When instructors hear about using the Discussions tool in TCU Online, they may first think the tool is most useful for instructors teaching classes that are fully online. While, this tool is often a cornerstone of fully online courses, there are many ways to use the Discussions tool in all types of classes. Visit our Types of Discussions page for descriptions and ideas.
Providing students with an online discussion prompt or activity offers students the chance to think about the homework materials, grapple with challenging concepts, reflect about their learning, or make connections across course topics prior to coming to a physical classroom or in place of meeting face-to-face.
Discussion prompts can be used to generate interest, encourage students to explore the big questions of the field, or think narrowly about a specific problem or case. Students get to clarify their own thinking as a result of having to articulate it for others and also discover what other classmates thought, helping each student see beyond their own perspective.
The Discussions tool can also be used to help generate conversations, debates, and feedback among peers. Some students enjoy using online discussions because they can compose their thoughts before they post a comment, respond more thoughtfully to discussion topics, and engage in lively debates that are less threatening than in a live classroom environment.
As an instructor, the Discussions tool allows for each student to participate in the discussion. In addition, by using the post-first setting, TCU Online will not show other students’ responses to the topic until a student has posted. This allows for a true whole-class discussion in which each and every student participates fully.
For each discussion, instructors should be sure to communicate information to students about the initial post as well as replies to peers. For example, what will count as a substantive reply? Is a citation required in the reply posts? Do students need to end their initial posts or their replies with a question?
In addition to these participation expectations, instructors will want to provide specific information about post length and due dates.
Some examples of this wording:
If you have a discussion rubric, you’ll also want to be sure that your directions remind students of this and drive them to review it before they begin their postings. Likewise, your course should have academic integrity information and netiquette information – it is a best practice to have this information accompany each discussion topic in the course.