The Office of Faculty Development

Discussion Boards & Active Student Engagement

A common challenge for faculty is how to encourage robust student discussion and participation in online learning spaces, an issue that has become more important with the move to fully online learning in response to Covid-19. While most students and faculty are familiar with online discussion forums and chat boards in some form (e.g., Reddit), finding ways to promote truly engaging discussion can still be challenging. 

With students online all the time, being able to develop and sustain online student discussions can give your students a more meaningful online learning experience and play a vital role in shifting student learning from discussion post drudgery to active engagement. Just like a dynamic classroom, discussion boards can act as the center of a lively learning community when used in creative and thoughtful ways that contribute to and support your individual classroom learning outcomes and goals.

This faculty teaching guide focuses on ways to engage students more deeply in online discussion spaces and offers suggestions and tips for how to build more robust online discussions that encourage substantive student participation, promote active learning skills, and foster creative thinking and thoughtful reflection by students.

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Explore student engagement tools at Faculty Focus(opens in new window).

Check out these 15 digital tools(opens in new window) to boost and expand online student engagement.

Listen to House of #EDTECH's Clubhouse for Educators(opens in new window) podcast.

Listen to Shake Up Learning Show's asynchronous learning tips(opens in new window) episode.

Check out this 5 in 5 Faculty video(opens in new window) on using discussion boards to promote class engagement.

Watch this 5 in 5 Faculty video(opens in new window) on making awesome discussion boards.

Jennifer Herman and Linda Nilson discuss How to Gauge Effective Class Discussions (PDF).

Flower Darby and James Lang on Small Teaching Online(opens in new window) and using learning science.