In an online class, the discussion forum is the main way students and professors interact with the course’s ideas and lessons. But how do you do this successfully—and earn top marks for your thoughts?
What is a Discussion Post?
In an online class, discussion posts are the main way students and professors interact with the course’s ideas and lessons. The best discussion posts demonstrate an understanding of the course material and present a cohesive argument with evidence to back it up.
The following six tips can help you generate an effective post, guaranteed to engage your classmates and elicit thoughtful responses from your instructor and classmates.
1. Do your homework.
Complete the assigned readings before writing your post. As you’re reading, make connections between the text and your own life. Immerse yourself in the readings so when you’re ready to begin writing, you’ll be fully prepared to present an authentic, meaningful response. Also, always be sure to access your instructor's feedback on previous assignments to make sure you follow all expectations.
2. Read prompts carefully.
- Purpose: What question or required reading are you being asked to respond to?
- Particulars: What is the word limit? When is the due date and time? What sources are you expected to draw on?
- Response type: Are you being asked to reflect on personal experience, determine a solution to a problem, compare two ideas, or make an argument?
- Formatting: What formatting has your instructor requested? If no specific formatting is indicated, follow general APA guidelines.
- Expectations: How will your discussion post be assessed? Consult your course materials or instructor.
3. Wake up your classmates with a strong argument or perspective.
Develop a strong argument and support your statements with evidence from the course materials. In other words: research, research, research and cite, cite, cite. Be concise and articulate your ideas thoroughly. Explore all parts of the discussion question and get other students to think beyond traditional measures.
4. Be relevant.
Include personal or professional experience (when it’s applicable), and support your ideas with textual evidence. Offer real-world application of these ideas to bring added value to the conversation and resonate with other students. Remember to always relate direct references to concepts you’re learning about and establish those connections with evidence from academic sources.
5. Bring something unique to the post.
Do something extra that requires others to think and respond to the ideas you’re sharing. Use topic sentences to bring all points together and dig deep to find connections beyond the surface. Be sure that you have proposed a unique perspective that can be challenged by your classmates.
6. Prepare your response in a text editor (like Word) before you post.
In doing so, you’ll have a better chance to ensure the post is cohesive, coherent, and complete. Make sure to check all spelling and grammar. Just because it’s a discussion post doesn’t mean it should be messy.
7. Leave participants wanting more.
Post your response, engage with your classmates, and continue to ask follow-up questions. Be an integral part of the conversation and add value to what is being discussed. Some of the best online discussions continue in the minds of others long after you post to the discussion forum. So the next time you post, ask yourself: What can I write that will add value to the conversation?
Writing is a process and one that requires consistent work and attention. Keep at it, and do not hesitate to reach out to me at any time for assistance! For even more tips and strategies, please visit my Student Writing Support website.