Considerations when using online questioning and discussion

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Time factors for students and instructor

Remember that out-of-class assignments involve time commitments from you and your students. Therefore, it's a good idea to carefully consider who will be doing what and how long it will take.

One very good method for clearly envisioning expectations throughout the course is to make a chart with a time line for the semester with columns on the chart indicating in-class and out-of-class assignments and the time expectations for you and your students. Also, this method allows you to see how your assignments are distributed throughout the course.

Some students tend to procrastinate, so make them aware of deadlines and grade dependence. For example, as part of an assignment, students could be required to make two responses a week.

Managing the discussion

Some management tips are:

  • Praise students for high quality responses via e-mail, to the discussion group, or directly to the student. Acknowledge students by name. (See the section "Responding and Facilitating.")
  • Structure some assignments so that all students must be online during the same day-long or two-day time period (not necessarily asynchronous). This helps the discussion to remain current.
  • Be sure to relate class work to online discussions and interactions. Make sure the discussion is essential to help learners achieve course goals.
  • Build into your questions some guidelines to help formulate student responses (e.g., ask the learners to explain their reasoning or position and provide examples).


Differences between online discussions and face-to-face discussions
  • Online discussions are primarily text-based. Discussions may lack immediate responses and significant points may be lost because of lack of vocal emphasis or body language.
  • Allow time for reading and responding to discussion threads.
  • Make clear the response or turnaround time for discussion and collaboration.
Knowledge of/learning the tool/technology
  • Make sure students have access to the tool before the assignment starts. This allows you to avoid problems after discussions have started.
  • Allow for an easy, very basic introductory assignment to prepare the students for future discussions. This could be a simple introduction and/or posting.
  • Have resources available for students who may like documentation/explanation of the tool.


Student teams
  • Establish teams and allow students to work together to post a final revised response. This results in fewer messages for you to read.
  • Consider size and number of teams. Try to have no more than seven students on a team.
  • Create clear guidelines for collaborating online and working in teams.


Contact among class members

Online discussions allow for various types of contact:

  • Professor to students
  • Students to students
  • Students to professor