Academic Technology Center
Teaching with Technology Collaboratory

Benefits of Using Discussion Boards in Your Classes

Teaching Goal

Realize the instructional and time-saving benefits of using discussion boards in both campus-based and online classes.

Note

If you are interested in more information on this topic, read some tips on how to effectively use discussion boards, and learn how to use the discussion boards in myWPI.

Benefits of Addressing

Benefits derived from using discussion boards Why is this the case?
Students are more likely to utilize critical thinking skills Discussion boards are reflective in nature. They force students to read other perspectives and carefully consider a response.
Students participate more regularly and in a more thoughtful manner than they would normally do in a face-to-face instructional setting, especially in large-enrollment classes

The social aspects of the face-to-face classroom are very intimidating for many students, especially for ESL speakers, new students, and those who are simply shy or quiet.

Online discussion boards offer these individuals a tool through which they can actively participate in the class without feeling the overwhelming anxiety they may feel with many sets of eyes on them.

In addition, large-enrollment classes often suffer from a lack of student participation. Online discussion boards provide these classes with a tool through which conversations may take place more fluidly than in a lecture hall of 100 students.

Students develop a stronger class community

Because there is a greater propensity for students to interact with one another on a discussion board than there is in a face-to-face setting, class community is often shown to be enhanced.

Positive growth in class community is reflected through a sense of cohesion with other students, a higher degree of trust between students, an increased number of inquiries and questions between students and the instructor, and a general sense that the class is valuable and applicable to student needs (Rovai & Lucking, 2000).

Students are more likely to cite research and class readings As students reflect upon what they want to write in a discussion board posting, they often integrate research or class readings with which they are familiar. This occurs much more frequently in discussion board postings than in face-to-face discussions, largely because of the extra time a student has to think about their response.
Students achieve greater cognitive and exploratory learning

The use of discussion boards is an active method of learning, contrasted with the traditional lecture model that is much more passive. As many research studies have shown, active learning is more powerful than passive learning at getting students to learn, retain, and apply course content to novel and practical situations.

This active engagement with course content gives students an enhanced sense of empowerment (Kassop, 2003; Kubala, 1998), ultimately leading to a more interested, motivated, and participatory student.

Faculty members spend less time answering questions In face-to-face classes, questions are almost always posed, sometimes repeatedly, to the instructor, unnecessarily tying up their time. When using a discussion board, however, students often answer each others questions with little or no prompting from the instructor.
Students have a greater sense of race and gender-based equality

Race and gender-based bias can often creep into face-to-face classes more readily than it can into discussion boards. On a discussion board, the only distinguishing characteristic from which race and/or gender might be drawn from is a participant's name.

In discussion boards the bias often exhibited towards non-whites and women in face-to-face classes is reduced, resulting in a more instructionally agreeable environment.

References

Anderson, D.M., & Haddad, C.J. (2005). Gender, voice, and learning in online environments. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 9(1).

Blum, K.D. (1999). Gender differences in asynchronous learning in higher education: Learning styles, participation barriers and communication barriers. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 3(1).

Bunker, A., & Vardi, I. (2001). Why use the online environment with face-to-face students? Insights from early adopters. Proceedings from ASCILITE, Melbourne, Australia. PDF Retrieved July 10, 2005.

Collins, M. (1998). The use of email and electronic bulletin boards in college-level biology. Journal of Mathematics and Science Teaching, 17(1), 75-94.

Collison, G., Elbaum, B., Haavind, S., & Tinker, R. (2000). Facilitating online learning: Effective strategies for moderators. Atwood Publishing: Madison, WI.

Egan, M.W., & Gibb, G.S. (1997). Student-centered instruction for the design of telecourses. In T.E. Cyrs (Ed.), New Directions for Teaching and Learning no.71., 33-39. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Eklund, J., & Eklund, P. Integrating the web and the teaching of technology: Cases across two universities. (1996). In M. Nott (Ed.), Proceedings, Australian World Wide Web Conference. Gold Coast, AUS: Southern Cross University.

Haggerty, N., Schneberger, S., & Carr, P. (2001). Exploring media influences on individual learning: Implications for organizational learning. In J. DeGross, S. Sarkar, & V. Storey (Eds.), Proceedings, International Conference on Information Systems (pp. 13-22). New Orleans, LA.

Hiltz, S.R. & Wellman, B. (1997). Asynchronous learning networks as a virtual classroom. Communications of the ACM, 40(9), 44-49.

Irvine, S.E., Hein, T.L., & Laughlin, D. (1999). Different degrees of distance: The impact of the technology-based instructional environment on student learning. Proceedings from ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, 13c37-13c312. San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Kassop, M. (2003, May/June). Ten ways online education matches, or surpasses, face-to-face learning. The Technology Source. Retrieved February 1st, 2005.

Kubala, T. (1998). Addressing student needs: Teaching on the internet. THE Journal, 25(8), 71-75.

Markel, S. (2001). Technology and education online discussion forums: It's in the response. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 4(2). Retrieved January 14, 2005.

Newman, D.R., Webb, B., & Cochrane, C. (1999). A content analysis method to measure critical thinking in face-to-face and computer support group learning. Retrieved February 11, 2005.

Paloff, R.M., & Pratt, K. Building learning communities in cyberspace: Effective strategies for the online classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Rovai, A.P. (2001). Building classroom community at a distance: A case study. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49(4), 33-48.

Rovai, A.P. (2004). A constructivist approach to online college learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 7, 79-93.

Rovai, A. P., & Lucking, R. (2000, September). Measuring sense of classroom community. Paper presented at Learning 2000: Reassessing the Virtual University, Virginia Tech, Roanoke, VA.

Shapley, P. (2000). Online education to develop complex reasoning skills in organic chemistry. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 4(2), 55-65.

Sullivan, P. (2002, Winter). "It's easier to be yourself when you are invisible": Female college students discuss their online classroom experiences. Innovative Higher Education, 27(2), 129-144.

Wagner, E.D. (1997). Interactivity: From agents to outcomes. In T.E. Cyrs (Ed.), New Directions for Teaching and Learning no.71., 19-26. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

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Last modified: May 07, 2008, 13:59 EDT
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