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Discussion (Board) Based Teaching and Learning

What is a Discussion Board? 

A Discussion Board (DB; sometimes called Discussion Forums) is an asynchronous virtual space where students come together to share ideas and generate conversations with one another at times of their choosing (typically within a timeframe provided by the instructor). This structure supports student dialogue to accompany classroom interactions and/or when face-to-face interaction is challenging to attain. Most Learning Management Systems (LMS) have this feature, including Blackboard, which makes fostering conversation outside of class quite simple. For more information and instructions on using the Blackboard DB at CMU, check out this knowledge base article

It is important to note here that many of the Discussion components can be effectively implemented for “in class” (face to face or remote) purposes or without being tied to an LMS.

Why Discuss?

Broadly, “class discussions” can be utilized to reach diverse learning goals and can be implemented using a variety of formats, with or without technology or physical proximity. Even with all of these variables, the end goal remains constant and achievable: sharing information leading to new ideas, promoting critical thinking, and life-long learning.

Functioning as a communication channel to supplement classroom conversations, Discussion Boards can be a great strategy for community building (Covelli, 2017) and social and peer learning (Ajayi, 2009). Students can practice collaboration skills (Osborne et al., 2018), critical thinking, and problem-solving (Morrison et al., 2012; Osborne et al., 2018), as well as reading and writing (Li & Liu, 2018; Horstmanshof & Brownie, 2013).

In addition to providing opportunities for learning interactions that supplement typical “in class” dialogue, the DB also makes communication possible without a physical presence in a classroom. Consider Discussion Questions as a flexible instructional component that can help instructors reach, connect, and engage with students no matter where they are.

The asynchronous and interactive nature of DB also opens new opportunities for active learning and class engagement. The flexible timeframe for participating in online discussions allows space for students to think, articulate, and incorporate personal background and experiences into formulating a meaningful answer, which also encourages student-centered learning. Additionally, a DB preserves the conversation context, so every student has equal access and opportunity to participate in it. The 24-7 openness and transparency of DB Forums also allows students to share and communicate information with the class more efficiently and with little instructor upkeep. 

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