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Teaching Guide: Conducting Online Discussions

The term "online discussion" refers to any situation where instructors and students exchange ideas electronically. Various forms of online discussion are useful because they allow communication to extend beyond the classroom. Instructors and students generally find that online exchanges increase their understanding of the course objectives and contribute to a greater sense of class community. You can use electronic discussions to send brief messages, to respond to student writing, to generate ideas, and for peer review.

How to Login to Our Class forum on Syllabase

Most forms of online discussion used in COCC150 are conducted through a Web Forum on SyllaBase. Before you attempt to incorporate methods for online discussions, be sure your class SyllaBase page is up and running. Then, explore the various features on SyllaBase to help you decide how to incorporate online exchanges into your lessons.

Electronic Mailing Lists

Electronic mail allows you to send information to your students quickly and easily. Say there's an emergency, and you decide to cancel class; or you need to remind your students to bring their books to class on Monday. Electronic mail provides an ideal communication tool for these situations.

Private Mailing Lists

If you'd like to send students announcements or reminders, use your private e-mail class list available on SyllaBase.

Visit your "Private Electronic Mailing List" by logging onto your SyllaBase class home page (see "How to Login" for instructions ).

Public Mailing Lists

If you would like to send and receive e-mails from people outside your class, as well as those in the class, use a public e-mail list. Public lists can be useful teaching tools if students are responding to a debated issue through their writing. Start your own class group, or have students join a group that already exists. Involvement with outside groups will help students access information on their issue and learn more about local events.

To explore possibilities for using a public e-mail lists visit:

Discussion Forums

Discussion forums provide valuable spaces for instructors and students to exchange ideas and writing beyond the classroom. Instructors use discussion forums to: generate topics for writing, have students respond to an assigned reading, promote discussion on a topic, and for peer review.

View More on Discussion Forums:

To Post, Edit, or Reply to a Message

To Post a Message: Get into Forum 1 (if you are not already there). Click on the "Post" button (you may have to scroll down to see it). Then give your message a title and type your message in text box. When you've finished your message, scroll down and click on the gray "Submit" button.

To Edit a Message: Click on your posted message. Then click on the green "Edit" button on the top of the screen. After you've made changes to your text, scroll down and click on the "Submit" button.

To Reply to a Message: When you are reading a message you'll notice a purple "Reply" button on the top of the screen. Click on "Reply," type your message, and then click on the "Submit" button at the bottom of the screen.

Discussion Forum Uses

Discussion Forum Benefits

Discussion Forum Considerations

Chat Rooms

Chat rooms attract grammar rebels and boy-band fan clubs, but they may have earned their place in the writing classroom as well. A chat room is a space where a group of writers meet to carry on conversation. Unlike discussion forums that allow a writer time to compose his/her thoughts, chat rooms demand a writer's constant attention to a thread of ongoing discussion (much like a conversation). Instructors use chat rooms mainly to engage students thoughts on a topic, and to generate ideas for writing. While chat rooms typically do not lend themselves to polished writing, they encourage participation and can aid in the development of ideas.

Chat Room Uses

Chat Room Benefits

Chat Room Considerations

Small Group Discussions

Small group discussions are ideal for workshops and group projects. If you're asking students to collaborate on research or writing, group discussions provide an electronic space where group members can meet. Students often find it difficult to coordinate their schedules with their peers when working on a project. Through online group discussion, members can exchange ideas between classes without having to meet face to face.

How to Set Up Small Group Discussions Online

To set up online groups for your class log onto your SyllaBase class home page (see "How to Login to Our Class Web Forum on SyllaBase" for instructions). Then:

A Final Thought about Online Discussions

Like all classroom activities, online discussion requires some forethought; but most instructors find the benefits to communicating beyond the classroom are invaluable.