10 Peer Tips for Using a WebAssign Discussion Board

discussion board
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Cengage Faculty Partner Scott Crawford has found great success in using the WebAssign Discussion Board forums to promote learning.

Keep reading for Scott’s 10 peer tips for using a discussion board and discover what he’s learned.

1) Require Students to Post & Respond to Others

I’ve heard many students say, “I thought the discussion board was silly, but it turned out to be really helpful.”  Unless it’s a required grade, students won’t even look at it, but once they see it, they’ll start to use and benefit from it. If students still don’t think they need to use the discussion board, encourage them to help answer other students’ questions. Requiring students to use the discussion board increases engagement, collaboration and may even reduce the number of questions your students come to you to answer.


2) No Restrictions on Post Content

It’s okay to vent about your pain points in the class. It’s okay to talk about questions you don’t understand.  It’s okay to post a meme. Students can start a new topic or reply to someone else’s. By removing the restrictions on what students can post, it opens the door for students to participate in dialog with other students and show you that they understand how to use forums.


3) Create a Topic Thread for Each Homework Assignment

Students should be asking for help – especially in an online environment. By creating a topic thread for each assignment, you’re eliminating the unlimited threads that may pop up from students asking the same question about the homework. Give them a place to collaborate and help one another.


4) Don’t Open Discussion Boards Until the Homework is Available

You want the students all working on (and talking about) the homework at the same time.  That way the homework is fresh in people’s minds, and there’s more students looking at the discussion board each day.  Don’t let them post on a thread for a homework they haven’t even started yet.


5) Lock Discussion Forums for Old Homework

You don’t want students to be asking questions when no one is reading it.  It also helps them keep up with the class.  Students can still go see what was posted before, but locking the forum stops them from trying to speak in a forum where no one will ever see it.


6) Have a Forum for Funny Comments

If any post is allowed, then of course you’re going to get a lot of posts that are off topic. That’s okay, but start a forum or topic thread for non-class related posts.  That way students that want to get real information don’t have to swim through a discussion about Stranger Things.


7) Thank Students for Posting

If someone replies to a student’s question with a good answer make a point to tell them how awesome that is.  Tell students “Many of you have been responding to others and helping them – you guys really rock.” Encourage students to take pride in helping others.  Soon, you’ll create a culture of students teaching each other.


8) Understand that Class Size Matters

If you have lots of students then you’ll have lots of help available when someone posts a question.  If you have few students then you might require more frequent posting.  The smaller the class the more important it will be that you check the board frequently.  If there’s only a few students you might feel a greater need to have them post about homework help specifically


9) Remove Posts if Needed

Although we recommend limiting restrictions on what students can post, there are always exceptions. If you notice inappropriate comments, students sharing exam questions (or answers), or something that just makes you feel uncomfortable, remove it.


10) Know the Tricks

Keep track of the students posting in the forums so you can give them credit for it. A couple of tips:

  • Creating a forum. When you create a forum for homework and put a topic for each assignment you have to put a post in that topic in order to create it.  I usually put a space as my post.  Then, I go back in and delete that post so it says 0 messages for that topic.
  • Identify new posts. Once you click on a forum you’ll see all the topics in there.  There’s a number for how many posts are in there, and next to it in parentheses is the number that are new.  That way you can scroll to the bottom and only read the last new ones.
  • Reference time stamps. When you look at discussion forums available there’s a time stamp for the last message in that forum.  If it’s been more than a day I know there’s nothing new in there (depending on how frequently you check it).
  •  Grade Participation. Open a tab for the discussion board, and another tab for putting in the grade for posting.  That way you can read a post, then toggle over and give them the point.  Just don’t forget to save the grades before closing the tab.


Looking for More Tips?

Transitioning to a virtual or hybrid course especially mid semester can be stressful – let us help! Keep in mind the following resources that are available to you.