Discussion Boards: Example Assignments

The Discussion Board is a Blackboard Tool allowing for asynchronous conversation and sharing.

Example Discussion Board Assignments:

“Introduce Yourself”

Often the first discussion board in a course allows students to get acquainted and also to learn how the discussion boards work. Ask students to post entries on their major, about their lives (background, family, work, hobbies), why they are interested in the course subject matter, and/or what are their goals for the future. These should be graded and require a minimum word count, as usual.

Research Present a topic or question in the field and ask the students to do online research to answer it. Make it a requirement that they do not use Wikipedia and require citation of sources. For the responses, require that each student asks one of their classmates a compelling question about what they discovered in their research. Each student must answer the questions they receive. To make this more specific, you can assign each student (or let them choose) from a list a topics to research so each student researches something unique.

Debate

Split the students into two groups and give each of them the opposite side of a controversial topic in the field. Each student must present their side of the argument, whether it is their personal opinion or not. Students should include facts, quotes, and research in their arguments, and cite sources. For the responses, each student must choose a classmate’s posting on the opposite side and debate the subject with them. Each response must be answered again. To make it more specific, you can pair the students and have the pairs debate each other only.

Personal experience

Select a topic in the field and have the students write about it based on experience, either in a classroom, work, or other activities in real life. The goal of the discussion board is to relate learning to a practical application. This is especially useful for fields that use clinicals, hands-on practice, internships, or students working on projects. Other courses could ask students to relate a topic in their field to a current event they notice in the news, citing and sharing sources. For the responses, require that each student asks one of their classmates a compelling question about their posting. Each student must answer the questions they receive.

Opinion

Select a topic that lends itself to a subjective opinion and ask students to write their opinion and back it up with specific facts. Or have students rate a series of items in order of importance or preference. This exercise is useful for students to synthesize material learned in the course and reflect on what it means to them in their lives. Subjects good for this are philosophy, sociology, political science, psychology, human resources, business management, law enforcement, childcare, social work, and the like. For the responses, require that each student comments on one of their classmates’ postings. Each student must answer the questions they receive.

Share materials

Have students prepare a tangible document or media presentation to share. Students will research and create material on a pertinent topic in the field, such as a PowerPoint, video, podcast, or other type of multimedia. Or in certain courses, the material could be a business proposal, a math formula, programming code, a CAD drawing, a resume, a photograph, a piece of art, or the like. These are shared in the discussion board and each student must view, respond to, and discuss several classmates’ presentations. An added element can be having students rate their classmates’ presentations.

Group project

Break the class up into groups of 4 or 5 participants and have each group work together within their separate discussion boards. The groups can all work on the same assignment or be given unique assignments. The assignment could be to solve a problem, research a topic, create a design, and such. The final outcome may be a report or presentation. Each individual student can be required to view all the other groups’ work and give comments on each project.

Feedback and Help

As an assignment: This type of discussion board is useful for math, coding, science and other courses that require students to solve problems with equations and formulas. As students work through their homework, they use the discussion board when they are stuck and their fellow students can give them advice. This is most effective when graded.

For instructors: Offer an “Ask the Professor” discussion board that is not graded and encourage students to use the forum to ask questions general questions about Blackboard or the course navigation or requirements. Often students end up answering each other’s questions within this type of discussion forum. It would remain open for informal comment all semester. Note: remind students not to include personal information in this discussion board.