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Write an Online Discussion

What is an online discussion?

  • Online discussions are group discussions hosted on a course website. Students write “posts” that respond to instructor questions or course topics. 
  • Posts tend to be shorter in length and smaller in scope than many writing assignments such as essays and research reports. In general, however, you’ll want each of your posts to make at least one main point and provide supporting evidence and explanation for that point. 
  • Part of the challenge of online discussion writing is getting your point across clearly in a relatively short amount of space.

What is the purpose of an online discussion?

The purpose and assessment of online discussions will vary from course to course, so read your course outline and any instructions you are given very carefully. In general, however, instructors want students to:

  • To engage in the course material beyond passively reading and listening.
  • To communicate with and learn from other students.
  • To think critically about course material and consider issues from different perspectives.

How long should an online discussion post be?

  • The length of an online discussion post will vary based on individual course requirements.
  • You will want to keep online discussion posts brief (1 paragraph) to maintain the conversational feel of the discussion.

What are the different types of online discussions?

  • Initial or primary post: a response to the original question presented by the course instructor on a particular topic.
  • Follow-up or secondary post: feedback or commentary on another student’s initial post.

What should an online discussion post include?

  • Provide your critical opinion or perspective on the class topic or issue being analyzed or discussed.
  • Respond to another student’s discussion post, providing reflective and constructive commentary.
  • Refer to course content and materials, as well as outside examples and materials.
  • Use proper grammar and language.

Resources to help with writing

Guide: Write a Book ReviewGuide: Cite Your Sources

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