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@2006 Ed Gallagher, Professor of English, Lehigh Lab Fellow. Lehigh University.
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The Basics

I now see that developing the backbone of meaningful discussion board work -- which, after all, is new for virtually all students -- takes considerable time that I had never given, and includes the following almost commonsensical elements that might serve as a checklist for others:
  • telling students how this activity, in general, will help them learn (a goal/a rationale)
  • demonstrating that specific assignments are organic to the learning process at each course moment, not simply ongoing make-work or busywork
  • telling students what proper posting engagement should feel like (an image/a metaphor)
  • showing students what proper posting should look like, that is, giving them a variety of exemplary models as benchmarks for their posts
  • providing ample practice time and ample feedback on their practice efforts (as you would on draft versions of essays)  -- that is, providing time to make and correct mistakes
  • providing guidelines for the amount of time to spend on posts
  • integrating posts visibly into the in-class pedagogy
  • establishing rules for responsibility in group interaction assignments
  • grading discussion board work on clearly articulated criteria
  • judging posts on qualitative as well as quantitative measures (and never grading posts totally on quantitative measures)
  • counting discussion board work significantly, not trivially, in the overall grading scheme