There are many strategies and technologies available to maximize the impact of discussion in your course. If your teaching centers around discussion and collaboration, regardless of your platform or medium, consider the following directory of options as you design or redesign courses, or choose activities.

Discussions in the Classroom

We encourage you to custom-design your discussion prompts and activities if you feel confident running open-ended class discussions! Here is some advice:

  • Provide questions that help students make connections between content, themes, goals, and/or skills (as relevant to your class)
  • Encourage students to work together to figure out difficult content (and be prepared to follow up with redirection if needed)
  • Give opportunities for making real-life connections: for example, by having students provide a relevant example from their experience or the news, suggest an application for a skill, or apply their learning to a scenario you provide
  • Avoid asking yes or no questions
  • Balance the questions’ complexity; consider using a strategy like a snowball or pyramid discussion to establish the basics and build toward complicated ideas and applications

If you are teaching a new course, building your skills as a discussion facilitator, or want to experiment with new strategies, there are many resources available online for choosing and running different types of discussion activities. Some of our favorites include:

Discussions in Canvas

Learn more in our guidance about using and leveraging Canvas Discussions, which applies to in-person, hybrid, and virtual courses. This article covers both the technical basics and more advanced course and assignment design options.

For designing asynchronous discussions, we also recommend the Harriett Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning at Brown University’s Key Questions for Designing Online Discussions.

Discussions in Synchronous Virtual Environments

The single most important thing for having a successful discussion in an unusual environment is preparing and communicating a clear structure. Make the parameters and topics of your synchronous or asynchronous discussions especially transparent in flex-hybrid learning.

Most synchronous virtual discussions are conducted via videoconference (though text-based chat platforms are also an option). These discussions require special technical considerations and may require adaptations to your approach to discussion facilitation.

Videoconference Technologies

Champlain faculty also have access to the InSpace platform. Learn more on InSpace’s website. InSpace may not be appropriate for meeting certain disability accommodations.

Virtual Discussion Facilitation

Tips for All Technologically Mediated Discussions

As we prepared for flex-hybrid learning in 2020, we developed some advice on running discussions that applies to both synchronous and asynchronous (Canvas) environments. Explore these slides to learn more (make sure to look at the speaker notes). Video coming soon.

Opening slide of a deck titled "Discussions in the Flex-Hybrid World", with an image of a videoconference grid on a laptop and a phone showing the Canvas app.
Click the image to view slides (Champlain login required)

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