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How to create online discussion posts

Would you say that if we were face-to-face? 

When I think of online discussion posts, I think of them as text-based artefacts that capture elements of our thinking that we would have “said” in a face-to-face interaction. However, since we are not beside each other we need to represent these ideas/thoughts in the medium that our environment permits. 

It’s still very early in this course, but I wanted to bring attention to some of the features of online discussion posts that make it easier to allow for a “discussion” to unfold. 

Give everyone a little space

In the syllabus, I mention that your notes should be shorter (~100-150 words) and contain one main idea. This isn’t a hard and fast rule for word length, but the essence of that is to allow mental space for someone to begin to reply to your post. If you’ve posted a 500 word note, it becomes more difficult to digest and respond to, ultimately limiting the potential for everyone to unpack and engage with the ideas presented in the note. Sometimes, there will be notes that are longer than others (maybe about 250 words), but remember that as more posts are added, then your ability to read, digest, and respond to what has been posted can become more daunting as a result. 

Capturing the Essence

Speaking to how you develop your notes, in my years of learning and teaching in online environments, I’ve come to recognize the value of the note title. When you are posting, I recommend that you keep one main theme or idea for your note (if you have many things to say, then you write more notes, not a longer one), and create a meaningful title for the note(s) so that we can easily identify the core idea without reading the entire note. A great parallel to draw is thinking about headlines for articles, or subject lines in emails. If there were no headlines or subject lines, recalling or even anticipating what is in the content of these pieces is extremely difficult and doesn’t help us situate their role in their context. So, when you are crafting your next post, please create a title that captures the essence of the thinking in your post – what you come up with will surely be more descriptive than something like “week 2 response”. 

Discussions are important to me, too

It’s a way I get to know you as a student. And, a way you can get to know each other as students. Again, think about if we were face-to-face: sometimes in a classroom and sometimes just before class, or even sharing a coffee. If you have questions about crafting, feel free to ask! It is so early in the course that developing these types of conventions will make for great conversation as we move through the content. Looking forward to reading more of your ideas! 


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