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How to Contribute to Online Discussion Boards

The discussion board on Blackboard is an important element in many courses, and especially for most online courses. Having a place to write about course material as the class progresses often takes the place of or supplements real time class discussions. Because discussion boards can be an essential component of the course, it is critical to understand how to contribute effectively.

How Often Should You Be Posting

Most professors will clearly tell students how often they are expected to post. This makes it easy for students to build time into their schedules specifically for this purpose. For example, if a professor requires posting to the discussion board twice a week on different days, schedule times to write posts.

How to Write Thoughtful Comments and Responses

The audience for your posts contains both your professor and your classmates. More often than not, professors require students not only to respond to specific questions or topics, but also to comment on other students’ post as well.

First, you need to be certain your “original” posts are well thought out, grammatically correct, and on-point. Write your original post prior to reading the thoughts of your classmates, unless the professor requires differently. In order to help you write a concise and engaged post, read the professor’s prompt prior to delving into the week’s material; then, take notes about what you might want to write about as you read.

When responding to classmates’ posts, be respectful and be certain to agree with or criticize the idea, not the person. They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein has some great templates for engaging in academic discussion. Here are a couple of examples:

  • For disagreeing: “I disagree with X’s view that ­­­­­­­­­­­____________________ because in the reading we learned ­­___________________________.”
  • Agreeing with explanation: “I agree that __________________, a point that needs to be emphasized because so many people believe _____________________.”
  • For agreeing and disagreeing at the same time: “My feelings on the issue are mixed. I support X’s position that ____________, but I also think _____________.”

Listen to Feedback

It is crucial to listen to your professor’s feedback in order to continue to improve the quality of your work. It is also important to read what your classmates are saying as well, even if you do not agree with them.

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