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Promoting Online Discussion

Promoting Online Discussion: Encouraging Deep or “Durable” Responses:
Sheila Pinchin

How can you encourage students to respond to each other deeply or “durably” on the discussion board? Clarify with the students what you mean by respond and offer suggested questions as prompts for response. Give timely and constructive feedback with suggestions. Model response for students.

What is response?

Response is communicating with the person who posted, for a variety of purposes:
• Establishing positive group communication climate, and building a sense of class community
• Asking questions to find out more information, details or ideas, or to clarify ideas
• Supporting aspects of the posting
• Reinforcing your own experience and/or trying out your own ideas
• Providing assistance to the person who posted
• Moving the discussion forward to next steps or creation of something new
• Helping out with summative assignments in the course

Try some of these 10 questions as prompts for effective response:

1. What positive or helpful aspects of this posting are there? Why are they positive or helpful?
2. What questions do I have about any piece of the posting? What needs clarification or elaboration? What assumptions have been made? What support do you (the person who posted) have for the conclusions in this posting?
3. How does this posting link to my experience, especially in this work/learning setting?
4. What have I experienced differently, or similarly to the experiences of the person who posted? Why is there a difference?
5. What examples from my work/learning setting can I give to further illustrate points made in the posting? How do these add to the points?
6. What solutions do I have for any dilemmas or issues posed in the posting?
7. What have I read that supports or raises issues with the posting?
8. What are common themes or patterns that emerge from this and other postings? How can we illustrate this, in a chart or diagram, for example?
What are some next steps for both of us?
9. What can we create together from ideas from this and other postings?
10. How will this posting and our dialogue together help in final summative assignments?


Bloom. Benjamin. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives in the Cognitive Domain. See for examples and explanation.
Reader Response Theory. See for an example.
“Durable Learning” from Dr. Dave Knowlton at

Further Reading:

MacKnight, Carol. (2000). Teaching Critical Thinking through Online Discussions.

Muilenburg, Lin and Berge, Zane L. (2000). A Framework for Designing Questions for Online Learning