by Karen Nichols
A recent edition of Faculty Focus includes an article on successful discussions conducted online. There is after all an art to effective online communication. These considerations include the necessity to communicate with all students in the discussion forum. Personally, I respond to each of my students' original postings, but I do not intrude in subsequent conversations between the students. (I do monitor them however, to ensure that the students are communicating appropriately.)
The Faculty Focus article also describes how you should communicate with your students depending on their individual needs. For example, if a student actively and fully participates in the discussions, you may wish to challenge him/her, while students who express confusion may need more direction and time spent in explaining the goals of the discussion assignments.
Further, try to be open to a variety of responses and lengths. More is not always better so be sure to give shorter postings and unexpected opinions and answers due consideration. Along these lines, there is an art to knowing when to lead the discussions and when to gently guide them along in order for the students to feel comfortable taking the lead themselves and/or expressing their sentiments even if they may differ from those of the instructor.
Last year, Blackboard sponsored a discussion on breathing new life into Discussion Boards:
Do you use online discussions? If so, what are some of your best practices and suggestions?