How to Respond Effectively in Online Discussions

Online college students often find that they are required to answer discussion questions in class.  With the popularity of texting and the lack of formality used when writing an email, many students are lacking the necessary skills to write an appropriate posting. 

Online schools often require that postings are substantive.  In other words, the postings should be substantial and have sufficient content to answer questions in depth.  Students may be given guidelines or a minimum word count to guide them.  However, when responding to fellow students’ postings, there are usually not specific word count requirements.  Therefore, it is important for students to respond in a way that is not merely showing their agreement or disagreement with what is being discussed. 

A good rule of thumb is to support what the student has said with at least one sentence. That doesn’t mean the student has to agree with the statement; they just have to support the fact that the student has made their point. 

Then after supporting them, the student can disagree or agree with the topic at hand.  They should include several more sentences explaining their position on the topic.  They could give examples and cite sources.  

A good way to end the discussion would be with a question that is either addressed to the original student or one that could be addressed to the class in order to bring more participants into the discussion.  

It is extremely important that students write in complete sentences, use correct grammar, check spelling and punctuate correctly.  For additional help with writing skills, please check out the following links:

Can Spell Check Make Things Worse?

Top 15 Writing and Grammar Mistakes

15 Ways to Improve Writing Skills

10 Common Writing Mistakes

Can Texting Damage Writing Skills?

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