There are many ways to get engaging discussions started in a discussion board, but my favorite is to have students make something to share with their classmates as discussion starters. The tools students can use to create many types of presentations have become incredibly powerful and easy to use. These tools range from the more traditional presentation tools such as Prezi and Google Presentations (part of Google Drive) to the more creative such as slideshows in Vuvox or Animoto, interactive digital posters such as Pinterest or Padlet, animated cartoons with Go!Animate, or digital multimedia timelines with myHistro. Having students create things to share with classmates leverages the “write” part of the read/write web (also called web 2.0) to turn students into producers of content rather than consumers of content. This also creates a greater sense of student ownership of their own learning, especially when they are free to select the tool with which to create their discussion starter. Best of all, it reduces the likelihood that after half of the class has posted their thoughts in the forum everyone else struggles to come up with something new to say—usually ending up saying exactly the same thing with different paraphrasing. The accessibility of Web 2.0 tools varies. Giving students a choice of tools to use is a recommended approach; instructors seeking to create content for online courses should consult with Ecampus for recommendations about accessible tools.
Here is an example of what a typical set of assignment instructions might say:
Part 1: Create a presentation addressing your assigned topic using Prezi, Google Presentation, or Vuvox.
Part 2: Post a link to your presentation in the discussion board by clicking “Create Thread”. (Due Wednesday of week 1)
Part 3: Read at least 5 classmates’ presentations and give in-depth responses. Respond to classmates’ presentations which have the fewest responses. (Due Friday of week 1)
Part 4: Read the responses you received from your classmates and reply to each one. (Due Saturday of Week 1)