The Discussion Board is a very important component of your class, whether it be English composition or reading, Student Success or Career Exploration.  For composition, it's a part of your writing and often may become a part of your essays.  For the reading class, it's a way for you to test what you get from the readings and a way I can know what you are understanding and what you aren't.  In the Student Success class, it gives you a chance to present more journal writing and test out your ideas.  For all the classes, this is the equivalent of in-class discussion. 

In many university classes, homework may be assigned but never checked.  Having done the homework means you are prepared for the discussions, which can bring forth even more ideas and revelations.  You must do the homework I assign you before using the discussion board.  Doing your first round of discussion responses by Thursday gives you time to read and yet is early enough in the week that you can respond to other students' comments later on.  Do the readings as if you're going to have a quiz on them.  Take notes; annotate.  Then think about them.  In some cases, I'll ask you to journal or freewrite about the ideas the readings bring up.

Before you do the prewriting,  relax!


 I provide a page with the discussion topics each week so you'll have them all listed on one page.  (You can find the link on the Weekly Map.  Print it out as reference.)  To make your prewriting time more efficient, take a moment to relax.  Slow yourself down.  Loosen up your muscles.  Breathe deeply, looking at something just a few inches from your eyes (like your nose!  It's best if your vision is not focused.)

Why relax?  Skip Downing says it best in his On Course to Your Success text:

A few moments of relaxation [before writing] will pay you back many times over.  Experiments have shown that relaxing before a learning session greatly improves the results.  During a normal day, your brain is continually firing electrical waves at fourteen or more cycles per second.  These waves, known as beta waves, are great for getting daily tasks done, but they are less efficient for learning something new.

When you take a few minutes to relax deeply, your brain waves slow down.  These slower alpha waves occur at between seven and fourteen cycles per second.  Studies have compared the impact of various types of brain waves on learning.  The evidence is clear:  Alpha waves improve learning.

When we experience alpha waves, our mind is better able to focus because it's less distracted by muscle tension or irrelevant thoughts.  Relaxation also appears to allow the two sides of our brain -- the logical, linear left brain and the creative, holistic right brain -- to work together.  All in all, alpha waves seem to tune up our brains for increased mental performance (6-7).


Freewrite or Journal Give yourself ten minutes to write.  Set a timer so that you know when the time is up.  Copy the topic down at the top of the page (this is for guided freewriting, not free freewriting).  Then just start writing about the topic, whatever comes to your mind, everything that comes to mind.  Everything goes -- even words you wouldn't want your mom to hear.  Don't worry about spelling or punctuation or about the order you should put stuff in.  Don't go back and correct or stop to think of the right word.  (There is no right word; everything is good.)  Just write and write and write.  Then, when you can't think of anything else to say, write some more!  If your mind is truly blank, then write the last thing you wrote over and over and over . . ..  After a bit, your mind gets bored with that and gives you more ideas.  And usually those last ideas are the best!  If you want to know more about this technique, google freewriting and Peter Elbow, who coined the term "freewrite" or read my suggestions on freewriting.
Compose When you are ready, which could be right after the freewriting or several days later, go to the discussion board, choose the topic you are commenting on and click reply.  (In these discussion threads, you won't be able to post, or create your own threads.)  Using your freewriting and my questions, write your response. 
Check Because everyone in the class can read your response, you do need to avoid words you wouldn't want your mom to hear from you.  It would be nice if your words were spelled correctly, for the most part.  Since you're already online, you can use to check their spelling, but don't agonize over the spelling, and for Pete's sake, don't avoid using a word because you don't know how to spell it.  Chances are that word will show up spelled correctly in others' responses, and you can learn from it.  The grammar isn't graded in the discussion board, but your writing needs to be clear enough that other people can understand it (that's what grammar is all about).  And it's just good manners not to make your readers work hard to figure out your meaning.
My Expectations I expect postings that show you have put some time and thought into the topic.  Some of the postings will be related to a reading.  Those should demonstrate that you actually READ the assignment. 

Also, you will need to respond thoughtfully to each other.  You may disagree with another student.  If so, explain what part you disagree with and why.  You may agree.  If so, provide your own examples or illustrations to support the idea.  If you don't like how someone said something, point it out.  Maybe suggest another way to say it.  Take some time with your responses to other students' postings, as well.

My Top Five Pet Peeves for Postings


5.  Postings that have nothing to do with the topic being replied to.  "Did anyone get the page number for the last reading?"  Use the class email or the Student Lounge for that kind of stuff.  If you've got questions and I don't answer soon enough for you, you can email the whole class with just a few key strokes.  Or you might be able to find someone online at the same time and get your question answered.

4.  Thin postings that say only one thing and don't elaborate:  "I agree."

3.  Padded postings that go nowhere.  Something like this:  "I think everyone is different.  Some of us are like others but mostly we are different.  That's because we are different people and we do things differently.  Different people are different from each other."

2.  Postings in text message style.  Even a "u" will set me on edge.  And I will remember u.

1.  Saying "I don't have anything to say about this" just to fulfill the requirement of responding to a certain number of topics.  If you don't have anything to say, don't respond to the topic.  (That's the reason you can leave one topic out.)

  This page last updated Thursday, May 17, 2012, by Connie Gulick.