Welcome to the Northern Virginia Community College Website

Accessibility Navigation:

Online Discussion Success Strategies


Online Discussions (discussion board forums in Blackboard) are a form of online communication where an instructor posts topics or questions and students can post responses. Discussion forums provide a common “meeting place” on the Web. They also provide an opportunity for student-student contact and student-instructor contact at a time and place of convenience.


In class, provide orientation and time for students to practice and master the technologies, particularly the online discussions they need to interact with each another.

Be certain about what you want to accomplish with any given Forum Assignment. What type of work do you want your students to do? Have a course goal/objective in mind.

Shirley Nuhn - Professor, ESL

Write clear instructions:

  • List all resources/equipment needed.
  • Provide specific sequence of the steps in process.
  • Tell students exactly what they must do to get full credit.
  • Make sure all grading criteria are clearly defined.
  • Give exact due dates and time required to complete tasks.
  • Speak personally to students; use a less formal tone.
  • Give examples of assignments if possible.

Clearly communicate your rules and expectations for participating (ex. frequency, length, number of responses, grading criteria, etc.).

Clearly communicate “netiquette” rules.

When you comment on student discussions:

  • Use the student's name.
  • Be positive; reassure and encourage him/her.
  • Be helpful; point out what’s working well and make specific observations.
  • Be challenging; ask clarifying questions and make suggestions.
  • Be dispassionate; don’t get angry!

Blend the online discussion and face-to-face class by using student's responses, discussions, words or definitions to start a face-to-face discussion.

Some material adapted from Bim Angst Penn State Schuylkill: http://berks.psu.edu/hybrid/sessions.html