Friday, December 2, 2016

Best Practices for Online Discussion: 16 Quality, Timing, and Value Added Response Tips

Expertly facilitated online discussion is the driving force for community in online classes. Creating norms for discussion quality and timing improve the dialog. This also helps the facilitator step back as students learn to deepen their online dialog.

The following quality, timing, and response tips were suggested by my network of e-learning professionals and by the participants in ELearning for Educators, part of the UW-Stout ELearning and Online Teaching Graduate Certificate Program.

8 Quality and Timing Tips for Online Discussion:

  1. Focus on the prompt; follow the directions in the prompt closely.
  2. Respond to those who respond to you! This is essential!
  3. Avoid short "Me too" or "I agree" posts. Make your posts substantial
  4. Add value to the discussion (see below).
  5. Post early in the week. You'll get more response and become more engaged in conversation.
  6. Respond throughout the week; you help sustain the dialog.
  7. Avoid doing all of your posting at the end of the week. You miss out on interaction.
  8. Use direct quotations from your text or online source. (Cite the source so your reader can find it.)

8 Value Added Response Techniques:

  1. Ask a specific question (but avoid prompting yes or no answers).
  2. Ask an open ended (on topic) question that invites a response.
  3. Expand on the a specific element of the post.
  4. Provide a teaching story that illustrates the a main idea.
  5. Offer a different perspective on an essential idea in the post.
  6. Provide an online resource relevant to the topic (include a hyperlink).
  7. Describe a method you use in your practice.
  8. Provide a summary of the ideas posted so far (good when you come late to the conversation). 
  9. Create a mix of response styles; writing, audio and video keep things interesting.

Please Share tips and techniques you use to improve online discussion!


  1. WiredInstructor,

    These two lists of eight are really helpful. I used them both recently (for myself) in hosting a day long training via WebEx. Because we make extensive use of synchronous training with break-out rooms and whiteboards, keeping these in a floating window off to the side was decidedly helpful. The participants voted that these were "keepers."

    Thanks again,

    Tom in Asheville

  2. After doing a few weeks of my first online class, I am growing to appreciate your helpful hints more and more.
    Miss Kirkwood, M.Ed.

  3. As I continue to do the assignments for my first online class, I am beginning to appreciate your helpful tips.


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