Online Discussion Challenge


In this challenge you will begin to create  discussion questions for your online course with create clear guidelines and expectations. You will also plan how you will be an active facilitator during the discussions.


When people hear about distance education, they sometimes fear that students will be missing a great deal of interaction, communication, and participation. This is a misconception that needs to be addressed so that people will begin to appreciate the advantages of distance education and what it has to offer. Students can communicate and interact in distance education, just as they do in traditional face-to-face classes. At times, there is more interaction that takes place in online discussions than in traditional classrooms.

Asynchronous discussions are discussions that students can take part in at any time. They give the students more time to think about the topic being studied and to research more about it. They can respond to posts made on the forum after they have had time to think about the topic and read what others have already contributed to the discussion. Students are able to log into their classes to view the questions and remarks made by other students and the instructor before making their own contribution.

Another advantage to having asynchronous discussions is the fact that the discussions give the students more information and have a more meaningful analysis. It is easy for students to turn to outside resources to get more information about the topic being discussed and to be able to support their argument with scholarly work. Research has found that students did the extra research before making a comment because they did not want to sound unintelligent in front of their colleagues, and they felt that they did not have enough background knowledge in the subject matter. This leads to a development of critical thinking.
Finally, online discussions provide students with an equal opportunity in participation and a chance for all voices to be heard. In online discussions, all students can give an answer, even if it is merely agreeing with one of their colleague’s opinions. There are some students who are very shy and do not like to speak in front of their peers and by communicating through online discussions, they are able to give themselves a voice.

From The Effectiveness and Development of Online Discussions

Asynchronous  discussions are the main focus of most online courses, regardless of the subject matter or discipline. A discussion forum is primarily a text-based mode of communication where someone will post a start to a threaded message and people will respond to that thread. Often, many threads can be going at the same time, with longer-lasting discussions.

Discussion Thread Example:

Laulima Forums

If you are teaching online with Laulima, or another LMS, the asynchronous discussions  should be the foundation of your online course. They are excellent for creating and sustaining a high level of interaction between students and their peers, and between students and instructor.

Asynchronous Discussions

  • Promote student engagement with the course material, the instructor, and classmates,
  • provide a way for ideas to be heard, shared, and developed,
  • provide instructors with the opportunity to express their passion for their subject matter and inspire it in their online students, and
  • encourage active learning.

Asynchronous discussions  allow students to illustrate their insights, questions, and application of and engagement with the topics, concepts, and material being created, presented and discussed. Requiring students to actively participate in and complete individual form/discussion posts, as well as respond to several of their peers’ posts, nurtures student-to-student learning and promotes transparency and open learning.   Thinking critically through  the exchange of perspectives is invaluable in ANY online course.

Asynchronous discussions are also used to create regular  interaction between students and with the instructor. The instructor encourages participants to dig deeper into the topic as well as build community with their peers.

It is critical for successful discussions to be well-organized. Discussions should mirror the organization of the syllabus.  Typically, a course has some sequencing of units or by week.  Discussion forums flow from this organization.  We highly suggest sequencing your discussions by weeks of the course.  This format is the easiest for students to understand.

Finally, asynchronous discussions are  where the social presence of both faculty and students is most evident and it is the heart and soul of the traditional online course.

How It Works

This challenge will help you create online discussions for your online course. If you have not learned the fundamentals of online learning, we suggest you complete the Teaching Online Challenge before you take on this challenge.


On Monday morning you will receive  an email with the current week’s “learning path”.  Follow the path please. The learning path typically includes:

  •  Short overview of week’s topic
  • Link to a challenge webpage overviewing the week’s topic with extra resources to peruse at will.
  • Link to a worksheet you will copy, complete and change the settings to allow for commenting
  •  Link to upload and upload to the Google + Community.
  • short close of previous week
  • other info


Wednesday email to check-in and see how it’s going. Respond to email if you need help.

  • Reminder of Thursday posting deadline
  • Learning path repeated from Monday.
  • Notice of badges issued from previous week
  • Short blurb on week’s topic
  • other info
  • Complete your weekly worksheet by the end of Thursday, and post your results in the Google+ Community.
  • Pau hana email.
  • Thank you for posting worksheet on time.
  • Reminder of Sunday deadline
  • Short blurb on week’s topic
  • other info
  • Deadline to comment on other worksheets (2 minimum comments if you like doing the minimum).
    • Provide further insight into to the participant’s results.
    • Practice improving your online interaction with insightful commenting.

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