To supplement their online and in-person lectures, more and more professors are turning to online discussion boards as places where students can show what they’ve learned, as well as interact with their peers.
But for many students, discussion boards are only added stress – a place where professors grade your work based on how well you formulate a typed response rather than behave in a traditional classroom setting.
Sometimes, though, all it takes to nail a discussion board assignment is to practice good Internet etiquette and come up with one or two ideas. Here are five steps to exercising the kind of discussion board strategy that will always earn an A.
Have a conclusion
For labs especially, oftentimes your entire discussion board assignment will be your conclusion to the work you did in class. But even if this isn’t the basis of your discussion board, it’s important that everything you post is tied off with a single, straightforward conclusion. A strong conclusion should summarize your argument without just repeating what you’ve already said.
The main problem students have with discussion boards is how easy it is to get lost in the mix of pages upon pages of posts. However, don’t fall into the trap of banking on this and simply parroting others’ ideas. Instead read what other students have said and use what you’ve learned to formulate your own ideas. Even if it isn’t necessarily how you feel on a subject, being original is always the best way to learn and better your persuasion skills.
While coming up with one good idea is great, that doesn’t mean you should simply repeat that idea several times in slightly different ways and call it a day. After you’ve formulated an interesting claim, back up your post with reasonable evidence from whatever books your class is reading or lectures you’ve taken notes on. Backing up your original idea with substance is often the only way to take your posts from the B range to the A range.
Don’t be afraid to (respectfully) disagree
Back-and-forth is the root of debate and more often than not professors will encourage spirited discussion on their boards. If you think that you can present a hole in somebody else’s logic, say so, just make sure you’ve left the door open for a two-way conversation. Discussing topics directly with other students not only shows your knowledge, but also displays that you’ve read other students’ posts.
Many students, especially those who grew up without the Internet as a prominent learning tool, can get caught off guard by online discussion boards when there’s already a class to attend and homework to complete. Make sure you’re doing whatever it takes to prevent procrastination, like setting an alarm on you phone or making the discussion board your browser’s home page. Arriving early to the discussion means your ideas won’t get posted first, and also that you’ll get time to read what others say about your ideas as well as edit your response.
Classroom discussion boards are not a place to talk about whatever you’d like. In fact, doing this can make things more complicated. Don’t overthink your discussion board responses, but rather just read the instructions carefully and respond directly to the prompt.