Sharing What I Find

Instructional Design and Technology in Education

Finding the Right Rubric for a Discussion Board

Using discussion in an asynchronous course can be an effective way to provide student-to-student interaction in an otherwise teacher-to-student atmosphere and helps to build a sense of community between students and/or teacher. Students are able to develop ideas gained from the content, verbalize those ideas in writing, and observe what other student’s ideas are and how they might be similar or different from one’s own perspective. Presenting the content back to the class can be a valuable exercise and a key to really understanding the goals of the lesson. For some students this will be a big challenge.

Success of a discussion board thread relies on these factors:

  1. You need to have a sufficient enrollment size of those participating to allow posts and enough comments to become a conversation. Follow through is an important element to creating a richer environment.
  2. Students need to be in or near the same place in the content to make the conversation flow and feel like they are getting sufficient responses to their ideas. It can be very discouraging when a thought goes uncommented on. Students may ask, “Was I completely off?’ “Was what I said offensive?’ “Is anyone out there?’ It might be helpful to establish posting deadlines.
  3. The instructor has to decide what role he or she will be playing in the conversation, ranging from being fully active where all posts get instructor’s feedback to that of one who lurks and participates only when the conversation becomes offensive or completely off topic.
  4. And probably the most important factor is starting out with a thought-provoking, carefully worded question or discussion statement.

Assessing Discussion Forum activity can be a daunting experience and can be susceptible to personal preference and emotion. Most successful discussions require both an original post plus comments on other posts and follow-up on comments made to one’s own ideas. By using an easy to understand rubric, students should be able to enhance discussion and create a respectful and engaging community and the grader should be able to assign points that are fair and consistent.

Criteria/Proficiency could include such items as listed in this example. You probably don’t want to include all of the criteria areas in your class. Pick those categories that work best for your class content and organization. Choices should be limited to about four or five categories.

Author: Heidi Olson

Heidi enjoys working with content experts in developing eCampus courses to provide alternatives for students. Her other interests include faculty training in best practices for eCampus and researching eCampus tools to help fulfill learning outcomes. Having worked in the distance education arena for over 20 years, she has a wide range of experiences in supporting students and faculty as technology and pedagogy evolve.

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