Strategies for encouraging effective forum dialogue

Today we're continuing our new blog series "Best Practices." Written by Open LMS ' very own Learning Solutions team the Best Practices series will continue to run bi-weekly and highlight best practices for Moodle™ use inside and outside of the traditional classroom.

In today's post Open LMS Instructional Designer and Trainer Tara Thompson highlights how teachers can better engage students in online discussion.

Thanks for reading,


In successful forums participants learn from and teach one another. If you’re looking for ways to engage students in online discussion consider explaining the value of their participation and what they can expect to get out of their involvement. Students need to understand that they share the responsibility for making the discussion a worthwhile experience. Some instructors suggest that teaching students how to listen paraphrase and engage others in conversation is time well spent early on in the course.

Writing good discussion questions:

  • In order to support a deep and meaningful conversation your initial discussion questions need to be interesting and allow for the multiple perspectives your students can provide based on their own experiences. Use clear open-ended questions that tap into the higher-order thinking levels of application analysis synthesis and evaluation to start conversation threads.
  • Once students have made their initial posts in response to your opening question encourage participants to move into more challenging thought by adding challenging follow-up questions scenarios examples etc.

Activity design

  • In larger classes divide students into small groups making it more difficult for shy or disengaged students to avoid contributing. Have the small groups conduct their own in-depth discussion and then post a synthesis response to a forum that is open to the whole class.
  • Emphasize the importance of student contributions by spotlighting forum content in a coordinating assignment. Have students draw references from the forum incorporating and citing their peers’ comments as illustrations or examples.
  • Structure forums with clear expectations for start and end dates to set a pace for the topic that keeps the class moving forward.
  • Keep forums on topic by providing an alternative space for informal discussion and sidebar conversation a virtual coffee shop for example.

For more information check out these helpful step-by-step tutorialsto the forum module produced by Open LMS .




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