Managing Discussion Postings

Decorative: "Discussion Post" superimposed over interlocking coloured pencils


"Managing and Evaluating Discussion Postings" (post) addresses 3 core questions about online discussions, offers 3 basic models for discussions, and outlines a 3-point rubric for use in assessing online discussions.

1. Core Questions Addressed

  • "How do I manage, oversee or direct the learner interaction in discussion forums?"
  • "How do I ensure that students participate in the discussion board activities?"
  • "How do I grade discussions? How many points should be allocated?"

2. Basic Models for Online Discussions

a. "The first model ... is similar to traditional classroom environments in that students talk to the faculty member and the faculty member responds back to the students."

  • "[S]tudents respond to one or more related questions, and you, the faculty, review and analyze the responses and write a summary of those responses."
  • "This model works and is strategic at times, but it is basically a traditional hierarchical pattern and does not encourage peer-to-peer communication."
  • "It reinforces the role of faculty as the expert or 'sage on the stage' with not much opportunity for community building."

b. "The second model is a more social and less hierarchical communication pattern and encourages community with peer-to-peer communications."

  • "[S]tudents read, respond and post responses to other students."
  • "This establishes communication strands in which the faculty member is more of a coach and observer ... to ensure that students are on track, confirm the accuracy or judgments of what is going on, ... not actively in the forefront or continually communicating as an expert."
  • "To maintain presence, particularly cognitive presence, the faculty member encourages, questions and then integrates needed expertise when wrapping up the discussion, or making comments on a summary by students."  

c. "The third model can be used with students who are experienced and mature online learners."

  • "[S]tudents work as teams and as teams, review, analyze and stimulate community thinking.
  • "In this model, students often act as surrogate faculty, monitoring, analyzing and summarizing thinking."

3. Basic Rubric for Assessing Online Discussions

The post presents "a holistic rubric with only three dimensions of time and quantity, content and communication standards."

  • "You may ... choose to provide additional points for students who take an active role, such as evaluator or summarizer."

a. "Timely and quantitative discussion contributions"

  • "Excellent: * 3-4 postings per discussion, well distributed throughout the week with first posting occurring early in the week"
  • "Good: * 2-3 postings per discussion, postings distributed throughout the week with first posting occurring by day 4 of a weekly forum"
  • "Average: * 1-2 postings per discussion, somewhat distributed with first posting occurring by day 4 of a weekly forum"
  • "Poor: * 0-1 postings per discussion, not distributed throughout the week with postings occurring only on the weekend

b. "Responsiveness to discussion and demonstration of knowledge and understanding gained from assigned reading"

  • "Excellent: Very clear that readings were understood and ideas were incorporated well into responses"
  • "Good: Clear that readings were understood and incorporated into responses"
  • "Average: Postings have questionable relationship to reading material or topic under discussion"
  • "Poor: No evidence that [the] readings were understood and/or not incorporated into discussion"

c. "Adherence to professional communication standards"

  • "Excellent: Communication was clear, accurate and professional"
  • "Good: Communication was mostly clear and accurate" 
  • "Average: Four-five (4-5) lapses in professional communication standards"
  • "Poor: Many lapses in professional communication standards'