How to Write the Perfect Online Course Discussion Post

By Ian Acosta on March 11, 2017

Whether required or optional, course discussion posts are a big way of promoting discussion around a particular topic in a course. It is a virtual way to share ideas and concepts with people you most likely will not ever meet in person. Discussion in any forum is vital, especially so in an online course.

Why is it so important? It forces students to participate no matter what, unlike in a traditional lecture where not everyone has to contribute. Further, it allows for better interaction between students and the professor whether the students want feedback or not. It forces learning and communication which could help students too nervous or intimidated to seek it out otherwise.

Here are a few tips to writing a great post:

Image via Pexels 

Read and reflect thoroughly

Your course discussion post is only going to be as good as the time and effort you take to prepare it. What does that mean for you? If you are a student who likes to turn things in at the last second or not put much effort into classwork, it will not only show in your posts but limit the advice and counsel that your classmates can give to you.

The better your post, the better the feedback. This means you have to accurately and thoroughly read what you are assigned. If you struggle, that is okay — this is the whole point of online discussion forums. You likely are not alone. Put forth the time to study and think about the lesson material you went over. From there, formulating a thorough discussion post will come in time and thus promote a good class discussion for all.

Provide sources

If you have ever written a paper for research, scholarly review, or even just a book report, you know how important it is to provide sources. Online course discussion posts are no different. When formulating your post, be sure to cite specific topics or lines in your reading or reading related to your lesson.

This will make your argument better and your post stronger, and will point your classmates to a new source of information that they may not have known before or overlooked. That is the point, isn’t it? To share information? By sourcing and citing your discussion it will help the class as a whole and open up so many more sources of information to everyone.

Utilize outside knowledge

This tip goes hand-in-hand with how seriously you take your preparation. In preparing your discussion post, use not only sources from your reading material but also look to outside material related to your topic. This will show your instructor and class that you took the time to incorporate outside sources to better prove your point and thus create better discussion. In addition, this will promote other outside research by your peers which will improve class communication as a whole.

Image via Pexels

Try to incorporate personal knowledge

Personal experience goes a long way. Whether the topic is broad or specific to a certain subject, try to incorporate any personal knowledge or experience you may possess. Even if it may be limited, it can help promote discussion and be a great talking point for others to build off of and think around. Do not be afraid to share and discuss!

Use proper formatting

Remember that discussion posts are in a class setting. Therefore, use proper grammar, punctuation, and formatting as it relates to the guidelines set forth by your instructor. Stay away from informal speech and shorthand talk. Especially stay away from emojis, exclamation points, and contractions. Be as formal and as succinct as possible when formulating your responses.

Include open-ended questions

What this tip means is to include questions in your post to promote discussion. Specifically, open-ended questions are questions that cannot be answered with a simple one-word answer.

For example, “How did the supply of X change the price and demand of Y?”

With these types of questions, it will not only make your argument stronger but also stimulate more of a detailed, concise response from your classmates.

Image via Pixabay

Submit on time

You cannot create the perfect discussion post and then submit it late, right? Exactly. Be mindful of the deadlines of each of your discussion posts. Because it is an online course, it is even more of a focus on yourself to be mindful of when deadlines for quizzes, exams, homework, and posts are due. Do not be afraid or forget to reference the syllabus. Sometimes instructors will post a friendly reminder a day or two before a discussion is due. However, do not bank on that to be your lifeline.

Incorporate all of these tips to have a well-thought out, detailed, and overall strong discussion post. Typically, people tend to learn and emulate the best. So, for those who see a great class discussion post, they will be more likely to follow suit and format it as such. This can lead to a better forum, more lively discussion, and an overall better learning experience.

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