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Four Strategies to Help You Enhance Your Online Classroom Discussions

How To Enhance Your Online Classroom Discussions

If you are to online learning, you might find online classroom discussions a bit challenging. However, if you learn a few simple rules, this can improve the quality of your discussions, your overall experience, as well as your discussion grades. I first published on elearningindustry.com. In this article, I present 4 strategies which can help enhance your online classroom discussions.

 

1. Be Mindful Of Your Communication Techniques

Most online learning assignments are via writing; therefore, an online student should have the ability to communicate effectively via this mode of communication. However, not everyone may have this skill at the onset of the online learning journey. As a new student, you may have challenges interpreting and responding to discussions made by others, especially those who do not share a similar cultural background as you do.

The trick is you should always strive to be professional, and thoughtful in your responses. Even if you perceive your classmate’s choice of words as being harsh, do not respond in kind. From experience, I have learned that it is quite possible that your classmate may not have mastered the art of written communication, and may have challenges in how they communicate via writing: This may lead to misunderstanding on your part.

I can recall one instance when I felt offended by a remark one of my colleagues made. Rather than ignoring the tone in which my colleague wrote, I proceeded to respond in kind without putting much thought into how I may have come across. It was after I had sent the reply and read it I realized how blunt it sounded. I immediately apologized.

Then there is the matter of writing in all capital letters. I had no clue that to write in caps was a bad netiquette in online communication. That is, until I did it and another student asked me why I was shouting at her. I had no clue that capital letters meant the person using them was shouting: I ended up apologizing for that too.

2. Ask For Clarification When Unclear

In a particular week, the classroom instructions might be to reply to two or three of your classmate’s discussions. In your responses, you can either expand on what the other student wrote or ask a relevant question. Instead of asking questions, most students in my class seemed to prefer adding to what another person wrote.

If you want to develop your ability to ask relevant questions, the online classroom discussion forum is an excellent place to begin getting this practice. Do not be afraid, to ask questions whenever you are not clear about something. Asking questions is a sign of curiosity and critical thinking: if you want to learn, you must become curious about the subject matter.

 

3. Use Appropriate Citations In Your Discussions

Always keep in mind that a discussion is more about the quality of the content, rather than the quantity of what you write. Therefore, you can write a long detailed discussion, but if you do not include citations to support the points you make, you will risk losing points. In a discussion, you share your point of view, and your responsibility is to ensure that you support every argument with facts.

Do not throw in any random citations, make sure they are appropriate to the subject you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing an experience you had, you should remember that your experiences are not facts in academic writing. In order to make your experience relevant you must be able to find the evidence to support it. Use the resources available to your advantage: for example, textbooks, audio, research article, or credible websites.

 

4. Be Objective In Your Online Classroom Discussions

While your tendency may be to argue in one viewpoint than another, the best arguments are those in which you provide two versions before stating which one you support. In doing so, you present a more powerful discussion, which is one of the ways in which you can practice “thinking outside of the box”. You must be able to look at a subject from different perspectives before forming a conclusion.

Furthermore, developing the habit of objectivity will be an asset. Let us say you are in a teaching or advertising field and you wish to get your audience to make a decision that is similar to yours, the best way to do so will be to provide them with the pros and the cons and let them make an informed decision. The chances are higher that they will side with you if you do not withhold the information that they need.  For example, if your topic is honey and you just state the advantages of honey, the audience is going to left wondering what the disadvantages of honey are.

Being objective in your discussion will show the instructor that you are thinking outside of the box and this will more likely contribute towards a higher grade.

Final Word

Classroom discussions provide an active medium for online learners. It is also helps to develop your online communication skills and your ability to think broadly. While you may be tempted to slight your discussions because they do not contribute as high a percentage as major assignments, I urge you not to take this approach. Always strive to do your best regardless of the amount of marks given.

You will find this article helpful in your goal to become excellent in having online discussions: Mastering Online Discussion Board Facilitation.

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