Academic Technology Center
Teaching with Technology Collaboratory

Discussion Groups for Distance Learning Students

October 2, 2006

For distance learning students, the online discussion board is typically the primary environment in which interaction takes place. However, online discussions can sometimes be difficult for students to keep up with -- it’s easy for students to get “lost” in a sea of postings.

One way to provide a richer discussion experience is to create discussion groups. To create discussion groups, divide the students into lists of smaller groups (5-7 is a good size.) Then, use the group areas feature in myWPI to create a group area with a group discussion board. With group discussion, you can assign each group the same discussion question, and then assign a different group member each week to post a summary of their discussion to the class discussion board at the end of the week. This helps the students to manage their workload and gives them an opportunity to get to know some of their peers. It can also help the professor or teaching assistant to keep up with the discussion by reading through one group at a time rather than one lengthy thread of postings for the entire class.

For instructions on creating groups in myWPI, visit the How-To pages on Creating Student Groups and Creating Group Discussion Forums. For additional information on using discussion boards effectively, visit Improving the Use of Discussion Boards.