Academic Continuity - Examples and Tips for Effective Online Discussions

This article was created to assist instructors transition to Online delivery March 20 – April 6th.

Example Discussion Rubrics

Both of the Discussion Rubrics below are available in the “Southwest Tech Standard Template” group under the “Pre-made Graded Items” folder inside of “Pre-made Discussions
Note: You will have to “Import from Resources” for the Discussions and Rubric (One Rubric per course) to use them in your class.

Simple Discussion Rubric


Specific Discussion Rubric



Tips for Effective Online Discussions

1. Convey Clear Expectations

It’s easy to hold online discussions to higher standards. Not all students participate equally in a face-to-face class but online allows us to require a specific amount of participation from each student to earn credit. We suggest requiring one answer to the initial questions (by Wednesday) and two additional replies to classmates (by Sunday).

    Ways to accomplish this

In every discussion instructions in Schoology clearly explain the requirements for Initial Responses and Replies (most instructors clarify a word count and due date for each step of the discussion process)
Be careful what you wish for, however! Remember that you'll need to read everything your students write.

2. Create a Low-risk Introduction Discussion

Many students will be experiencing online discussions for the first time. This introduction discussion board will give them a chance to practice using Schoology and learn more about their fellow students. Normally they consist of students introducing themselves and being asked to read and reply to two of their classmates' introductions.

Ways to accomplish this

Use the example Introductory Discussion in the group “Southwest Tech Standard Template”. It is located in the “Pre-made Graded Items” folder under “Pre-made Discussions”.

3. Clarify Your Role

The norms of online academic discussions are a lot less established than those that occur in person. Students might bring particular expectations to their online course. It is important to share with them how you envision your role in online discussions.

Ways to accomplish this

Decide what you want to do in the discussions.
o    Do you want to help the Discussion along with it gets stuck?
o    Are you going to respond to everyone?
o    Will you do a final wrap up post to close out the Discussion?

4. Track Participation

Keeping track of how many posts each student has done can be a time consuming endeavor (especially when you have a large class). Luckily Schoology has a feature that allows to see in one screen how many times each student has posted.

 Ways to accomplish this

Use the “Highlight User” dropdown at the top of the Schoology Discussion Board to see the list of how many posts each student has. Note this does not differentiate between original post and responses

5. Create Questions based on Program/Course Outcomes

This unusual situation has made us shift how we approach teaching our classes. Using the Discussion Boards to talk about the Outcomes is two-fold. First it ensures we cover the necessary topics and secondly, we will have proof that our Academic process was uninterrupted during this time.

Ways to accomplish this

Use the Outcomes from your Syllabus to create Discussions in the course. Make a point of telling students the discussion are linked to specific outcomes and that they are a vital part of the course going forward.