Six Ways to Use ClassLink’s Discussion Boards to Boost Engagement and Build Community

January 7, 2022
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Create opportunities for students to connect and collaborate, and you’ll find you can foster engagement in any learning setting. The Discussion Boards in ClassLink are a great way to encourage all of your students to participate and share their thoughts—especially those who hesitate to speak up, ask questions or share an idea in class.

Using Discussion Boards, you can encourage engagement and create a sense of community while helping students build collaboration, inquiry, and communication skills.

Instructors at every level use Discussion Boards for everything from helping students collaborate during project-based learning, as a backchannel during whole-class instruction, or even as a place to share and communicate about assignments. I’ll talk about more usage ideas below, but first, let me share exactly how to find and use the Discussion Board features in ClassLink so you can start using them with your students.

How it works

From ClassLink Launchpad, click My Backpack (along the bottom of the screen) and select one of your classes. Once you are on a class details page, click Discussion Boards in the left navigation. From there, you can create and name your new discussion thread. Your students can find Discussion Boards you’ve created by following the same process.

Once you create the thread, students can start adding to the conversation. Each reply can contain up to 1000 characters. Instructors can create and delete both threads and replies. While students can write and delete replies.

For step-by-step instructions (and visuals), here’s a handy support document to help you get started.

Ideas for application

The idea for ClassLink’s Discussion Boards comes directly from educators. Many instructors were brimming with ideas for how they would use this feature. I’ve outlined some of their suggestions for how to use them below.

Create a backchannel

Providing a backchannel for students during instruction was the number one application instructors discussed when asked how they would use Discussion Boards. As an instructor delivers a live synchronous lesson, students can share questions, thoughts, or ideas through replies to the thread. What’s great is all students can participate whether they are in-class or learning remotely.

Then, instructors can pause at particular points in the lesson and with a quick, “Ok, let’s see what you guys are thinking,” use those replies to open up a whole-group discussion or even get insight into student understanding for a quick formative assessment check.

Share announcements and assignments

Use the Discussion Boards feature to share class announcements and upcoming assignments, such as reminders about projects that are due soon. When you use a Discussion Board for these tasks, students can ask questions and discuss the work they’re doing. With each reply, they build communication skills and dig deeper into their learning.

Use for project-based learning

If you use project-based learning in your classes, Discussion Boards are ideal. Post the project as a discussion thread, and throughout the project, students can share updates about their progress, outline their findings, and ask questions.

Encourage collaboration

Break your class into small teams, then create and assign a thread for each team to use for small group discussions. This provides a place for collaboration, discourse, and planning related to small group projects and activities.

Support social and emotional learning

The Discussion Boards feature can also help spark conversation and make connections that support social and emotional learning. As a follow-up to a synchronous morning meeting, for example, an asynchronous thread could be posted to carry conversations throughout the day, extending those important connections.

Build community

With many schools immersed in hybrid or remote learning settings, creating a sense of community among students is incredibly important. Discussion Boards can help students get to know one another and develop a sense of community, and even make remote learning feel a little less isolating. For example, instructors can ask each student to share a few lines about their interests, hobbies, and learning goals as a community-building project.

This list of suggested uses for discussion boards from Central Michigan University is loaded with prompts and suggestions for discussion questions and detailed examples for using ClassLink’s Discussion Boards to build community in your classes.

Share your success

There are endless sources of ideas for using the Discussion Boards feature with your students, including this article from Education Week’s Larry Ferlazzo, Effective Strategies for Using Online Student-Discussion Boards.

As you try Discussion Boards with your students, why not share your ideas and successes on Twitter for others to learn from using the hashtag #ClasssLinkDiscussionBoards.

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About the Author

About the Authors

Jamie Saponaro

Director of Educational Success