commonly asked questions once so all students benefit

Weekly, task or subject-specific discussion forums

You can model the thinking you want to see in your students through your own forum posts.

  • Use for teachable moments on 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/topical to provoke conversation. You could begin the discussion by posting something provocative yourself 
  • Discuss key ideas that will help students with their assessments
  • Encourage students to practise ideas, be wrong, get feedback, voice an opinion (if not assessable)
  • 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