JOLT - Journal of Online Learning and Teaching :Designing and Orchestrating Online Discussions | Digital Learning - beyond eLearning and Blended Learning in Higher Education |

Designing and Orchestrating Online Discussions


David L. Baker
Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration
California State University, San Bernardino
San Bernardino, CA 92407 USA




This author’s position is that asynchronous online discussions face an array of resolvable pedagogical and course management challenges. Online discussions can transform mere course chatter into a cyber forum of student-centered learning through meticulous planning, designing and orchestrating. After introducing common issues, a literature review summarizes the contributions that online discussions bring to distance learning. The author then addresses pedagogical and managerial issues that plague online discussions with strategies that instructors may readily employ. In the pedagogical realm, these include insights on organizing online discussions, using groups to facilitate interactions, establishing discussion parameters, and ensuring that the course syllabus introduces online discussion details. In the managerial realm, approaches are offered regarding overseeing discussion windows, using icebreakers, assessing student performance, ongoing communications, maintaining an online presence, netiquette, and a variety of other online discussion tips. In support of online instructors, the article weaves in relevant literature with the hard learned lessons from the author’s ongoing attempts to improve online discussions. It concludes by urging instructors to cultivate improvement continuously through candid self-critique supplemented by student feedback.


Keywords: Asynchronous learning; distance learning, online pedagogy, online groups; online discussions; and discussion assessment.

Via Dennis T OConnor, Jim Lerman, Kim Flintoff