Heather Russino By Heather Russino • November 13, 2023

6 Essential Ways to Write a Brilliant Online Discussion Board Post

Taking an online course can be an enriching, educational experience. In the online course space, you have the ability to share different perspectives with various classmates and host in-depth discussions on relevant course topics. There are so many key takeaways and memorable moments that can emerge from a dynamic discussion forum if you allow yourself to be an integral part of the conversation.

How do you stand out and attract the attention of your classmates and mentor via the discussion forum? Here are six key ways to help you generate an effective post, guaranteed to engage your audience and elicit thoughtful responses from your mentor and classmates.

1. Do your homework. 

Complete the assigned readings for the module and delve directly into the material. How can you possibly write about a specific concept or topic if you don’t have a clear perspective of the course material directly from the start? As you’re reading, make connections between the text and the “real world” – find ways to make the concepts applicable to your own life. What value does the content offer you? What added value will you bring to the context of the material? Immerse yourself in the readings so when you’re ready to begin writing, you’ll be fully prepared to present an authentic, meaningful response.

2. Wake up your classmates with a strong argument or perspective.

Develop a strong argument and support your statements with evidence from the course materials. In other words: research, research, research and cite, cite, cite. Be concise and articulate your ideas thoroughly. Pose an additional question with supported documentation. Explore all parts of the discussion question and get students to think beyond traditional measures. Not sure if your ideas will garner the attention you’re looking for? Be sure to reference a rubric to keep you on track.

3. Be relevant.

A post placed in an authentic context is the key to generating a successful discussion. Include personal or professional experience (when it’s applicable), and support your ideas with text evidence. Are you learning about something that you have direct experience with or currently explore in the workplace? Offer real-world application of these ideas to bring added value to the conversation and resonate with other students. Remember to always relate direct references to concepts you’re learning about and establish those connections with evidence from academic sources. 

4. Bring something unique to the post.

What’s the added value you’re contributing to the dialogue? Provide a video clip, article reading, or link to an outside resource that highlights the message you’re conveying; do something extra that requires others to think and respond to the ideas you’re sharing. Establishing a standpoint and supporting it with evidence are great ways to demonstrate that you are not only making connections with the content but also attaining a deep understanding of the material.

5. Prepare your response in a text editor before you post.

Whether you love working in the cloud via Google Apps or are a longtime fan of Word, use your favorite text editor and draft your response in a text editor before you post to the discussion board. In doing so, you’ll have a better chance to ensure the post is cohesive, coherent, and complete. You’re also more likely to catch grammatical errors and other mistakes there first.

6. Leave participants wanting more.

Post your response, engage with your classmates, and continue to ask follow-up questions. Be an integral part of the conversation and add value to what is being discussed. Some of the best online discussions continue in the minds of others long after you post to the discussion forum. So the next time you post – ask yourself: What’s the added value I can bring directly to this discussion? Conduct your research, support your ideas, be relevant, and work hard to make it happen!

Heather Russino

Written by Heather Russino

Heather Russino is an instructional designer in The W. J. Seaton Center for Learning and Technology, an innovative and trailblazing learning environment center that serves self-directed students through the use of current and emerging technology and outcomes-driven curriculum design. A Columbia University graduate and educator for over 20 years, Russino enjoys writing about her areas of expertise in teaching, learning and course design.

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