Public Relations Today
Justin Chando By Justin Chando • March 5, 2014

How to have active, online discussions with your class


We all dream of having that amazing discussion where all the "light bulbs" go off in your class. Don't you want to engage your students, and keep them thinking about the course material outside of your class? If you do, that’s great, but it can often times seem like a daunting task.


Starting active discussions for your class online can be tough. How do you plan on getting all of your students involved?

As a teacher, a great discussion can get every one of your students actively thinking about what you’ve been teaching. So the question is, how do we do this on a consistent basis. How do you keep your students thinking about your course material even after the leave the class? The key to this is a living, breathing, discussion. Doing this online with your class means that you aren't restricted to just the small time you have in the classroom or lecture to discuss important topics. How can you get started?


Here’s a few tips:


1.  Start the class with a "kickoff message" to break the ice.

It's always nice when there’s a great message sent to the class to just get things started. It can set the tone for the whole class to become a community for the rest of the semester.


2.  Appoint one of your students to be the discussion leader for a day or for a topic.

Students may have an easier time responding to one of their peers than their teacher.  Have the student start something relevant to the material you’re working on. Shift the role around so everyone gets the chance to lead the class in a discussion.


3.  Make a “General” class discussion thread

Make it lively, and becase Chalkup is real-time, tell your students to go on at a certain time, and have an actual back-and-forth. This can become the general ongoing discussion for your class.


4.  Have students do something that needs some *quick* research.

Use the fact that you’re doing this online to your advantage. - this means link and video sharing to other rich content to support your ideas.


5.  Ask a question that can be debated.

A great debate can be so much fun for your students! Asking a question can be a great starting place. Have them answer something specific.  You can even show the “approved” answer when you’re done.



Make online discussion participation part of the grade?

There’s been a lot of talk about incentivizing your students by making online class discussions, part of the grade. Sometimes it makes a ton of sense to make it part of a “participation” grade or the like.

But - it's hard to force a great discussion.

The easy way to go about starting a discussion is to just “assign” your class to start a discussion topic, and to write a few responses. However this can lead to a more formal class discussion, instead of the natural active discussion you really want.


Definitely worth the effort.

When you have your entire class engaged in an active discussion topic, it can be an amazing thing. On Chalkup, we've gotten some amazing feedback from our teachers about some of the incredible interactions they've had with their students. In fact, discussions are one of our most used features. Try out some of these tips the next time you start an online discussion with your class!


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