Guidelines for Meaningful Online Discussion Participation

Online discussions allow you to reflect and discuss course material. Benefits to using online discussion as a learning tool include the following:

  • Participants apply critical thinking through reflection, analysis, and synthesis of course material.
  • Discussion boards elicit multiple perspectives on a subject. Reconciling these perspectives through discussion and debate evolves one’s own outlook and knowledge.
  • Discussion boards are the foundation for a learning community, providing networking and resource sharing among peers.
  • Discussion mimics the collaborative process seen of professional settings.

Discussion assignments will have specific instructions for participation. The following general structure applies to all discussions:

  • Participants may be divided into groups.
  • After reviewing the material for each module, participants will post their reflections on the material to his or her group’s discussion board or chat session. These reflections may include:
    • A critique of the material.
    • Reflection on lessons learned.
    • Speculation on applying the material to your own professional development.
    • How you currently are applying the material.
  • Group members will respond to other members in their group. These responses should engage the author in a discussion that is relevant to the topic at hand. This can include:
    • Posing engaging questions.
    • Sharing one’s own perspective.
    • Sharing resources that the original author may not have been aware of.
    • Reflecting on how you might react to a similar situation.
  • The original author should respond to any replies he or she receives in his or her own thread.

Follow these guidelines when posting:

  • Postings should be evenly distributed during the discussion period (not concentrated all on one day or at the beginning and/or end of the period). Expect to check in on discussions at least once every one to two days to respond to new posts.
  • Follow your instructor's guidelines on post length.
  • Avoid postings that are limited to "I agree" or "great idea," etc. Support your statement with concepts from external sources or by bringing in related examples or experience.
  • Address the questions as much as possible (don't let the discussion stray).
    • Try to use quotes from articles or videos that support your postings. Cite your sources in APA format.
    • Build on others' responses to create threads.
    • Bring in related prior knowledge and resources (work experience, prior coursework, readings, etc.)
    • Use proper etiquette (proper language, grammar, manners, etc.).

Important: Timeout Issues

One unfortunate setting on Blackboard is the timeout feature, where your account is logged off after a period of apparent inactivity. Composing a discussion board message is interpreted by the server as "inactivity." 

Compose your discussion posts in a text editor such as Notepad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac). After you have completed the post, copy and paste the your post to the discussion board.

When linking to web resources, rather than trying to hyperlink a phrase, copy and paste the full http:// address in your message.

Adapted from “Online Discussion Protocols and Rubric,” developed by Dr. Nada Dabbagh. Available at Used with permission.