How Discussion Boards Are Used in the Online Learning Environment

March 16, 2011

in Distance Learning, Online Classes

Some students are leery of going to college online because they feel they will miss out on the social interaction that comes with a traditional classroom environment. This is partially true. After all, you won’t be able to raise your hand and have your question answered immediately by your professor in an online learning environment, nor will you be able to turn to a classmate and ask what they thought about a lecture. However, that doesn’t mean you miss out on social interaction completely when you choose to go to school online. Here we’ll discuss how discussion boards are used in the online learning environment to facilitate conversation between students and faculty.

When you log in to your online classes, you will generally have access to an array of information, including your class syllabus, links to lectures, and information on assigned reading, projects and required homework. Another thing many online professors are making available to students are discussion boards. Different teachers will use discussion boards in different ways, but often they will pose a question to their students and ask for feedback from their class. Students can respond to the professor’s question individually with a post and then respond to what their fellow students post as well. What often happens is the discussion board thread continues on and on until the professor poses another question, prompting an entirely different discussion.

Many online professors actually require students to participate in online discussion board conversations as a means of gauging their class participation. If a student decides he or she would rather not contribute, his or her grade may suffer. This is especially true in courses such as philosophy and psychology, where professors aim to build students’ critical thinking skills by getting their class talking and debating about the material.

Not all professors have this standard, however. Whether you professor requires your participation or not, it’s a good idea to share your thoughts on what you’re learning as a way of letting other people get to know you and to learn more about other students in the class. In fact, friendships can even be developed in these discussion boards when students carry on their conversations off of the discussion boards and on to live chat.

Online discussion boards are great for timid students who might feel awkward if a professor put them on the spot in a traditional classroom. With discussion boards, students can think about the question they are asked and take their time to craft an answer. This often prompts more students to participate than maybe would in a traditional environment, where usually only the loudest and boldest are heard.

Discussion boards are yet another way online colleges help students feel more connected with each other and with their instructors and professors, especially considering they may never actually meet in person. When used with live chat, video conferencing, and email, you can learn online and not miss out on the rich social interaction that makes traditional college so inviting.

This guest contribution was submitted by Mariana Ashley. Mariana is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031@gmail.com.



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