05 Discussion Tips

Guidelines for Populating the Discussion Page


Provide a general overview of your discussion in the context of your course materials and any guidelines, such as word limits. Word limits are helpful to give your students a clearer picture of what’s expected, and to manage the grading workload. For example, you may want to include a 150-word limit for bi-weekly posts or 250-word limit for more complex posts. When relevant, you may provide instructions for students to add attachments or images to their discussion posts. Consider providing a link to this resource: Student Guidelines for Communicating in Online, Professional Contexts.  

Sample Wording for Replies

"Reply to at least two of your classmates. Be sure your response is substantive and adds to the overall discussion. For example, you may compare and contrast your viewpoints, pose a thought-provoking question, and/or share a relevant example."

Due Date

It is a recommended practice not to include specific due dates here. Rather, refer students to your course schedule for all due dates.  This will make it easier to update your course for future offerings.  You can link directly to your course schedule. See the LEARN Course Templates for how to insert links. 

How Your Discussion Will Be Graded 

Rubrics help make it clear to students how they will be graded. They are also a useful grading tool as you can create rubrics in LEARN and attach the rubric to your discussion. Below you will find a sample discussion rubric that has been built in LEARN. 

Sample Discussion Rubric

Below is a sample image of a rubric implemented in LEARN, as well as a sample of the text you might include in a rubric.

Image showing what the example rubric looks like in LEARN
 CriteriaAccomplished (3)Approaching (2)Needs Improvement (1)Incomplete (0)
Comprehension The student demonstrated an exceptional understanding of the content. The student demonstrated some understanding of the content. The student demonstrated little understanding of the content. The student response was off-topic OR the student did not complete the discussion.
Clarity  The student conveyed their ideas clearly, accurately and succinctly. The student conveyed their ideas fairly clearly, accurately and succinctly. The student’s post would benefit from further review. The student did not complete the discussion.
Replies The student’s replies demonstrated critical thought and furthered the discussion. The student’s replies demonstrated some critical thought. The student’s replies did not further the discussion. The student did not reply.
Frequency of Posting Posts were written throughout the discussion period. Posts were all made within a short period of time (< 24 hrs apart). Posts were all made within a very short period of time (< 12 hrs apart). The student did not complete the discussion.

Additional Discussion Features

The following features can be added when editing a discussion topic:

  • Post first: this option requires students to create a post before viewing their classmates’ responses. This option can be helpful when you want students to determine their own perspective or stance before reviewing what their classmates’ think.
  • Anonymous posts: this option can be helpful for ask the instructor discussion to reduce students’ nerves about asking questions.
  • Rate posts: there are several rating options, such as upvoting and a five-star rating scheme, that allow students to rate each other’s posts. This can help improve student-student engagement. This feature must be turned on for students to use as the default is no ratings. 

Technical Support

Technical support for students is provided directly on the template page. If you or your TAs are looking for technical support, see LEARN Help: Discussions.