Common pitfalls of discussion board responses

Some courses will ask you to post in an online discussion board, and discussion boards are the primary way many web-based courses facilitate class discussions. The idea is to give an insightful, in-depth response to the prompt (something you would raise your hand and say in a face-to-face classroom). Use this resource as a guide to making effective, thorough discussion board responses that add to the conversation.

Common Pitfalls

  • Underdeveloped responses

    • Statements like “I agree with the author” or “The author makes a good point” are easy, but they don’t demonstrate understanding of the material or add anything to the conversation

    • Why do you agree? What specifically is the point the author is making?

  • Language that is too informal

    • Discussion boards are often less formal than an essay or paper, but it is important to remember they are happening in an academic environment

    • Different instructors will have different expectations so make sure to read prompts and syllabi carefully

  • Repeating other students

    • This is a discussion, so you are expected to add something

    • If everyone else is saying, “Dr. Smith is suggesting that service learning should be a mandatory component of all college courses,” find a new perspective: “It’s true Dr. Smith focuses making service learning a standard part of college curriculum, but I feel we should also consider how requiring service learning may not always be helpful to community organizations.”

  • Ineffective peer responses

    • Instructors will sometimes require you to respond to other students as part of the assignment; even when it’s not required, actively participating in the discussion will help expand your understanding of the concepts

    • “Great point!” and “I agree” don’t add anything to the conversation. Just like your main post, your response to your peers should expand on their ideas or challenge them (respectfully)

Things to ask yourself

  • Are you answering all parts of the discussion prompt?

    • Read the prompt carefully. Is it asking one question or multiple?

    • If you can, look at the prompt before you read the assigned materials. This will help keep the prompt in mind while you are reading.

  • Are you offering a comprehensive response to the discussion prompt?

    • Did you answer all elements of the prompt or just part of it?

    • Is there a connection to other readings and assignments?

    • Use specific examples from the reading to support your ideas

  • Is your response simply answering the response or are you making connections between the prompt and the course learning objectives?

    • Checking the boxes might get you a passing grade on this one assignment, but thinking about how it connects to the larger course learning objectives will help you better understand those concepts

    • Keep the course learning objectives in mind for all assignments

  • Are you saying something new or just repeating other students?

    • If you can, look at what other students have already said and add something new. You wouldn’t raise your hand in a face-to-face class and repeat something someone else just said.

    • Write something that furthers the conversation

Contributors: Tony DeFilippo & Derrian Goebel