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The UMS Faculty Focus blog publishes articles on effective teaching strategies for technology-enhanced, classroom, online, blended, or flipped learning experiences.  Faculty e-Learning Grant recipients and other UMS faculty are welcome to contribute. Please contact the UC Faculty Development Center if you are interested in writing an article for UMS Faculty Focus at uc-fdc@maine.edu

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Asynchronous online discussion questions/prompts aimed at increasing student engagement

Hello again, my previous blog post (November 30th, 2017) focused on techniques to assess the level of student engagement during online asynchronous discussion boards.  A technique I use to assess my students' level of interest/engagement in a particular online discussion is to calculate posts per participant.  For example, if I have 30 students participating in an online discussion my minimum expectation would be that 120 posts be generated (30 original/initial posts (1 per student) and 90 response posts (3 per student), which equals 4 posts per participant.  If I have 30 students participating in an online discussion and 160 posts are generated (160 / 30 = 5.33 posts per participant) I know a certain number of students found the discussion stimulating / engaging enough to go beyond the minimum requirements necessary to get the 10 out of 10 points (full credit).  Looking at posts per participant also allows me to make comparisons between online discussion boards within a course or across courses.  For example, perhaps discussion board #1 resulted in 4.2 posts per participant, but discussion board #5 within the same course generated 6.3 posts per participant.  The important question then becomes why was discussion #5 more motivating/engaging for students than discussion board #1.  

Below I've provided you discussion "starters" (questions and/or prompts) that were the basis for two separate asynchronous online discussion boards I facilitated during the Fall 2017 semester.  Each discussion board starter below resulted in posts per participant well above the 4 post minimum.  If you choose to comment on this blog post please consider including your thoughts related to the following questions:

1. Are there online discussion starters (questions/prompts) you use in your classes that result in high levels of posts per participant (above your minimum requirements)?  

2. If so, please share an example or two and comment on why you think these discussion starters were successful in encouraging students to go above and beyond the minimum requirements for the discussion?

EXAMPLE #1: DISCUSSION BOARD FOCUS: CLASSROOM DESIGN (Total Posts = 160; Total Participants = 28; Posts Per Participant = 5.7)

Your initial post is due on/before 11:59pm, Thursday, September 28th.

1. You have an unlimited budget (unfortunately this will not be the case when you're actually a teacher!). Describe how your ideal classroom would be designed (what is on the walls?, how is the space arranged?, what special equipment is available?, what is the seating arrangement?, etc, etc.).  

2. Explain the purpose of these choices (what is the purpose of what is located on the walls?, what is the purpose of the special equipment that is available?, how will these choices support students?, etc., etc.).

At least three responses to your classmates' posts are due on/before 11:59pm, Sunday, October 1st.

EXAMPLE #2: DISCUSSION BOARD FOCUS: BULLYING (Total Posts = 140; Total Participants = 26; Posts Per Participant = 5.4)

Bullying is a long-standing challenge that students deal within and outside schools.  From my experience as a school administrator and classroom teacher I've found one of the greatest challenges can be distinguishing bullying from other types of disruptive and/or inappropriate behaviors.  For discussion board #7 please read the scenarios found below and then answer the following questions on/before 11:59pm, Thursday, November 9th.

Scenario #1:

Setting: Lunchroom (K-8 School)

Student #1 is an 8th grader and is sitting with one other student at a lunch table.  Student #1 moved to the community about 3 weeks ago.  Student #1 is slowly making friends, but it has been a challenge. 

Student #2 is an 8th grader and sits at a table with 7 of his friends.  Student #2 has lived in the community his whole life.  Student #2 says “hey guys, watch this” he then throws an apple slice at student #1 that strikes him in the face.  Student #2 friends laugh loudly.    

Scenario #2:

Setting: Recess (K-8 School)

Student #1 is a 6th grader who is good at football, he and a group of his friends have challenged another group of students to a game of flag football at recess.

Student #2 is a 6th grader and also excels at sports, he and his group of friends gladly accept the challenge to play flag football.

During the third play of the game student #2 accuses student #1 of “playing dirty”.  Student #1 says “yeah whatever” and throws the football at student #2 striking him in the head.  Student #2 tackles student #1 and they begin fighting.

Discussion Questions:

1. Which scenario do think is more representative of bullying?

2. Why is the scenario you've chosen more representative of bullying? What are the important differences between the two scenarios?

3. If you were a teacher and witnessed scenario #1, how would you handle it?

4. If you were a teacher and witnessed scenario #2, how would you handle it?

5. Based on course materials, what are some techniques/strategies to support Student #1 from Scenario #1?

Please do not forget to post three responses to your peer's initial posts by 11:59pm, Sunday, November 12th.

Thanks again for reading my series of blog posts on asynchronous online discussion boards hosted in Blackboard.  In January, I move on to different topics related to my growth and development as an online instructor. 

Take care, 



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