Making the Most of Online Class Discussions
Engaging in challenging and thoughtful class discussions is a key part of your educational experience in college. Even if you attend an online college, you’ll be prompted to participate in class discussions on the website on which the course is hosted. It’s important that you take these discussions seriously, because more often than not, they’ll account for a portion of your grade.
When chiming in on a topic presented by your professor, be sure to utilize the same social skills you use when you’re speaking face-to-face. In other words, don’t offend your classmates. People in the online world tend to forget they’re speaking with people from different backgrounds with different sensibilities. Although your opinion on an issue in a class – like the politics of religion – may be supported with a myriad of facts, you still need to frame it so that you aren’t berating a classmate’s religion or culture. The University of South Australia advises for contributions to begin with statements like "I think" as opposed to statements like "Obviously." You want to come across as modest with your opinion and respectful of what others have to say. Don’t dominate the discussion or shift it to another topic. That’s akin to writing a six-page paper when just three pages were requested, or writing about a topic completely different from what the professor asked.
Class discussions are supposed to supplement the lesson at hand. In order to effectively contribute, you must be up-to-date on the notes and required readings. Often the professor will relate the content to current events, so it helps to stay abreast of the latest news. Use links as sources to back up your opinion. Never make a post after just skimming through the thread – read it in its entirety so that you won’t rehash a point that has already been made by a classmate. Pay attention to the natural direction of the discussion. If there are 1,000 replies made by 20 people in a thread, they’ve likely moved well-beyond the original question. You’ll get the most out of your online class discussions by approaching them in the right way. You’ll benefit from reading the opinions of your classmates, and they’ll benefit from your informed input.