Now that many people have an instant messenger, a blog and email, people are sometimes unsure about good rules of conduct for academic discussion groups as compared to other forums. To help these students, and those who have never used a discussion group, we've brought together some suggestions for posting in Blackboard discussion groups.
For good results with your messages, keep the following in mind:
• Read any prompts carefully. A prompt is the assignment to which you are responding. In some cases, the prompt will be posted as the start of a thread in the discussion forum. In others, the prompt will be listed under "Assignments." In either case, read the prompt carefully. Make sure that you understand everything that it requires before you start to respond. If you have questions, ask for a clarification from your instructor, or at least let others know what you are unsure about in your posting.
• Post something that shows thought. One of the great things about discussion forum communication is that you can think before you respond. Discussion forum prompts are almost always open-ended questions, so even if it seems that the assignment only needs a short answer, assume that you should provide some explanation or narrative about that answer. The challenge is to do this without getting too long-winded!
• Include examples and supportive arguments, not just opinions. Discussion forums are not just a place to put opinions and feelings. You should also include specific examples, statistics, quotes, and other support materials. On the other hand, you are encouraged to include your opinions too. These will make all of the details more interesting!
• Cite your sources. It's OK if you borrow ideas from your readings or conversations, but you should attribute these ideas to their source. You can give the official citation of reading material (online or in print) or simply attribute ideas from your classmates. For instance, "In her posting, Shelly said ... That made me wonder about ..."
• Post your response early in the assignment period. If you wait until the assignment due date, others will not have a chance to respond to what you have said. Your instructor will not have as much time to notice or think about your posting, and a lower score may result. Post your first message early in the assignment period, then return later and respond to others. You'll get more out of the experience and get a better grade.
Responding to Posts
It's called a discussion forum because people are actually supposed to discuss ideas! Clever, huh? That means it will only be useful if you respond to others, not just post your own messages. You will not get the best results or grades from this kind of communication if you don't react to your classmates.
To respond to a message, simply enter the appropriate forum, then click on the subject of a message. Read the message, and if you want to respond, scroll to the bottom and click "Reply." Type your message and "Submit." Here are more hints:
- Don't agree with everything. "Good idea!," "I agree," or "I think the same thing" are not worthwhile responses. They don't add to the conversation. If you do agree with the poster, then try to add another example or clarify the point more. It's OK to have a different opinion. On the other hand...
- Don't disagree with everything. You won't impress anyone by being critical of every posting that is made. Try to be generous in interpreting others. Ask clarifying questions if you are not sure you understand.
- Search for balanced replies. When you respond to others, try to include both positives and negatives about what they have said. Tell them what you like about their ideas or compliment their intentions. Then let them know what part of their response they should consider giving more thought or looking at again.
- Replies should be useful. A good reply will give everyone following along more to think about. If it is critical, the critique will be specific, clear, and point toward possible improvements. Often, asking more questions is the best sort of reply. A good reply will encourage the poster to respond again. Hopefully, they will look forward to more interactions with you in the future.
- Attack arguments, but don't attack people. Don't get personal in a discussion forum. At the worst, be generous and assume that it is the person's idea that you don't like, not the person. Ad hominem attacks (against the person) will lose friends and participation points for you. So will racist, sexist, ageist, and other bigoted comments. So will profanity and obscenity. Let's stay civil!
- If you encounter difficulties or the argument gets too hot, let your instructor know. Your instructor will be checking the forum regularly, but may miss a critical posting. If someone posts something that upsets you, talk to your instructor about it. In some cases, your instructor might help clear up misunderstandings, or if necessary, delete an offensive message from the discourse.
Some behaviors are inappropriate in a discussion group. This is especially true for academic groups. Remember that your professor is reading this discussion and act accordingly. Examples of inappropriate conducts are:
• Using abusive, disrespectful or foul language
• Using sexually suggestive language (either explicit or implicit) that could be perceived as offensive or harassing.
• Threatening others
• Insulting others or denigrating the opinions of others. It is quite normal to disagree, but do so respectfully and without personal attacks.
• Making personal attacks
- Posting in all capital letters, it looks like you are screaming
- Responding in anger – if you are angry take a ten minute break before responding
- Posting racist or hateful comments about ethnicity, gender, intelligence or income level
- Be very careful if you decide to use sarcasm – it can easily be misunderstood