Do threaded discussions in online classes have any academic value?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by SurfDoctor, Sep 12, 2010.


How much academic value does the typical threaded discussion offer in an online class

Poll closed Nov 11, 2010.
  1. Highly valuable. Threaded discussions are an intergal part of a good online class.

    5 vote(s)
  2. Fairly valuable. Most of the time, they add value to a class.

    6 vote(s)
  3. Sometimes valuable, sometimes not. It depends on the students, instructor and questions.

    20 vote(s)
  4. Rarely valuable. Most of the time, threaded discussions are of little benefit.

    14 vote(s)
  5. An absolute waste of time.

    11 vote(s)
  1. smokey2011

    smokey2011 Member

    I think it has more to do with an engaged instructor as well. I've had one class where the instructor was engaged with the students, asking questions and making us do research outside the requirements, I really enjoyed that class. I've also had a class where the instructor changed the name in the reply, and it was the same reply to a bunch of students, with the same follow up question. That class was something I did not enjoy, even though the topic of the class was interesting.

    I've also found that almost half of the students in my classes shouldn't be in college, or they simply don't follow instructions well. Maybe it has something to do with my military background, but most of my posts take a while for me to post, simply because I take the instructions and try to match them up with my post. The hardest part is trying to keep them under a word limit, because as you can see with this wall of text, I like to type a lot.
  2. Wow. Surprised to see 25% of people thinking that DB's are "an absolute waste of time". For those who voted that way, what schools did you attend?
  3. joel66

    joel66 New Member

    I personally HATE the discussion board questions with the school that I am attending. I guess because of the amount of writing that is required and min of two citations. Also, you can't double up your dq's and have to make a min of 2 post and 4 responses, that have to be spread out 4 of 7 days. This is one top of 5 page papers due each week. The papers are not so bad, but when you have to respond to other students who keep asking freaking questions, I'm averaging 18 to 28 total posts each week. Sorry for having a bad day, but I would rather focus more on reports than discuss DQ's that doesn't really pertain to the weekly assignments.
  4. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator Staff Member

    You really do have to be part of a class before you can know how good the students that are enrolled are. You could, however, do some research on the professor, ask some other students and read reviews to attempt to find out if he/she actively participates in the discussions. A good instructor would be the key to making the discussions good. Lame questions and limited responses from students and instructors would ruin it.

    I'm just starting at Liberty, a school with an excellent reputation in DL, so I'm optimistic that my experiences with its threaded discussions will be positive.
  5. Ouch. What class are you taking that requires 5 pages papers every week? That's rough.
  6. joel66

    joel66 New Member

    Taking Organizational Behavior. It's six case assignments that is due weekly and one of those requires online presentation with ppt. Also need to complete min of 6 discussion board post spread out 4 days, and final 10 question essay exam that is 25% of the total grade at the end. Not too bad, but it's the DQ responses that is wearing me down more than anything.
  7. I took organizational psychology and if I remember correctly I had a 10-12 page final paper, weekly quizzes, and two 3-4 page papers. This was on a 10 week quarter system. There was also a weekly DB discussion question but it wasn't arduous like yours.
  8. djacks24

    djacks24 New Member

    I took Organization Behavior (300 level class) on campus as an elective for my undergrad. I talked to a good friend who took the class approximately 20 years previously. Had the same professor and said he barely got by in the class. The class wasn't entirely difficult in and of itself, but the professor proctored some very difficult exams and graded very hard on our group assignment for the class. I studied my a#% off for the exams and still pretty much felt good about scoring Bs. Then on our group assignment, our group came out with a C. Luckily the professor graded with a fairly generous curve which helped me earn a hard earned overall B in the class. I saw an anonymous spreadsheet of a previous class scores and our class scores and seen very few As given out for the class and plenty of Cs, so I accepted the B no problem. So maybe its just not the format and that its just a generally difficult class.
  9. Cauble_TXSG

    Cauble_TXSG Member

    I have had online courses where the instructor simply counts your posts to see if you met the 4 post minimum. The content of the posts did not seem to matter.

    I rather enjoy the online chat sessions. The class has to interact as groups with the instructor, and the entire session is logged. After the session is over, if a student did not participate, his grade was reflective of that. The same for those who participated minimally. To me this is much better than post on a messageboard.
  10. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Your instructor should be replying to some of the discussion question responses with some of their own insights... you should also by probing and reflecting on other students' posts. A suggestion.
  11. StefanM

    StefanM New Member

    At LU, the discussion boards have been the least productive components of the courses I have taken.
  12. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    "Sometimes valuable, sometimes not. It depends on the students, instructor and questions."

    A survey done a few years ago by EDUCAUSE asked 12,000 students to rate the features of their online learning management systems that they used most and which features had the most value. Not surprisingly, threaded discussions ended up at the bottom of the value list.

    Students tend to value most those features that contribute to their convenience (e.g. being able to look up grades, access assignments & quizzes, turn in assignments, ask instructor questions, receive feedback, etc.). Threaded discussions tended to add work, not convenience.

    Another problem with discussion boards is that instructors often post non-engaging questions that appear to be busywork (many times just pulled verbatim from the textbook). This does not have to be so. Discussion forums can be used for various instructional strategies and teaching techniques, such as role play, debate, peer evaluation, problem solving, Q & A with guest lecturers, etc.

    In addition, someone thought of a terrible strategy (have everybody read everybody else's posts and respond to two of them) and it somehow caught on as a standard way of doing online discussions. No one wants to read 20-30 responses. That is what the class groups features are for. Break up the class into small groups (e.g. 4-6) and have more robust discussions.

    Still another problem is the instructor who assigns a discussion forum and then is absent from the forum until the end (to count the posts for grading). Students (rightly) conclude that if it is not important enough for the instructor to engage in the discussion to moderate, ask leading/elaborating questions, etc., then why should the students engage in anything beyond the bare minimum to meet the course requirement? That would be no different than an instructor in a face-to-face course expecting students to engage in a lively class discussion, while he sits in class, listening to his iPod and ignoring the class discussion.

    Done correctly, an online discussion forum can be a robust instructional activity. Done poorly, it can be a waste of our students' time.
  13. TonyM

    TonyM Member

    You say it yourself, "Nothing is certain..." You can try, but you won't know until it happens either way, even for super smart people like you.
  14. StefanM

    StefanM New Member

    From a student's perspective, I agree with you here.

    I actually enjoyed discussion with smaller groups. When the discussion is for the entire class, I simply post enough to meet the requirement.
  15. TMW2009

    TMW2009 New Member

    My current Social Psych class at EC has had some pretty good discussion questions, (and I mean some) that have gotten 750+ word posts and responses over 500 words from me. I found them that engaging... But unfortunately, its probably only 40% of the quesitons, if that... The other side of the coin is that I look at some of the questions and go 'um.. Hmm... How am I supposed to make 250 words out of that?'...

    In the same Social Psych class, this would be an utter godsend! We've got about 20 students or so... But then again, it would be the luck of the draw... If you get saddled with a few people that are 'Me too'ers, it gets a bit stale.

  16. PatsGirl1

    PatsGirl1 New Member

    Yep, that's my class now :( I really enjoyed my last class because the instructor was interesting, engaging, and while a stickler for APA format (I think he cared more about that than the depth of our responses! lol), helped us out a lot. This current instructor seems totally disengaged from the class and asks the same thing in replies, just changing the name.

    And every school I've gone to I've wondered how they let people in lol... AU isn't as bad as a lot of schools I've attended, but we definitely have a few that have not mastered middle school grammar, let alone conversing as a peer in grad school.
  17. PatsGirl1

    PatsGirl1 New Member

    I'm in the same class (albeit different school) and basically have the same requirements. Weekly paper (minimum 3 pages, up to about 7 pages so an average of roughly 5 pages), 2 discussion board postings and 4 responses minimum, and final paper at the end of the class around 10 pages worth 30% of my grade. DQ have a minimum of 2 citations in each one, and preferably 2 citations in each response for full credit. *sigh* It's doable and not all THAT taxing, but it's definitely work. It's grad school though, so I expected more work.

    And I actually like the subject. The instructor isn't really engaging, which is an issue. Maybe the class ITSELF is just a difficult one, though. Only on wk 2 (out of 6) though so maybe it gets better.
  18. PatsGirl1

    PatsGirl1 New Member

    I have more quality classmates than I did in UG, definitely. I relate better to my peers in grad school, as well. Overall it's older students with families and actual real world working experience, not a bunch of 19 and 20 yr olds who only ever delivered pizzas.
  19. BlueMason

    BlueMason Audaces fortuna juvat

    They are a pain in the behind - a good number of students don't post until minutes before the deadline which makes it nearly impossible to reply to their posts...

    For me, they have little value.
  20. PatsGirl1

    PatsGirl1 New Member

    Easily. And I know a few people (incl. my own mother, who is a very intelligent woman) who dropped out of DL programs to do B&M, physical programs instead because they're less work and if you show up, you don't even have to talk half the time and still get an A. DL is harder, or at the very least, more intense, and requires more work. Now, the plus side to that is the work can be done on MY time (usually at 2 am- lol I'm a night owl), but I definitely do more work for DL classes than I did physical ones.

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