When we survey learners from even the best produced courses that are chock-full of amazing videos and content, guess which part of the course learners consistently rate as the best part? That's right, they rate the discussion interactions as what they found most helpful and interesting.
Adding discussion prompts is one of the easiest and best ways to make any course more effective, interesting, and fun.
💡 Tip: even if you're not personally planning to respond to discussion forums, it's easy to set the expectation for learners to discuss among themselves. In fact, one Pathwright account has over 55,000 discussions that are all learner-to-learner. Prefer to turn off notifications? You can toggle discussions off entirely per course or per cohort in the course or cohort settings.
💬How to add a discussion prompt
To add a discussion:
- Select the “Post a discussion question” button near the bottom of the step.
- Add a brief question title or prompt and then add more details and instructions in the text editor under “More information.” Post as a "discussion prompt."
💡 Tip: Discussions can be started from any step in a course. Adding a discussion prompt on a dedicated To-Do step allows you to set grades and dates on the discussion and make it required using the step settings.
✍What makes an effective discussion prompt?
The following points are summarized from our blog post on How to Write Discussion Questions.
- Ask open-ended questions. An effective discussion question requires more than a yes or no answer or regurgitation of what was just taught. Avoid being overly broad, but make sure your learners have a chance to apply what they learned.
- Think about community. Encourage learners to share their experiences and relate what they're learning to real life.
- More questions = more participation. Consider offering more than one discussion question on a step. Make some more challenging and others more accessible.
- Offer incentive (grade the discussion). If learners know you will read and grade their discussion, they are more likely to give thoughtful answers and participate consistently, encouraging richer interaction.
🛠️How discussions work
Discussion prompt versus personal question
When you create a new discussion, you will see the options to post as a discussion prompt or as a question. When designing a course, you'll want to use the discussion prompt option.
Discussion prompts are shared among all Groups (if you use multiple Groups), but personal questions can only be seen by members of that particular Group. These can be used by teachers and moderators who want to personally communicate with the class.
Edit or delete
Hover over any discussion or post and select the additional actions icon (...) for the options to edit or delete that discussion or individual message.
Discussion posts can be "upvoted" by learners using the up arrow (^). Each question will display a number of responses and number of upvotes.
Each post will show the number of upvotes and responses will be threaded.
Filter any discussion to see a certain type of post first. "Best" will show the most-upvoted responses first. "Active" will show posts with the most responses first.
If you are enrolled in the course as a teacher or moderator, you will automatically be notified when someone asks a new question or responds to a discussion prompt. Learn more about how to manage your notifications.
In some cases, members may want to subscribe to an individual discussion in order to get every response to that discussion, and not just direct responses to their own posts. To subscribe to a discussion, select the "Subscribe" button.
To unsubscribe and stop receiving all notifications, select the "Unsubscribe" button.
You can follow any notification straight to the original discussion by clicking on it. To unsubscribe, follow the notification to the discussion and then use the unsubscribe button to stop receiving further notifications.
Ask to respond
Are you working with multiple teachers and moderators in a single course or Group? Use the "Ask to respond" link under additional actions to send an instant notification to your colleague.
When a notification has been successfully sent to a teammate, you'll see the name fade and a checkmark will appear. The notification message will include a link to the discussion and will indicate that you have asked this teammate to respond.
👉 Ideas & examples
Here are a few ideas that you can try in your course:
- Introduction question. Consider asking learners what they hope to learn and why.
- "Share your work" question. Consider having learners share their work with others in the class in a discussion. This way, they will get feedback from others, not just from the moderator or teacher. For example, ask learners to share their answer to an application question or have them share a picture or video file of something they've created or done in relation to the course.
- "What have you learned" question. Use a "share what you learned" type question at the end of a module or at the end of the course to help you evaluate what learners are taking away from their study. Encourage learners to share how they'll apply what they learned to life.
- Case study and problem-solving. Present a challenging case study or problem and ask learners to work together to find a solution.
- Debate. Present a controversial issue and challenge learners to politely and professionally discuss the various sides of the issue using evidence.
- Socratic questioning. Ask a question designed to engage your learners in finding the answer to a complex problem. This may require a teacher or moderator to check in and move your learners' thought processes in the right direction with careful follow-up questions.