Traditionally discussions are created around a particular topic with the instructor posting an initial message and students responding to that message. Blackboard refers to Discussions as Forums which may be created by both faculty and students. The Blackboard Discussion Tool allows for the inclusion of attachments and postings may be graded. Anonymous postings are permitted and there is an option allowing users to delete their own postings.
Discussions enable students to develop both critical thinking and writing skills. Using the Discussion Tool within a course allows quiet students in the classroom an environment for expressing their thoughts and opinions in what they may perceive to be a “safer” environment. Discussions serve to keep students on task and are useful for developing a sense of community among students which is important especially in a totally on-line course. Discussions allow for student centric self-paced participation and are an effective communication tool.
For totally online courses a virtual coffee forum may be setup allowing for a more social exchange among students. Initial discussion postings offer a means for students to introduce themselves to classmates in online courses fostering the sense of community found in traditional classroom courses. Having students (groups or individuals) lead and facilitate discussions is another way of using the Discussion Tool.