If you’ve used the Blackboard Discussion Board, I think you’ll really like the new and improved model. It provides a much easier-to-read interface and quicker ways to locate new posts and assess student participation. If you are not a discussion board user, you might consider trying it out.
How can you use the discussion board and why should you use it? Well . . . discussion boards can serve many functions/purposes. They can be used as:
- a forum just for student conversation, like a MySpace community, for instance. Call it “Student Cafe” or “Water Cooler” or whatever suits your fancy. Just make sure that you let students know the forum is for them to get together with their classmates and just chat. Some students may recognize student names from previous classes and want to reconnect.
- an ice-breaker at the beginning of a course, using several strategies (Two Truths & a Lie) to help students get to know each other and the instructor.
- a brainstorming, problem-solving session. For instance, present students with a problem or idea and let the discussion forum flow. Tell them you are not concerned about spelling or grammar–you just want them to start putting out ideas and talking about them, to further develop a story plot, or any number of free-flowing conversations.
- a platform for compiling research materials and collaborating on a writing or other project.
- a venue for study groups/review for a test. You could provide a set of questions that students answer and then another group checks the answers and responds.
- a reader-response forum, where students respond to a reading and then respond to at least one other posting from another classmate.
- a tech support forum, where the instructor and students can respond to tech problems experienced in the course
I’m sure you can think of many other ways discussion boards can be used in your course. Don’t think that discussion forums are only useful in online courses, however. The inclusion of discussion forums in hybrid or face-to-face courses can help certain students participate more fully in class and can help them stay connected to the course. They can also be very helpful as a communication tool when you have to cancel a class (remember evening classes last Thursday?)
Why should you use discussion forums? Here are 10 reasons I came up with:
- Help students stay connected with the class and content
- Provide other opportunities for expression and asking questions
- Encourage multiple points of view
- Allow anonymous posts in topic areas that might be more sensitive
- Build a sense of identity and belonging to a community of learners
- Provide a resource for information and FAQ
- Improve test scores through course review
- Promote active learning
- Reminders of new postings through email notifications (new subscription feature in Blackboard)
- Interaction available to all participants at any time, regardless of time zone and other conflicts