“Write an initial post and then reply to two of your classmates.” These are the standard requirements for students participating in online course discussions. Discussions in an online course play a vital role in creating substantive interactions, aiming to capture the spirit of discourse in face-to-face settings. This, however, can look and feel like busy work, making the purpose of online discussions unclear to students.
The standard blueprint is safe but has been exhausted. “Initial posts” can be counterintuitive—in essence, they require students to complete small writing assignments individually before giving other students feedback on their work (Liberman, 2019). How can we think outside of the box of posting and replying when it comes to these discussions? One way is to use online discussions as an opportunity to promote student autonomy and ask students to be active participants not only in how they respond to class discussions, but how they initiate them. Here are five considerations for promoting student autonomy while also
breaking the online discussion mold: