"The discussions have been helpful." -- José O., Nazarene Bible College
A discussion board in an online class is a vehicle for sharing ideas and insights. Sometimes
called forums, these discussion boards are places where students express their views on course
topics as well as respond to what other students have posted.
Are you struggling with meeting the expectations for the required online response or
"participation" notes? Here are five levels or categories of online response posts that may help
you improve those as well as other pieces of writing. Use this material as a response post writing
Level 0 - Little is said more than "I agree." Evaluation:Minimal
Level 1 - Information from the textbook or other students' written work is simply recited or
Level 2 - Ideas from other students' posts and from other sources are connected in ways
going beyond rote responses. Evaluation:Good
Level 3 - At this level, students explain their thinking about what others have written and
even arrive at some generalizing through inductive reasoning. There is a visible line of reasoning
and some use of supporting evidence with sources being cited. Evaluation:Excellent
Level 4 - At this top level, students analyze and synthesize ideas or themes
which have surfaced in other students' submissions. They offer hypotheses and supporting
evidence which, in turn, stimulates others to consider new perspectives. Evaluation:Exceptional
Develop your critical-thinking skills. Make your online response posts be at least
Level 2 quality. Level 3 is even better!
If used correctly, online class forums and discussion boards will help you:
Quality contributions to online discussion threads
With thanks to my Old Testament scholar friend Marty Michelson
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
Turn your online studies into true virtual classrooms by carrying on extended
conversations about course content. Try to encourage critical thinking on the part of your
classmates. Use the following suggestions to shape what you write on a discussion board.
General principles for fruitful online discussions
Make questions open-ended rather than simply calling for binary yes/no answers.
Good response posts should grow out of additional thought and even additional research on
Good response posts invite continuing thought and/or research by the others unless they are a
summary statements meant to conclude long discussions.
To politely point out apparent flaws in others thinking indirectly, ask people to explain
themselves, or by pointing out some "possible" contradiction.
Good response posts are gracious rather than curt and brittle, even when you strongly
Be inquisitive rather than confrontational.
Try calling for a display of thinking or feeling by asking:
To what extent would you agree that ...?
What are some ways ...?
What evidence do you have for ...?
What are your reasons for ...?
How would you answer the objection that ...?
What examples would you cite to support your statement that ...?
What sources would you cite to support your statement that ...?
How do you see your idea about ... working out in ... situation?
How do you feel about ...? [Name something in the readings, current events, or the class
What reasons do you have for saying ...?
Why do you agree (or disagree) on that point?
How are you defining the term "..." as you just used it?
What do you mean by that expression "..."?
How is what you are saying here consistent with what you said before?
Please clarify what you mean by "...".
What are you implying when you say "..."?
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.
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:
I think I would summarize our discussion here by saying ....
Another issue that we should probably discuss here is .... [Now make an opening statement
on that issue.]
Another resource I found helpful on this topic is .... [Now explain why and how it is
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.]
I am wondering if the converse of this is also true/valid. It seems to me that ....
Another position with some validity could be ....
Calls for clarification
Will someone please help me understand the distinction between ... and ...?
I don't understand what you mean by _______________________. Will you please
-- Howard Culbertson,
Note: The course web pages on the official NBC site will contain expanded written
instructions for the required response posts.
"I found this class very helpful in helping gain new knowledge regarding missions in
the Church. Prior to this class I had little first hand experience with much of the information we
discussed. I really appreciated the feedback from the various levels of experience of the instructor
and each of my classmates." -- student on the course evaluation"
What kind of online student are you? Do
others think of you as Busy or Wordy or Disconnected Dan? Do you sometimes come off to
others as Oblivious or Trite-ly or even End-times Edith? . . [ more