Public Relations Today
Jayne Miller By Jayne Miller • February 24, 2015

Moderate Better Online Discussions

An effective moderator can have a real impact on an online discussion with students. This person has the power to set guidelines for the conversation and support an overall learning objective by posing the right questions. The moderator also has a unique opportunity to engage learners who are more comfortable in a digital space than in a classroom.

If you’re playing moderator in a Chalkup discussion thread, we recommend acquainting yourself with two of our conversation tools to get more out of your digital dialogue.

Chalkup's discussion space


With no nods and smiles from peers - reassuring eyes that tell a speaker he or she is onto something - the digital frontier is left with likes and retweets as mechanisms to show support for ideas. Chalkup uses upvotes. Anyone in a discussion can upvote a comment to show support and/or agreement.

We think this is an important tool for online engagement, compensating for something lost in the transition from in-person to online exchanges. As moderator, just keep an eye out for great comments that don’t garner upvotes and resurface them where necessary.

Instructor’s/Author’s Choice

Once a discussion is started, two distinct labels can steer an exchange. The “Author’s Choice” label allows the conversation starter to mark the comment that he or she feels best answers the original question or prompt.

Online discussion example

The instructor is similarly outfitted with the ability to mark an “Instructor’s Choice” on the comment that best matches course expectations. Neither the instructor nor the conversation starter is obligated to choose a favorite comment (some discussions are too long or don’t lend themselves to having a “right answer”), but we’ve received feedback that these labels have served as valuable study tools, as well as incentive to engage.

If you’re moderating - and potentially selecting an “instructor’s choice” - explain your logic on the thread. Doing so will not only provide guidance to your class, but it will make your discussion thread one for students to bookmark and return to as they review course materials.

How to engage students with online discussions - Download now