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Online Discussions

A well-designed online discussion engages students in an open-ended conversation that promotes deepened understanding of a topic. Design is only part of the process, though. To be truly effective, an online discussion needs to be facilitated by you in a way that encourages conversation and promotes exploration.

Online discussions differ from face to face discussions in several ways, as noted in the table below.


Face to Face
  • Spontaneous and rapid
  • Addresses multiple topics
  • Semi-structured
  • Detailed and slow paced
  • Addresses few topics
  • Heavily structured

In an online discussion, you design and facilitate the discussion while the students learn from each other and craft their own understanding of the topic. The students are responsible for learning the material and teach each other, while you facilitate the process from the side.


  • Prepare for in-class discussion (by posting questions for students to respond to prior to class)
  • Identify key concepts in course readings
  • Extend and apply issues introduced in course materials
  • Continue in-class discussion outside of class time
Engaging Students in Discussion Online

Additional Sources:

Online Discussions: Tips for Teachers

Teaching with Blogs