Why “Discussions” Fail: Reconsidering Online Discussion Best Practices

Updated: May 26



why discussions fail, reconsidering online discussion best practices

Many degree programs and courses include online discussion board spaces with weekly assignments and prompts to attempt to engage students, promote critical thinking, increase topic relevance, help students network, and allow them to otherwise “interact.”

Often students and instructors treat these as “check-the-box” assignments and they rarely spur anything resembling real conversations. Subsequently, these assignments rarely meet their intended educational or social aims.

In reality, this well-worn framework itself actually creates a cascade of unintended but self-reinforcing and highly damaging behavior patterns. Without avoiding these consequences and promoting positive behavioral change in the majority of the learner population, traditional “discussions” are practically doomed to failure.

The primary issues created by the traditional “1 post and 2 comment” assignment framework are: