By Jennifer Bunk, SIOP Blogger
In my last post, I introduced discussion boards and how you might effectively incorporate them into your classes. In this, post, I will discuss their advantages.
Advantage #1: Students love them (especially the introverts)
When I ask students what they like most about my classes, they almost always mention the discussion boards. Introverted students especially love them because their voices are finally heard. In discussion boards, it’s not the loudest person who wins, it’s the most insightful.
Advantage #2: Instructors can learn from them too
I’ve had colleagues tell me that they’ve considered using discussion boards, but they don’t want to read through all of the posts. First, there are strategies for managing discussion boards if you have a large class (my definition of “large” here is more than 25 students). If every student posted individually every week, yes, that would be a LOT of posts to read through, for both teachers and students alike. Instead of individual posting, assign students to groups and alternate the designated “poster.” If you have a smaller class, reading through individual posts is manageable. And personally, I love reading what students have to say. It gives me an insider’s view of what my students are thinking and I can use that to be a better instructor. Another thing that I should mention is that I typically do not participate in the discussion boards. I have from time to time, but, for the most part, I simply lurk. The students appreciate that “instructor-free” zone.
Advantage #3: They are relatively low-maintenance
Once you get the hang of it, discussion boards are a low-maintenance tool. If you are using an LMS (learning management system) like BlackBoard or Desire2Learn, you can set up all of the forums – complete with your thought-provoking questions - at the beginning of the semester. During the semester, it’s simply a matter of reading the posts and tallying up the grades. And be sure to poke around your LMS for help on tallying. For example, there is a link in Desire2Learn (Under “Discussions” and “Statistics”) that will tell you how many times a particular student posted. Students have also found it helpful to receive reminders (either via email or in person) when discussion boards posts will be due. For even the best students, it may slip their minds, especially for the first forum.
There are other advantages to using online discussion boards for teaching. For example, their asynchronous nature means that both instructors and students have more time to think before they contribute.
Speaking of thinking – what advantages come to YOUR mind? I’d love to read about them in the comments. And stay tuned for part 3 where I will present some disadvantages of discussion boards.