Discussion Boards: Not just another writing assignment
Let’s face it…balancing school, work, family, friends, and the million other commitments you have right now can be tough! Read the lecture; check. Read the required reading assignments; check. Read the suggested reading assignments…check. Write that research paper for the week; in progress. When approaching the Discussion Board posts that you have due each week, how do you tend to think about them? Do you find yourself thinking about them as just another writing assignment? Do you find yourself thinking, “a post by Saturday and then a quick response by Tuesday and then I can get back to writing my papers”?
As a professor here at Waldorf College, I have had the opportunity to both participate in Discussion Boards with students for several years now as well as very recently having been given the privilege to contribute to a workgroup focused on evaluating the Discussion Board Rubric (specifically the expectations and grading of Discussion Boards). As you can probably imagine, I have seen some tremendous Discussion Board posts…and some that were written at the very last minute (literally and figuratively speaking). It is with all of these experiences in mind that I wanted to take this opportunity to “flip the map” on this very valuable component of your online learning experience and share with you the value of your participation in the Discussion Boards from the perspective of those genuinely invested in your success; your professors. So what are we looking for? Let me share a few thoughts from some of the great faculty in the Discussion Board workgroup.
Discussion boards should not simply be viewed as another assessment/writing assignment. The purpose of the discussion board assignment is three-fold. It allows students to:
- Demonstrate critical thinking in regards to a unit’s content before the unit assessments. So what does this mean? Quite simply, it gives you the opportunity to work through your understanding of the content for the unit/course in a conversational format with you peers and professor. This is like a practice run for future tests and papers! Work through your understanding of the content, test your knowledge and ability to articulate that understanding, and identify the concepts you need to spend additional time with.
- Engage with a potentially controversial or real-life application of the unit’s content. For many of us, this is where the rubber meets the road! This is your chance to work through the nuances of the topic, integrate it into your own ideas and beliefs, and then present and defend them in a safe environment in order to gain alternative perspectives (an enormous value I cannot overstate if you take any of my courses as cognitive biases are not only counterproductive but can prove potentially life threatening)!
- Connect with peers and instructors through the exchanging of ideas in a conversational setting. Discussion Boards are designed to allow you the opportunity not only to network with other students, but to share some of your experiences, thoughts, and ideas with one another in a way that I genuinely believe greatly enhances your academic and professional Again, I am going to go with my own specific program on this one, but I when I can get members of disparate groups of professionals (firefighters, EMS, law enforcement, military, private sector professionals) discussing a topic without a limited focus on their own roles (only seeing the issue from the vantage point and perspective they see it in every day), tremendous learning and Ah-ha moments take place.
So the next time you are sitting down at your computer facing yet another Discussion Board post to complete, please think about just how valuable these “exchanges” of thought can be and take the time to provide meaningful responses to each question and to the posts of your fellow students and professor. We TRULY believe that the best learning comes from the sharing of our collective experience and knowledge (and varying professional positions and points of view).
Best of luck, stay safe, and see you in the Discussion Boards.
DJ Phalen is the homeland security program director