Are you using discussion boards?

Hello colleagues, Since many of us have moved our classes online, I'm wondering how many teachers have been using discussion boards as part of their instruction. We know how important discussion is to student learning, and I'm sure that many teachers are facilitating engaging discussion during their synchronous classes. How about written conversations via discussion boards? Do you have any tips for making a discussion board engaging? Do you have suggestions for useful platforms to use for a class discussion board?

Take care, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP


Hello Susan, Yes I use discussion boards all the time. I teach face-to-face, online, and hybrid courses at the Higher Education level. The students are required to do an initial post and then comment on two other students’ posts. They get an extra point if they comment more. It helps to have a discussion topic that is relevant to them, such as discussing some the challenges they faced with some of the assignments and what resources they found useful.

Hi Dawn, Thanks for sharing how you use discussion boards. I have taught graduate courses online as well as professional development courses for adult basic education teachers online that use different learning management system (LMSs) such as Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, Google Classroom, etc. I have always included discussion boards for these courses. 

In my program, we are now starting to use Schoology for our adult basic education classes. I have not used an LMS with the advanced English learners-- most of whom are preparing for a high school equivalency or other test to enter training-- I teach, but I'm excited to start. I would love to hear more details about how you and other members structure discussion board activities for an adult basic education class. How often do students contribute? What discussion topics have worked well?  Do you, as the teacher, also participate?

Is anyone using Schoology? Any tips you can share would be appreciated!

Take care, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP

Hi Susan,

Thank you for posting the topic about discussion boards.

I haven't used Schoology in class, but have been introduced to it by other CUNY ESL and HSE teachers in different ZOOM meetings.  It is an online learning management system that is widely used and manageable.  It helps teachers to organize and create lesson plans and student assessments.  Most importantly, it gives teachers and students a platform for written discussions.

During regular semesters, I use Blackboard with international undergraduate and graduate students.  Like what Dawn mentioned, students may be required to use the Discussion Board as  part of the departmental curriculum; they are given a grade or points for every discussion activity.

When I taught an intercultural communication class, I asked the students to work with a partner.  They exchanged one of their journal writings about culture shocks they had experienced when they arrived in the US.  They read each other's writings and wrote two paragraphs (at least) or more. They knew the topic well. It was meaningful that they would write much longer.  In the Fall, another school will be shifting  from Blackboard to Canvas, also a widely used LMS in colleges and universities. I like Blackboard, and I am looking forward to learning Canvas. 

It is always exciting to do something new with your classes! It is open-ended. We do not know how students would respond.  With your 
advanced English learners who are preparing for a high school equivalency or other tests, you are already getting them ready for college when you use a learning management system (LMS) such as Schoology. 
Thanks again, Susan.


Margaret Ibasco
ESL Instructor