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Academic Communication

Best Practices for Discussion Boards

In fully online classes, discussion boards are a very important space of conversation, collaboration, and community. As their name implies, discussion boards are often used to take the place of the discussions you'd have in an actual classroom. Followed the directions: Got 100% on my Discussion Boards Success Kid MemeDepending upon the course and content, instructors use discussion boards for different reasons, and sometimes your posts are graded and other times not. The following best practices take into consideration both graded and ungraded discussion board posts.

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  1. Always practice proper netiquette. "Netiquette" refers to the professional and social etiquette of communicating on the Internet. Sometimes discussion boards in your class might be informal, a space to ask questions or chat with your classmates; other times, the discussion boards will be more formal, consisting of graded assignments where you are expected to use academic language. Regardless, you should always use proper netiquette when communicating with your professors and classmates. Here are some key rules of netiquette:
    • Be respectful;
    • Be precise (think about the words you use and if they can be misconstrued);
    • Be accurate (if you quote another student or refer to an outside source, make sure you do so accurately);
    • Be courteous;
    • Be kind!
  2. Remember who your audience is. Even if you're primarily discussing amongst your peers, your instructor can still see and read everything you post on the discussion boards! Don't post anything you wouldn't want your instructor to see.
  3. Realize that online discussion boards have different types of access. Sometimes, you will have open access to a discussion board topic, which means you can post whenever you’d like and regardless of whether you've posted before. Other times, especially when discussion boards are graded, your professor might only open the discussion board for a specific date range. You might even need to post first before you're able to see what anyone else has posted.
  4. Treat online discussion board assignments as proper assignments! Take time to read each discussion board prompt in order to fully understand what you're being asked to do. On that note, if you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your professor. Sometimes, there might even be an open discussion board where you can post questions about assignments.
  5. Proofread your work before posting. Going back to the importance of practicing proper netiquette, if your work is full of grammatical errors and typos, WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS, or like ur txting ur bff, your work can come across as sloppy at best, disrespectful at worst.
  6. Check to make sure your post actually went through! More often than not, your submission will go off without a hitch; however, it's always best to recheck that your post has indeed been submitted properly. This is especially true when you’re attaching a file to a post (link to video). Refresh the webpage and reopen the discussion board to see if your post (and attachment(s), if applicable) is there. If it is, you’re good to go!

Cherrill Pascal, Office Administration Major and Peer Tutor at the DSC Writing Center:

I have completed more than 10 courses which required using discussion boards. These practices have been extremely helpful:

  • Conduct research using credible sources for your original post.
  • Submit your original post at least 2 days prior the scheduled due date. This practice allows more time to read through other original posts, then decide which post you have more information to respond to.
  • Do research on the topic you are responding to. This will help you to add more useful information to the other person’s original post and you will not be limited to merely responding "I agree, and it was a good post."
  • Being on the opposite of an argument adds more information and detail to the original post it will also appeal to other readers; however, not every post must be challenged.

Savannah Johnson, Associate of Arts Student and Peer Tutor at the DSC Writing Center:

I have had to participate in discussion board posts for Math, English, Speech, History, and Political Science, among other courses. The following techniques have been incredibly helpful:

  • Understand what is asked of you. Knowing the criteria for the discussion board can help you meet these requirements. In order to successfully complete what is asked of you, you need to be sure you understand the prompt and ask for clarification if you don't. Making sure you meet the proper length requirements or word count is also very important.
  • Complete additional requirements for the discussion, such as reading a chapter from the textbook or watching a video.
  • Clarify due dates. Make sure you know the criteria for when discussion boards are due. There may be criteria like the original posting and the reply or replies to other students need to be done on different calendar days. Be sure to adhere to this schedule and plan ahead to ensure you get it done on time.