ReggieNet offers two tools for leading online discussions, the Discussions tool and the Discussion Forums tool. To avoid confusion, I recommend only using one of these two tools – below, we have CTLT videos for each tool.
The Discussions tool is the one you’ll have by default. It offers good links within ReggieNet, particularly if you’d like to use the Modules or Announcements to link to your individual discussions. However, the Discussions tool is a pain when it comes to grading. To grade your discussions, you first need create an item in your gradebook for each discussion, and then manually connect it to the discussion you’re grading.
I prefer the Discussion Forums tool, but you have to activate it through the Site Editor before you can see it (Click here to learn Adding Tools in the Site Editor). Overall, I find this tool easier to use and much, much easier to grade – you can create your gradebook items and assign the grading points from directly inside your discussion. On the downside, non-freshmen students tend to be more familiar with the Discussions tool because most instructors simply keep the default Discussions tool.
In setting up your discussions, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:
- You should provide your students with specific expectations regarding how many posts they should write and how detailed those posts should be. I recommend providing a rubric (similar to a grading rubric) and then making sure to follow-up with students to let them know how well they’re participating in their online discussions.
- Connecting the discussion participation to student grades provides strong motivation for students to fully participate. However, if you do this, make sure that you account for this in your overall assignment load. In-depth discussions do allow students to interact more, but it does take time for students to read through and comment on multiple posts.
- As with any technology, online discussions do involve a learning curve. Before expecting “high stakes” contributions to an in-depth scholarly discussion, it’s good to have students practice with a few simpler discussion topics. You’ll want to make sure that each student can proficiently access and post to the forums before you add in the stress of heavy grading and peer review.