Regardless of the career you want to study or the college you enroll in, sooner or later, you’ll have to participate in a discussion board.
One of the most common college assignments that online students have to complete in almost every class. It is a space where you have to interact with your fellow classmates by answering the main discussion question about that week’s lesson.
Length and level of student engagement depend on the class, but most commonly, we have a longer initial post where you answer a weekly discussion question and then write from one to three replies to other student posts.
A huge mistake many online students make is taking these discussion forums as something less important than other assignments like essays and exams. Not only can it represent 20 to 40 percent of your overall grade, but it’s also the best way to stand out from the rest and prove to your professor how much you understand.
You must never take these online discussion boards for granted, and it’s important you count on the best tips to take your posts to the next level.
Here at Gradehacker, we are the non-traditional student’s most trusted resource. We have lots of experience helping online learners with class discussions, essays, and their entire classes, and we understand how tedious these online forums can be.
That’s why we are sharing our list of best tips on how to excel on every discussion board.
Table of Contents
1) Write Your Post And Replies In a Text Editor
The first tip is to write your initial and response posts on an external text editor, like Google Docs or Microsoft Word.
Most of the time, the text editor you find on the online forum doesn’t have the same editing or formatting features a writing software has. Creating your response in a separate document ensures you won’t have any grammatical mistakes and that sentences and paragraphs are well displayed.
We also recommend using a writing app like Grammarly or ProWritingAid to review all important elements of your writing. You can read our reviews, find more options in our list of best apps for writing, or see everything you need to know about Grammarly.
And if you think that caring about your text’s display doesn’t impact as much as its content, we have news for you. The key is in the details! And as you’ll continue reading down below, you are not only writing for your professor but for your fellow classmates too.
2) Be Clear And Earn As Many Replies As You Can!
One of the downsides (or advantages, depending on how you see it) of online classes is that the communication with your professor and classmates is almost nonexistent. Sure, you can chat with anyone or email your teacher a specific question, but if you want, you can complete a class and never have talked with another person.
This lack of communication space makes it harder for professors to get to know their students and value them as real humans with life experiences and goals. And sometimes, establishing this basic relationship with a teacher can significantly boost your overall performance.
That’s why online discussion boards are so important!
Pretty much, they are the only space where you get to engage and share thoughts with the rest of the class. This is where your professor will get to know you the most, and the best way to take advantage of that is by standing out.
Usually, you have a weekly discussion question where you have to answer by reading and understanding the class material. And generally, a few days later, both you and your classmates will have to return to the discussion thread and post replies to each other.
Here is where you make the difference.
By answering the discussion topic clearly and straightforwardly, you are approving that week’s post and making it easier for the rest of the class to read your post and interact with it.
What we are looking for here is to get as many replies as possible. In any online discussion forum, you can tell which is the most interesting post based on how many people engaged with it, and professors notice that too!
So, make sure you are clearly answering the main question and structuring your text in different paragraphs, so it’s easier for everyone to read and engage with.
3) The More Sources, The Better
Yes, sounds obvious. But bear with us for a bit.
While it depends on the class and subject, the discussion prompt usually requires you to use at least one source (class material) on your initial post. And in some cases, quoting one is optional for classmates’ replies.
To enhance your post, we recommend you use as many sources as possible, both from the class material and external references.
Doing the extra research and finding a piece of information that adds to that week’s topic will show genuine commitment to learning from you and will also let you tackle different angles with deeper responses.
For example, let’s say you are in a psychology class, and this week’s topic is mental health issues. If you have to quote at least one reading material, try adding one more from an external source. You can cite the class content to provide theoretical information and bring an updated statistic to give more context or develop that subject from a different perspective.
4) Share Your Unique Perspective
Having sources and a clear understanding of the class material is important, but don’t forget the reason behind discussion assignments: engage with the class and share thoughts.
You have to bring something unique to the table. Share your perspective and personal experiences and how these relate to what you saw in class that week.
Don’t think that because you are also using your own experiences to support your arguments or beliefs is wrong. This is an academic environment where you are supposed to share your opinion on a class-related subject and explain why you think that way.
The tip here is don’t be afraid to state your thoughts and describe your life experiences clearly. Your opinion and point of view are what will make your post unique.
5) Address What Your Fellow Classmate Mentioned
Now we are getting to the engaging part of the discussion.
Don’t stick with the “Hi … I agree with your statement,” and then change the subject and start writing until you reach the required characters. This is a discussion board! You are here to interact with each other!
Carefully reading what your classmates posted is key if you want your responses to hold the same level of quality your initial post has. See how you can add value and how your experiences and beliefs relate to what that other person thinks.
And if you want to know who you should pick to reply to, don’t miss the following tip.
6) Try Responding To People You Disagree With
To keep your discussions interesting, and avoid spending too much time looking for complex arguments, one of the best things you can do is reply to classmates that think differently.
Of course, this mostly applies in academic discussions where you debate a topic with multiple approaches, like philosophy, social issues, ethics, and politics. But since most forums are designed to promote discussions, finding someone who has a contrary point of view isn’t hard at all.
Doing this shows a strong opinion and position, thus standing out from the rest. Plus, searching for arguments supporting your statement can be easier as you approach the subject from a different angle. You’ll see that it can take you less time!
And it doesn’t have to be a complex thinking process where you analyze in depth the post and try to refute each statement. Just read the post, and when you find the other’s opinion, ask yourself these two questions:
These answers will be more than enough to start a reply where you are not just saying, “I don’t agree,” but truly add value to the discussion while proving to your professor how much you understand the class.
Now, even though we highly recommend interacting with people that think differently, the last thing you need to do is take that discussion too seriously and start arguing for real with your fellow classmate.
This will show a clear disrespect on your part to the community standards and will most likely have a bad repercussion on your professor and your grades.
Ready To Master Every Online Discussion Board?
If you follow these simple tips, you’ll see how you’ll be writing the discussion posts everyone will want to reply to in the first two or three weeks.
Don’t forget that these discussion forums are key if you want to stand out from the rest and show your professor how committed you are to learning. This way, your teacher will have a positive picture of you, and we guarantee you that they will remember that when reviewing your essays and assignments.
So, be clear, use many sources, show a strong opinion, and interact with people that think differently.
And if you ever have problems writing them, you can count on Gradehacker to help you with your discussion boards and assist you in accelerating your degree.
If you want more tips on how to improve your online learning experience, check out these related blog posts: