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Four Tips: Creating Prompts for Online Discussion Boards

Particularly for online courses, using discussion boards can be an effective way to encourage group or team interaction. You can encourage peer-to-peer interaction as students react or respond to a prompt and then interact with one another based on those responses, or assign a prompt for each student to read and respond to that you can evaluate personally. No matter the goal of your discussion board activity, you likely want to ensure that students' responses are thoughtful, complete, and insightful. Read on for tips, courtesy of the TeamUP Professional Development Portal, that you can keep in mind as you create online discussion board prompts.

1. Before you create your prompt, consider any information that will be helpful for students before they dive in. The discussion prompt may require an introduction reminding students of something they discussed or further explaining a complex concept, for example.

2. When you create your prompt, keep in mind that you want students to provide varied responses. For example, if you ask students to describe the three theories of X (something in your discipline), all students will respond the same way, and they will be at a low level in Bloom's Taxonomy. One way to assure variation is to use open-ended questions and ask for personal examples. Another way is to require students to review different articles.

3. Assure that students cannot respond to your prompt off the top of their heads without doing the corresponding assigned reading or work. You may assure this by requiring references, asking them to support their response with information discussed in class, etc.

4. Do not ask for too much information in one thread. Address only one concept or issue per thread, and do not have many parts to your question. It's okay to have a, b, and c parts if they are relatively brief. If so, ask students to label their responses a, b, and c. You and other students will have many threads to read and respond to so help students organize their work. If you find you are asking too much information in one discussion thread, you may need to reconsider the activity and move it to an assignment. You may also decide to break down the content into multiple threads. (TeamUP, Cengage Learning)

This content is quoted from "Nine Nifty Tips for Online Discussion Prompts," which is included in the TeamUP Professional Development Portal, and makes up a small part of one of the self-paced multimedia modules available. These tips are included in the module Managing Student Interaction Online, which is part of Pod 1: Online Teaching. For a full list of available content, visit this site.

TeamUP, a part of Cengage Learning, is a group of college educators who provide peer-to-peer support, consulting services and innovative faculty development. Visit the TeamUP Professional Development Portal Web site for professional development opportunities and earn continuing education units.

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