Discussion forums give students a voice in the classroom. Students get to know each other and the teacher through posts in the discussion forum. All students can take their time, gather their thoughts, and post a response. As they read the posts of classmates they can respond and extend the discussion.
The teacher needs to be an active part of the discussion from the first day. It is important to respond to each student and to direct them with comments and questions to explore a topic further, help them get back on the correct path, and encourage constructive comments and feedback when responding to others.
I have discussions daily to check for understanding on the day’s topic. I have noticed that when I’m not involved the responses become very short and the students don’t really explore the topic. I’ve seen the difference when I stay actively engaged in the class because all of my students have better responses and discussions are much better. I tie discussions to the day’s participation grade because that creates some incentive to participate. Students often don’t understand the importance of staying active in the class on a regular basis.
I went to the YouTube site for the video since I saw there was a pdf that went with it. I spent quite a bit of time looking through the pdf and have bookmarked the site so that I can go back to it later. It was very interesting to hear about how different disciplines found that the same techniques were useful for increasing student involvement in online classes.