Discussion forums

Conversation threads.

Class conversations can often run the gamut and cover grounds that are beyond the scope of a fixed lesson time. That’s why having the option to host ‘offline’ discussion is a great feature of any virtual classroom.

Every Discussion module can be set up to have multiple topics, each of which then break into the individual conversation threads. Threads can be initiated by the teacher to stir a debate, address a peripheral topic or continue a theme that was started in class. Likewise, students can post their questions or express their own opinions, prompting for feedback from their peers.

The great thing is that the conversations are recorded and tracked within the module, so teachers can refer to these either in assessing student understanding and progress, or even fostering better class relationships.

Voting polls.

Sometimes nothing expresses the consensus quite as clearly as a graphic breakdown. With the Discussion module, polls can be set up to allow votes to be cast on a question, idea, issue, viewpoint—or just about anything that encourages participation.

Each poll forms parts of a dedicated conversation thread, which means other than just casting an anonymous vote, users can include commentary or feedback in a post. This encourages student expression of opinions with supporting reasoning, plus it stimulates further engaged conversation on the topic.

Media enhanced.

Not all conversations have to start with just words. That’s why every thread in the Discussion module has the ability to include media such as photos, videos or audio files.

Conversations can therefore be spurred after watching a video clip, or analysis performed on a series of images posted in the thread, or feedback offered after listening to a speech sample—another way to improve the engagement and interaction with topics or ideas.

Moderation options.

Setting up rules of engagement within an online discussions can be just the same as embedding classroom rules and etiquette. Some may have a firm rule on use of informal language or ‘texting’ slang. Others may prefer to encourage free expression… with a watchful eye, of course.

To support this, the Discussion module has a series of options built in to allow teachers to configure interaction and posting.

With moderation itself enabled, every post submitted by students doesn’t get immediately published, giving teachers the chance to preview the message first before making it available to the whole class or forum. Moderating doesn’t have to be restricted to the teacher though—options are included to promote selected responsible students as ‘monitors’ to help curate the forum.

Likewise, participants can be added to ‘view-only’ or ‘block’ lists per topic, so you can control who has access and establish impositions if necessary. Once proper online etiquette has been learned and practised, teachers can then ease back on the moderation controls.