Discussion boards

Participation—the key to doing well in the course

The most important part of the course–worth 150 out of 500 possible points. This is where you show you’re reading, engaging the material (readings, discussion, and online lecture material), and learning. Students need to participate in the discussion every week to gain points for that week. Here’s what I’ll be looking for:

  • You need to do the discussion while everyone else is (i.e., no going back three weeks later after it’s graded, unless there are unusual circumstances you’ve cleared with me first); students are entitled to two make-ups. If you make a habit of slipping in your posts at the very end of the week, you won’t receive full credit, since the point of this portion of the course is student interaction.
  • You need to post every week—One posting for each thread I create in the discussion board for the week, and at least one reply to someone else’s post in each thread. This means you could easily have up to six or eight per week (usually I’ll have three questions to frame the week’s discussion).
  • Your posts need to be thoughtful. There are 10 points possible for posting, and 5 points for the quality of the posts. This is somewhat subjective, I agree, but I will be looking for evidence of thought—maybe the post is short, but condensed and full of meaning and significance. I’ll be looking to see that it reflects some preparation and intellectual effort on your part. If I can’t tell for sure that you’ve done any of the readings from your posts, don’t expect full credit. Of course bringing in outside sources you’ve looked up is always a way to score points. So it’s not just length, although it’s very hard to show evidence you’ve been reading and thinking about a topic in a couple of sentences.
  • Citing sources—at the end of a post where you’re discussing a reading, cite the source. I know I know—it seems silly. It’s just practice, and it will make this a more automatic process for you and improve your paper-writing efficiency (and if you’re familiar with cut-and-paste rituals it goes quickly).

There are several kinds of postings that can gain you credit:

  • You can pose a question for the group, and then try to answer it or explain why you asked it.
  • You can provide other research or web resources you’ve found that shed light on a subject we’ve discussing.
  • You can summarize a long discussion thread and try to distill it down to one or a few issues.
  • You can reply to others’ postings—either agreeing or disagreeing, the main thing is that you provide evidence and some logical argument to back up what you’re saying.
  • The key is, show me more than your opinion on something—Unsupported statements won’t get you more than a ‘3’ for the quality of your postings for the week.

Points will be based on the following criteria:

  • Your ability to reflect on the questions or the readings/lecture material. To receive full credit, you need to show you’ve not only been through the readings, but understood them and used them as evidence to support your views. If all readers can see is opinion seemingly uninformed by course material, your points will reflect that. You don’t have to agree with the material in class, but you do need to demonstrate you read it and made a good faith effort to understand it.
  • Your grasp of the topic. You don’t necessarily need to show mastery of each reading or topic, but you do need to ask questions where you’re unclear to clarify your understanding and show me you’re putting effort into understanding the material. Again, if you try to do this without referring to the readings or lecture material, I won’t even know if you’ve read it. So ‘I don’t get it’ won’t garner you many points—it shows no effort on your part to try to ‘get it.’
  • Your ability to communicate your ideas. I would like to see good, organized writing. Complete sentences, spell-checked, and all that. If you’re citing something, do it correctly, give us a web page. ‘I agree’ is okay, as long as it’s followed by a well-reasoned explanation of why you agree with a previous post (again, citing evidence).
  • Bringing in outside materials. I encourage this, but I also want you to have evaluated these materials. If it’s the first .com site you found on Google, I’ll let you know if I think it’s a suspect source.

Below is the basic rubric or guidelines I will use to evaluate students’ effort on the discussion boards:

Proficient (13-15 pts)
Adequate (10-12 pts)
developing (<10 pts)
▫ Student posted in each numbered thread (usually 3), one substantive post and replies to other students’ posts (at least two);
▫ Substantive post shows clearly that the student has read the reading material, thoughtfully responded to the prompt(s)—difficult to do in less than 200 words—properly cited any sources used, and provided logic and evidence to support his/her points that acknowledges the readings referenced in the prompt.
▫  Student posted in each numbered thread, including at least one substantive reply to another student’s post.
▫  Substantive post demonstrates that student has read the material, but either hasn’t responded to the prompt, hasn’t supported his/her claims with any evidence or logic, or showed little effort in trying to understand the reading material;
▫  Possibly student’s substantive posts were thoughtful, but there were no replies to others’ posts.
▫  There’s something missing—the substantive post may inadequately address the prompt or fail to show the student actually did the reading(s), student may have failed to post in each numbered thread, either the substantive post or replies to others’ posts;
▫  Posts don’t reflect much effort in trying to understand the material in question;
▫  Student is engaging in discussion with other students, but not engaging the prompt and reading material.


We will practice standard ‘netiquette’ (discussion board behavior). No ‘flaming’ of individuals. This is where we discuss, debate and exchange ideas. Civility and mutual respect rule. I will deal with personal attacks privately, but firmly, so don’t do it—we’re here to encourage everyone to participate, so avoid postings that discourage others from doing so.

  1. You need to post during the week the discussion is taking place This is the beauty of online classes–everybody contributes, nobody gets to hide in the back of the class, everyone has a chance to shine. Generally we’ll begin a new topic on Tuesdays, and run through the next Monday evening. As stated, you can make up two discussion boards over the course of the 10-week term.
  2. Follow basic online ‘netiquette.’  We certainly don’t have to agree–but we can disagree in a civil way, and use persuasion, logic and evidence to support our own ideas.
  3. If you’re writing a long post, use paragraphs to break up points and, to be safe, you might compose in something besides Canvas (and save as you go), and then paste it into Canvas–this will help you avoid the frustration of losing a post you’ve spent considerable time on.

A note on absences: if you’re going to be out of town or away from the Web for any substantial period of time, you should let me know. If you’re not posting and haven’t contacted me, I’ll just assume you’re not participating in the discussion board for that week (and that’s 20 points per week—so if, for example, you missed two weeks entirely, your chances of pulling an ‘A’ in the course would be very slim—that’s 40 pts out of a possible 500 for the term).

Again, 150 points on this part of the course—15 pts per week (plus 5 possible pts per week for writing)

Writing in discussion boards

Blame it on textspeak if you like. You will have to demonstrate college-level writing in both the website analysis paper and in discussion boards. There will be five points possible each week for writing in the discussion boards, meaning you need to proofread your posts, check for spelling errors, capitalize, all that basic grammar-related stuff, and make sure that they make sense, to get the full five points each week (there will be a separate grade item for this).

  • A ‘5’ means your posts are in order, make sense, thoughts are well-organized, and you’ve probably done some proofreading before hitting the ‘submit’ button.
  • A ‘4’ means you’ve probably done some proofreading, but there are still some pretty glaring errors.
  • ‘3’ means it’s not really clear you’ve proofread the posts for the week.
  • A ‘1’ or ‘2’ indicates your posts have so many errors in them that they’re hard to follow, and in any case readers may not take them as seriously.

I’m mainly doing this because writing is just so critical to finding work, communicating with prospective employers, and we all need to show some self-awareness about our writing. This will show up as a separate grade for each week of the course, 5 points possible per week, 50 points total for the term.

Other Assignments:

Making up a week’s discussion (you’re entitled to two of these)

Papers should be 2-3 pages, double-spaced (11 or 12 pt font) in length. This is how I would like you to structure the reflection papers:

  1. What for you were the most important points that you took from the readings, discussion and lecture material for the week? This is an exercise in abstract thinking—what is the ‘big picture?’ You should touch on each reading assignment, discuss any common threads between them, or differences. I want to see what you got out of the readings and the week’s topic, and gauge your depth of understanding. I’m not looking for book reports here—do some summary, but your paper should be no more than 1/3 summary (and no less than 2/3 analysis). Obviously you’ll need to show you did the readings and got something of value out of them.
  2. Demonstrate you read the discussion board. I don’t need a play-by-play blow of people’s postings, I just want you to demonstrate you went through the postings, and got something out of the process. How did people respond to the material for the week? What was your take? Just keep in mind—take a stand, but don’t make points if you’re not going to support them with evidence or logic.
  3. Standards. This is making up for your having missed the discussion boards, so I expect the same amount of intellectual effort to go into the make-up. Good writing, use of complete sentences, paragraphs to change ideas, citing of authors’ works at the end. Demonstrate you’ve been through all of the readings and lecture material. You can submit it to Bb—there are links to submit a maximum of two of these. Two generic pages with ungrounded opinions won’t get you many points.