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University of Arizona -College of Nursing -Instructional Design - Discussion Boards

Instructional Design - Discussion Boards

Discussion boards are versatile, stable, relatively easy-to-use and available in most course management systems, such as D2L. The term "discussion" is somewhat misleading because this tool can be used for activities other than "discussion." More precisely, discussion boards allow people to share (and respond to) text and files with whomever is part of a defined group of users. That group may be the whole class, a pair of students, a small group, or a section. Some of the advantages of discussion are:

  • Students practice written expression of ideas.
  • The format allows time for reflection before responding.
  • Small groups can work together.
  • Students can control when they read/post and what they read/post
  • Higher-order knowledge skills are engaged.
  • Social interaction and communication are encouraged.

The keys to a successful discussion activity are

  1. Good alignment between the discussion activity and the learning objectives of the course/module -- otherwise the assignment can feel like busy-work. Students need to experience a connection between discussion work and success in the course.
  2. Clear instructions for students
  3. A plan for managing feedback and grading efficiently

Discussion boards may also be used to facilitate peer review. For this type of activity student pairs or triads are created and a rubric is given for the students to use to evaluate each other's work. D2L's Groups tool can be used to automatically create the pairs/triads and the discussion space for each pair/triad to share papers.

Evaluating student discussion postings
Rubrics articulate expectations to students, save grading time, and better guarantee fairness and objectivity in evaluation. Consider having group members evaluate themselves and each other.

Managing and monitoring
D2L's Discussions Statistics can give an instructor summary data about how many posts a students has read and authored. You can use then prod the lackadaisical.

If you have any problems or questions, please contact IT at



Instructional Design
Quizzes - Assessing
Discussion Boards

Reference Files
Blooms Taxonomy
7 Principles of Good Practice
9 Events of Instruction
UA's Quality Matters
Student's Perception of Online Education