How to have fruitful online discussions

Quality contributions to online discussion threadss

Most online classes have a participation or response post requirement. That is not just another "hoop to jump through." That requirement can be a fruitful part of your learning journey.

Help turn your online studies into true virtual classrooms by carrying on extended conversations about course content. Encouraging critical thinking on the part of your classmates. Use the following suggestions to shape what you write and submit a post responding to someone else's assignment upload or a discussion post they have submitted.

General principles

  1. Make questions open-ended rather than simply calling for binary yes/no answers.
  2. Good response posts should grow out of additional thought and even additional research on your part.
  3. Good response posts invite continuing thought and/or research by the others unless they are a summary statements meant to conclude long discussions.
  4. To point out apparent flaws in others thinking indirectly, ask people to explain themselves, or by point out some "possible" contradiction.
  5. Good response posts are gracious rather than curt and brittle, even when you strongly disagree.
  6. Be inquisitive rather than confrontational.

Try calling for a display of thinking or feeling by asking:

  1. To what extent would you agree that ...?
  2. What are some ways ...?
  3. What evidence do you have for ...?
  4. What are your reasons for ...?
  5. How would you answer the objection that ...?
  6. What examples would you cite to support your statement that ...?
  7. What sources would you cite to support your statement that ...?
  8. How do you see your idea about ... working out in ... situation?
  9. How do you feel about ...? [Name something in the readings, current events, or the class postings.]
  10. What reasons do you have for saying ...?
  11. Why do you agree (or disagree) on that point?
  12. How are you defining the term "..." as you just used it?
  13. What do you mean by that expression "..."?
  14. How is what you are saying here consistent with what you said before?
  15. Please clarify what you mean by "...".
  16. What are you implying when you say "..."?
  17. It appears that you and ... are contradicting each other. Please expand your remarks to show how you do agree, or explain the basis of you disagreement.
  18. It seems to me like you are contradicting yourself on the issue of .... Please explain how you are able to resolve the tension between ... and

Extending or summarizing statements:

  1. I think I would summarize our discussion here by saying ....
  2. Another issue that we should probably discuss here is .... [Now make an opening statement on that issue.]
  3. Another resource I found helpful on this topic is .... [Now explain why and how it is helpful.]
  4. What we are discussing here seems to apply to [name some current event in your church/area/country/world]. [Now state how you see it applying.]
  5. I am wondering if the converse of this is also true/valid. It seems to me that ....
  6. Another position with some validity could be ....

Calls for clarification

  1. Will someone please help me understand the distinction between ... and ...?
  2. I don't understand what you mean by _______________________. Will you please explain?

  — origingally compiled by Marty Michelson


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