Three Ways to Change up Your Online Discussion Board Prompts

Are you having trouble getting students to participate in online discussions? Consider using other types of prompts in addition to the typical open-ended question. Maria Ammar, assistant English professor at Frederick Community College, uses the following prompts in her English as a second language course and recommends them for other types of courses:

  1. Articles—Post an article in the discussion board and have students do an activity related to its content. This gives students more content on which to comment than a typical prompt that consists solely of a question.
  2. Audio—Post an audio prompt. Listening is an integral part of learning a language. It also is a medium that students are comfortable with and find interesting. Ammar has students post their notes on radio broadcasts in a threaded discussion. “Even though everybody is listening to the same [content], they may catch different things,” Ammar says.
  3. Video—Even more engaging is video. Simply post a link to a YouTube video (or one from another source), and ask students to comment or answer an open-ended questions about it.

In courses that are intended to develop students’ writing skills, the discussion board can be an excellent way to get students to write on a regular basis. However, one of the obstacles to students’ full participation in this type of learning is some students’ reluctance to share things that they consider too personal.

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