10 Tips from Peers for Using a WebAssign Forum Discussion Board

Scott Crawford, a Cengage Faculty Partner, has had great success using the WebAssign Discussion Board forums for learning.
Continue reading to learn Scott’s 10 peer tips on using a discussion forum and what he has learned.
1) Students must respond to others and post their thoughts
Many students have said, “I thought the forum was silly, but it turned to be really useful.” Students won’t even look at it unless it’s a requirement grade. But once they see it, it will become something they use and enjoy. Students who don’t feel the need to use the discussion boards should be encouraged to answer questions from other students. Students will be more engaged and collaborative if they are required to use the discussion forum. This may also reduce the number students ask you for help.

2) No restrictions on post content
It’s okay for you to share your frustrations with the class. It’s fine to discuss questions that you don’t know the answer to. It’s fine to create a meme. Students can reply to another’s topic or start a new one. It removes restrictions on what students can write and allows students to interact with other students.

3) Create a topic thread for each homework assignment
Students should ask for help, especially online. You can eliminate the endless threads of students asking the same question about homework by creating a topic thread. You can give them a place where they can collaborate and help each other.

4) Don’t open discussion boards until the homework is complete
It is important that all students are working on the homework (and discussing it) simultaneously. This keeps the homework fresh in their minds and allows for more students to view the discussion board every day. You shouldn’t allow them to post in a thread about homework they haven’t started yet.

5) Lock Discussion Forums For Old Homework
It is not a good idea for students to ask questions about the text when it isn’t being read. It helps them keep up with their class. Students can still see previous posts, but locking the forum prevents them from trying to post in a forum that no one will ever see.

6) Create a forum for funny comments
If you allow any post, then you will get many posts that are not on topic. It’s fine to have a topic or forum for posts that are not related to class. Students who want to learn real information don’t have to sift through a thread about Stranger Things.

7) Students, thank you for posting
When a student responds to a question with a great answer, make it a point to tell them how amazing that is. Tell students, “Many of your responses to others have been helping them – you guys really rocks!” Encourage students to take pride and help others. Soon you will see students sharing their knowledge with each other.

8) Class Size Matters
If you have many students, you will have plenty of help when someone posts a question. You might need to post more often if you have fewer students. You will need to check the board more often if your class is smaller. You might feel more inclined to ask students for homework help if there are only a few of them.

9) Remove Posts If Needed
While we recommend that students limit the content they can post, there are always exceptions. You can remove inappropriate comments, student sharing exam questions or answers, or anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.

10) Know the tricks
You can give credit to students who post in the forums if you keep track. Here are a few tips:
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