Online discussions: best practices

There are two types of online discussions – synchronous and asynchronous. You could set up synchronous discussions via video-conferencing tools such as Adobe Connect Meeting or Zoom to have a real–time discussion with your students or answer any questions that they may have. This replicates the classroom experience where a certain meeting time is established.  

Asynchronous discussions provide more flexibility with students contributing their thoughts at their own pace and time. D2L discussions tool provides affordances for asynchronous communication and collaborative knowledge construction.  

D2L discussions could be found under Communications from the Navbar. There are three levels in D2L discussions. Please note that you need to create Forum and Topic first in order to set up discussions for students to participate. Students are able to create a new Thread and reply to one another.  

  • Forum: broad categories for discussions. May contain multiple topics.  
  • Topic: specific discussion topics within a forum 
  • Thread: posts that respond to topic 

How to set up Discussion Forum, Topic, and Thread 

More about discussions: Instructor FAQ

Best practices for setting up and facilitating online discussions: 

  • Clearly communicate with your students about your expectations for online discussions: how many posts are student expected to contribute? Is there any deadline for those posts? How are students graded? 
  • Connect course materials with the design of online discussions prompts or questions. 
  • Ask thought-provoking questions to get students started and encourage students to ask their own questions.

Online discussion questions that work 

 Example of good discussion questions 

  • Set up a FAQ forum and topic and ask students post their questions to the FAQ so that the rest of students could obtain the same information. 
  • Show your presence as instructor but you do not need to respond to every student. Let the students respond to each other!  

Facilitating your online discussions 

  • Similar with dividing the class to table or group discussions, you could set up online group discussions. Particularly if you have a large class, smaller groups will help build a more dynamic online learning community.  

Group Set-up

Tips for instructors 

Tips for students