Discussion boards

Discussion boards are a key course communication tool for engaging students.

Discussion boards are an important part of building an online community and creating interpersonal interaction that promote student satisfaction. Typically they are used in education to pose questions to students which they respond to and other students can see all responses and comment on them. In this way a conversation around the question grows over time. It is an anywhere, anytime online dialogue between participants.

In a discussion board you can include readings, questions, scenarios, podcasts, audio files, video, graphics, photos, diagrams, links to web sites, and learning objects.

Example discussion board uses:

  • Discussion on material just read
  • Find literature to support an opinion
  • Personal reflection on material
  • Used to discuss case studies, role playing, simulations, topic based issues and self-assessments
  • Design sequential activities for achieving learning objectives
  • Asking students to share what they already know about a concept
  • Asking students to present an opinion or a conclusion
  • Require students to perform tasks or go to another location to acquire an answer
  • Metacognitive questions
  • Follow-up questions
  • Student generated questions
  • Evaluation and assessment questions

Good practice

Key points to consider when setting up discussion board are:

  • When choosing to use a discussion board in your unit be sure you know why you are using it, and what you are trying to achieve or assess by having a discussion board.
  • Establish a code of ethics for the discussion board forum
  • Include in the first discussion board forum an explanation or link to resources, videos of how to post in a discussion board.
  • Include in your introduction to the students information on how often you will be reviewing the discussion board
  • Include either in your question or as part of your assessment or induction an expectation of how long postings should be and how frequently posting should occur.
  • Consider creating a community building exercise with no assessment component as a gently introduction into Discussion Boards.
  • Have opening and closing dates for a forum to help students stay focused
  • If using for assessment - there needs to be an assessment matrix [PDF, 17.6KB, 1 page] and explanation of why, what and mark weighting of assessment.
  • Be present on the discussion board - be part of the discussion responding to people's post, asking questions to encourage deeper thinking
  • Have a colleague read your discussion board questions to ensure they make sense and are likely to create reasonable discussion of the type you want
  • Use other media in your discussion board and encourage your students too as well such as photos, videos, web links
  • Using issues of your field, case studies to comment on or controversial issues are good types of discussion board questions



Blackboard provides a discussion board facility which features an easy-to-use interface that can be configured in various ways and assessed.