Office Hours with the Prof 8-29 Save Time on Discussion Boards…Forever

Discussion boards…how easy would our online teaching careers be without ‘em!

Maybe I’m being a little harsh and extreme, discussion boards aren’t that bad.  If you’re teaching a class or subject matter that you find to be interesting, with the right group of students, discussions can actually be pretty fun.

business team with smartphones and tablet pc

…but you still gotta actually do them.

Truth be told, I have a number in my head of the number of words that I’m going to write when I respond to a discussion board post.

No, I don’t always hit the exact number.

Yes, this number differs for different schools/gigs (let’s be real, there are more expectations for what should go into these at some schools than at others).

Yes, the follow-up responses to students are much easier than the original postings.

No, I don’t put any thought into the initial postings anymore


Don’t worry; you read it right.

Putting together initial discussion board postings is time-consuming.

To make matters worse, in many cases it isn’t even a requirement!

However, the benefits of developing a well-written and detailed original post have been championed before in the past.

Let’s recap:

  • Many schools require that you post to the discussion board a certain number of days or times each week (usually in the 3-5 range). When you “open” the discussion with your first post, you are getting one of these days out of the way.  When considering that many students do not post until the last possible time/day, you can find yourself scrambling for opportunities to follow up with students if you do not take the time to knock out these initial postings.
  • Nobody…and I mean nobody wants to be the first person to post to the discussion board each week. In a sense, when only your content, your thoughts, and your research on the week’s topic is present, everyone else is taking notice.  I know that I felt awkward posting first in my online courses and I know that other online students feel the same.  Cut them a break and post your comments first.  The first student to post will be scrutinized, but at least it won’t be the only post that anyone is looking at.
  • This is your opportunity to set the tone and to set your expectations for what discussion board postings should look like. Your postings should address all of the aspects of the questions posed, should be substantive, formatted properly (including citations!), and should be error-free.  This takes time, but this time should be viewed as an investment because….
  • You’re going to use these discussion boards EVERY TIME you teach the course moving forward!

Now, do you see why the responses to others are easier than putting together the initial postings, but why I don’t put any thought into the initial postings anymore (assuming I teach the same classes over and over)?

So, what should you do moving forward to best manage your discussion boards?  If you’re just starting out, this is going to take a bit of prep work.

Don’t sweat it.  You’re going to do this, like, once for each course

As soon as you are able to, get into your class(es) and scope out each week’s discussion board posting.  Take some time and answer each one.

It’s going to take a bit.  You’re going to want to use outside sources, as well.

Don’t post these yet (never post until the first day of each corresponding week).  Instead, create a master document that lists school and course.  Drop each week’s posting into the list.

Chalkboard on the wooden table written master list

Update this for every week, making adjustments as needed.


You have now knocked out one of your daily postings each week, while also creating a sample post that you can always refer to when students have questions about your “expectations”.

On a side note, discussion boards are one of the first things that I check every day and, if I’m able to, one of the first things that I check off of my list (implying that I’ve completed my postings for the day).

Yeah, I check them every day

You know how annoying it is when students wait until the last minute to turn in a paper and then “something comes up” and they aren’t able to complete it?

(“Why didn’t you start it earlier?” is what I always think)

Well, that can happen to you too!

Getting your postings in early is a safety measure against unexpected events.  It also doesn’t hurt to get some more interaction postings in with the students.

Responses to students shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes per post.  Cut your school and you students a break!

You’ve already saved yourself a lifetime’s worth of initial postings!

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