Chapter 2: Diverse Discussion Forums

By the end of this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Create engaging discussion forums. (LO1)
  • Design new content for current courses. (LO2)
  • Investigate new forms of media to engage students. (LO3)

After all of that discussion for creative ideas in introduction discussion forums, is there anything else left? Great question! There are definitely still some ideas to consider when building discussion forums.

It may be beneficial to review the discussion forum ideas in the Open Education textbook, refer to Chapter 1: Creating Magic in Discussion Forums, as needed, for review. When you are ready, look at the following steps that can be taken to create better and diverse discussion forums. As the steps progress, they ask more of your students (and ultimately you, as the curator of the experience).

Step 1: Ask Better Questions

Select each of the hot spots below to reveal ideas for asking better questions.


Step 2: Raise the Stakes

When we ask students better questions, we are working toward more quality responses. Raising the stakes takes this approach a step further. Here, you can ask a portion of students to answer your discussion question and the remaining students will evaluate the responses to determine if they are grounded in evidence, substantive, or provocative. Regardless of your evaluation guidelines, make sure they are clear. You may consider using a rubric for students to use when evaluating; this may help keep evaluations more consistent. Below is a sample of a discussion rubric used in our courses. Shared are the suggested criteria and categories; this rubric could be adapted to meet the needs of a specific forum that you would create.


Step 3: Consider Re-Imagining the Display

It is possible to have discussions in a new way consider these options for re-imagining a discussion forum into a discussion activity:

  1. Collaborate on the creation of open educational materials. Discussion could happen in the design platform or in a separate space. Some OER platforms have the ability to add annotations and comments right in the work.
  2. Annotate a text or document.
  3. Create a blog, website, or other public project.
  4. Consider other platforms like Slack, Google, Teams, Padlet, and more.
  5. Group work occurs in an extended reality environment.

Step 4: Role Playing in the Forum

Ask students to embody characters for the remainder of the term in their discussion forums. An instructor provides a list of characteristics and the name of the character. Students pick one and must keep that persona to the end of the term. It allows the students to express themselves more honestly through the viewpoint of a character. It also fosters creativity and expression.

It is critical to note that if this idea is appealing, that you must have villains and heroes. Heroes are, admittedly, just average people without the villains to challenge them. Here are two ways that this forum could be used. Choose the way that most appeals to you and direct the center bar as appropriate.


Step 5: Ask Your Students to Do Something

Technically, you are asking them to do something by completing the discussion forum using the given parameters. However, what if you asked them to do something outside of writing a post. Here are some ideas:

  1. Ask students to take a picture of something related to your course and evaluate it.
  2. Find a popular culture reference and share it with the class (example: find an example of a laissez-faire leader in television)
  3. Students could create a video or commercial that aligns with the learning outcomes.
  4. Select a topic and ask students to find or create a meme related to the topic and evaluate the meme for content, tone, imagery, etc. Alternately, you could present a few memes (also photos, videos, commercials, etc.) for students to evaluate as well.

Step 6: Applied Learning Opportunities

Applied learning opportunities provide relevance to the assessments. Consider this learning objective: Analyze social interaction on a micro and macro level. Now, apply this learning objective to coffee.

  • In the United States, most people who drink coffee outside of their home are [probably] enjoying their caffeinated beverage at a chain like McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin, etc.
  • Compare this to other cultures with a rich coffee culture, like Spain or Italy. The interactions are [probably] more personal.
    • Even down to how you are served in a ceramic or glass cup versus a paper or plastic cup.
    • The shop has been there 100 years and so has the barista. They slip you a cookie when they know you’ve had a bad day and they know you well enough to know you have had a bad day.
  • It is a completely different experience than a chain experience. Just in this quick example, you can see how different the interactions would be. Students could use any form of media, digital or otherwise to compare and contrast these interactions.

Here are other options for applied learning opportunities.



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Advanced Engagement by Andrea Bearman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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