In this PDF file, California State University provides a theoretical framework for using online discussions to support learning. The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework is used to illustrate how theory translates to teaching practice by connecting teaching, cognitive, and social presences. I have found that it is helpful to keep learning theory and outcomes in mind when planning online discussions. This article shows exactly how theory and teaching practice combine in an online discussion.
In order to facilitate an online discussion, you will need a Learning Management System (LMS). If your school does not have an LMS in place, you can use your own. This Captiva Learning Technology web page contains their recently updated top 8 suggestions for free, user-friendly LMS platforms that are readily available. There are an additional 10 resources added at the end of the post for a total of 18 choices. There is a screenshot of each LMS provided to give a sense of appearance and use.
In this Vialogue video from the EdLab at the Teachers College of Columbia University, teachers share their experiences in using online discussion strategies to motivate and engage their students. Strategies for successful moderation are also shared. This resource is a very well-edited series of short interviews with real teachers discussing real experiences using online discussions. They honestly discuss their successes and challenges and offer practical tips on how to implement this too.
This blog post from Online Learning Insights highlights common reasons as to why students do not participate in online discussions. I have found this resource to be helpful with the "outliers", or the students who really resist participation.You may not be able to achieve 100% participation all the time, but these ideas offer some practical suggestions as to how to achieve the best percentage of participation that you can.
This blog post from Online Learning Insights offers tips on how to promote student participation in online discussions. I like the fact that the authors highlight the importance of design and planning, which I have learned are so important before beginning an online class discussion. There are also references made to the current literature on this topic, and a concise collection of highly effective planning techniques.
This blog post from the Online Learning Consortium highlights teaching strategies that promote student engagement while reducing instructor work overload. Online discussions can create a lot of unnecessary work for teachers if they are not designed and managed properly. This post shows easy ways to create and facilitate online discussions so that robust learning occurs in a sustainable manner, and teachers can focus on the interaction that is taking place.