Guest Author - Susan D. Bates
If you are enrolled in a distance learning or a blended learning course (courses that blend traditional classroom activities with distance learning activities) you will probably be required to participate in virtual discussions. In most cases, you will respond to a prompt statement (referred to as the discussion question). Often, you will have to respond both to the statement and to some of your classmates’ responses.
These virtual discussions are designed to be similar to traditional classroom discussions. They are intended help you think critically about issues in the course and to gain insight through hearing the opinions of your fellow classmates. Virtual discussions can be very effective in helping you learn more about the course subject and improve your critical thinking skills in general. However, to get the most out of these virtual discussions you must avoid common mistakes when answering the questions.
Mistakes to avoid when answering discussion questions:
Not answering the question completely
Re-read the question before posting your response to ensure you have completely answered the question. Many students read the questions quickly and then lose points because they have forgotten to answer an aspect of the question.
Only agreeing or disagreeing
Professors do not simply want to know that you agree or disagree, they want to know why you hold your opinion. After you state your opinion, expand on your answer. Explain what lead you to the conclusions you have made about the topic.
Not demonstrating an understanding course material
Your answer should clearly show that you read the textbook and listened to the lecture. When evaluating students’ responses, professors look for evidence that the students understand the material presented in the course. Therefore, when answering questions, refer to something specific that you read in the textbook or heard during the lecture.
Poorly written responses
Write complete sentences and use conventional spelling when writing your responses. Remember that discussion questions are graded assignments and should be treated as seriously as other assignments. It is best to write your answers in a word processing program before you post them. Once you have proofread your response, cut and paste your response into the space for your response.
Using the list above will help you to avoid committing common mistakes when answering virtual discussion questions and help you to answer the questions more effectively. This will help you learn more and earn better grades. In addition, when you improve your contributions to the discussion you and your classmates can learn from you.