Discussion Boards: Overview
A Discussion Board allows users to interact at different times. They do not have to be in the same place at the same time, as in a Virtual Classroom or Chat Room. Also, a Discussion Board is not email because messages are typically viewable by everyone in the class (unless instructors limit who can participate either by "blocking" users or creating different Forums for different Groups of users).
Forums are used to organise threads. Think of a Forum in terms of a unique online discussion, which mimics a traditional classroom discussion activity. For example, when teaching in a live classroom, you may have a weekly discussion assignment in which you expect everyone to participate. The same can happen in your online classroom.
Threads are top-level message posts within a Forum. If you allow it, users can add new threads, which is analogous to asking a question or taking the initiative to spark a topic of discussion in the traditional classroom. The list of threads is displayed when entering a forum. To view all connected postings (replies) to a thread, users must select the thread's hyperlink. In the list of threads, users can see at a glance the number of Unread Posts and Total Posts for each thread.
Forum Moderation: Discussion Boards give students the freedom to share their thoughts and opinions on class topics with other users. Occasionally, students may introduce material to the Discussion Board that is inappropriate for the class discussion. Depending on the maturity and the sensitivity of the students in the site, it may be important to review student posts for inappropriate content before sharing posts with the rest of the class.
Instructors have the option of forcing moderation. If moderation is enabled, when a user other than a Moderator or Manager submits a post, the post is saved to the Moderation Queue. New posts are displayed in the queue for review and publication. If a post is rejected, a return message can be attached to the post informing the user why the post was not accepted for publication.
Grading: in a classroom setting, students are often expected to participate in class discussions and that participation is part of the equation when assessing performance. Within a classroom, participation performance can be ambiguous. It is sometimes difficult to differentiate the student who is active but does not advance the discussion from the student that speaks less frequently but with greater impact. Student interactions with the Discussion Board are a permanent record of participation. The Instructor has the option to grade Students at the forum level or at the thread level. In this way the Instructor can accurately compare Student participation to the expectations set forth.
Other notable features of the Discussion Board include:
Forum Availability & Thread Availability/Hiding: instructors can make an entire forum unavailable or just make certain threads within the forum unavailable so the forum or thread cannot be viewed by students. Alternately, instructors can change status of threads to Hidden; hidden threads do not display unless the user chooses. Hiding threads removes outdated threads and makes relevant content easier to find, which is particularly useful for discussion forums that have accumulated an overwhelming number of messages.
Statistics: Discussion Board statistics are a part of the Performance Dashboard. The total number of forums in which the user has participated is displayed for each user. Clicking on the number directs the instructor to a user detail page that displays links to all forums in which the user has participated and usage statistics for the user in each forum. Statistics displayed include:
- Total Posts
- Date of Last Post
- Average Post Length
- Minimum and Maximum Post Lengths
- Average Post Position
- Grade (if grading is enabled and the post is not yet graded, the instructor may click a link to the Grade Centre to add a grade)
This information can help Instructors quickly identify students that are outside the normal range of participation. Instructors can use this information to reward achievement and assist students that are struggling with the material.