Discussion Boards 101: Taking Part in Online Class Discussions

By CSU Global - May 4th, 2018

When you attend an online school, you’ll see that virtual classrooms often revolve around the use of discussion boards. These boards are used for a variety of reasons, depending on the specific class you’re taking, and it’s important that you learn how to use them effectively. Let’s take a look at the best practices for using these boards.

Read the Instructions
Each discussion board has its own set of rules and regulations, which instructors will clearly define in their syllabi and/or in instructions on the discussion board itself. Though some boards may have similar rules as others, try not to assume what the rules for a particular board are. For example, boards for different classes may have different requirements for the number of posts you’re responsible for creating each week.

Discussion Board 101
Prepare Prior to the Discussion
Professors and instructors use discussion boards to initiate conversations. Contributions to discussion boards are also typically part of your participation grade. Incomplete or uninformed contributions may reflect badly on your grades, so it’s in your best interest to prepare beforehand. If you integrate preparation for discussions into your overall study plan, you’ll be ready to contribute and maximize your participation grade.

Ask Questions
If you’re unsure of the discussion topic or how to appropriately engage in conversation on the discussion board, feel free to ask questions. Send an email to your instructor or ask a classmate sooner rather than later if you’re unclear on the rules, as it may save you time and energy. There’s a good chance that you will ask a question that another student has.

Provide Evidence to Support Your Opinions
Every opinion on a discussion board matters, even those that may be against the status quo or, at the very least, out of the ordinary. If you’re going to express an opinion, it’s always best to provide evidence to support that opinion. If someone asks for clarification on a point you made and you don’t have evidence to back it up, things could get awkward.

Try Not to Dominate, and Please Be Polite
Your thoughts are valuable, and discussion boards are there for you to share your thoughts. Even though you may be very confident in your stance or argument, overwhelming a discussion board by responding to every other student’s statement or commenting at length on every post you may disagree with can be off-putting for those who may have a more difficult time expressing themselves.

Every time you turn on the news or scroll down to the comments section of articles and blog posts, you’ll get a taste of heated arguments. It’s no coincidence that confrontation becomes easier when you’re not physically in front of the person with whom you disagree — psychologists call this “the online disinhibition effect.” While occasional differences in opinion between students or instructors are inevitable, discussion boards are not the place to engage in lengthy back-and-forths.

Tone Down the Language
It goes almost without saying that discussions for class have different rules of etiquette than discussions you have with your friends and family. We’re not saying that you must be prim and proper at all times, but the use of foul language is prohibited on discussion boards.

Discussion boards are an integral part of the online education model, and at CSU Global, we’re proud to foster spaces for students to engage in healthy online discourse. As online education grows in popularity, discussion boards will become all the more common as forums for learning and conversation.


Subscribe to the Global Broadcast

Each month, receive articles that inform and inspire.