Monday, July 12, 2021

How to Use Discussion Forums to Begin, Center, and Produce Student Writing


How to Use Discussion Forums to Begin, Center, and Produce Student Writing

Most students are missing out on the treasure trove that discussion forums are. Like online courses, discussion forums are a major hub where students get to discuss a subject and ask obscure questions related to it. The best thing about discussion forums is that they serve as the melting point of so much additional information regarding a subject that may not be a part of your course. Moreover, such forums have proved to be exceptionally useful during the pandemic, giving students a virtual location to discuss their ideas about a particular reading. This has, consequentially, led to better custom writing skills among students.

So, how do online discussion forums lead to assignment writing prowess? Such platforms let students engage in conversation, assess what they understand from a text, and act as the first scaffolding for the written task.

However, not many people understand how to use discussion forums to their best potential to get better at academic writing and present better assignments. So, here I am to guide you in the process so you can milk this to your advantage.

Step 1: Begin the conversation

After reading an article or editorial, start by answering the sets of guided questions posted in the forum. For example, you may be asked to identify the audience for the text, elaborate on the central theme of the piece, or analyse its purpose. For more practical subjects, you may be asked to explain your understanding of a concept. Here is what you have to do:

  • After posting your answers, you can compare your responses withother forum participants.
  • Based on the comparison, you can then focus on what you have to re-examine or re-elaborate.
  • The main purpose over here is to indulge in conversations with other students like you.
  • You can ask the instructors or mentors in the forum to confirm your interpretation or commend one of your explanations.
  • If you are unclear, you can again go through the article’s main idea, question a perception, or clarify your doubts with the mentors.

Do not feel scared to ask questions for fear of looking stupid. Understand that you are a part of the forum because you need to get your fundamentals right and get better at academic writing.

Step 2: Summarisation

After a week of the discussion and question hour, get on to summarising what you have gathered and learned about the concept or topic. Now that you are in the same playing field with the same information, you will not have to search for more information. This is why using forums for studying and writing assignments makes for a great decision – you have all you need in the conversations held on the forum. 

  • Summarise the piece using your voice while maintaining a sense of authority.
  • Having a personal voice will help you dissect and decipher the key aspects of the topic better in your writing.

Once you are done summarising, you will have a better comprehension of the text. Finally, you will be able to move to write the assignment.

Step 3: Expansion of the major assignment

Use the conversations regarding the purpose of the text or tone of the author to expand your assignment into a larger project. For example, when writing a rhetorical analysis, go through the data summarised about the intent, the targeted audience and other such factors about the text in question. You can also explain the strong or weak aspects of the text that you have comprehended and approved by the mentors in your writing. Each of these areas may be examined within a rhetorical analysis. So, how do you use the forum for your final paper?

  • Return to the forum whenever you want to re-examine the initial posts and comments from mentors or other participating students in the group. 
  • When you revisit the discussions regarding the author’s ability to accomplish the purpose, use the data to create a thesis statement.
  • This statement must communicate your idea, giving you an authoritative voice and supporting the arguments in your paper.
  • You can also use the discussion ideas to form an outline to draft your assignment.

If you abide by these three steps, you will get better at academic writing with time. Moreover, the quality submissions will reflect positively on your grades. 

That said, discussion forums aren’t all things good. Like everything in this world, discussion forums come with a set of pros and cons. Let us delve a little deeper into that, shall we?

Advantages of using Discussion Forums

  • A discussion forum promotes conversation between students, egging them to go beyond posed questions.
  • This kind of interaction (similar to group studies) creates a learning community that helps students better understand what they learn.
  • With pandemic limiting education to the digital world, discussion forums bridge the gap of interaction to an extent.
  • Students get to talk about upcoming projects and conduct peer reviews of papers they have written.
  • Students get to pose guiding questions, which make their understanding more robust.

Disadvantages of using Discussion Forums

Most of the time, the utopian-like idea that we have about discussion forums is not true. Here are some issues that may arise:

  • Most students post their initial response, reply to a few comments, and never return to the forum to read other responses.
  • Not answering general comments again limits the scope of what they learn.
  • Students often do not follow a schedule while posting guided questions or responses. This again limits the conversations. 
  • Sometimes, students are too passive and do not participate in discussion forums at all.
  • They ignore assignments since they have nothing to lose, like their grades.
  • When there is no participation in a discussion forum fora week or so, even the active students stop conversing and attempt to write the assignment by themselves.

So, how can discussion forums be made better? Read on to know how you can make your experience using a discussion forum worthwhile. 

Refining a Discussion Forum: How to do it?

Some scholars and mentors feel that using forums to discuss questions is outdated or an overused structure. However, such platforms have become a necessity due to the raging pandemic limiting us within our homes. With such forums, you can make assignment writing something that isn’t an individual activity. When it becomes a community endeavour, you will be able to come up with better ideas and shape them with the help of others. 

Alternatively, you can also use other forms of technology to foster such conversations. For example, you can use Voice Threads with discussion forums to vocalise your responses alongside reading them.

While technology belts out more tools that allow instructors to engage with students, the focus should be to refine discussion forums and not dispose them. More importantly, you must consider a discussion forum as an exercise that will help you sharpen your critical thinking ability and assignment writing skills. 

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