Discussion boards do not replicate conversation


Sam TapperEditor-in-Chief

A year ago around this time, the discussion board function on Blackboard was new and quite honestly foreign function to me.

The only experience I ever had with a professor utilizing it was to reserve events to cover for a jour-nalism class, which was in-person. Never was it my only means of directly communicating with my fellow classmates, because why would I ever need that?

Well, fast forward to present day and I find my-self with three asynchro-nous courses on my sched-ule, all of which heavily rely on Blackboard’s discussion boards to generate some-thing that resembles an open classroom dialogue, a luxury both students and educators surely took advantage of while it was a normal facet of education.

Obviously, we must work with what we have right now, and in a pandem-ic-plagued world that has only shown glimpses of re-turning to normal, any way we can effectively teach and learn should not be judged too harshly. However, I do not think the discussion boards are giving students the level of benefit that could compare to physical-ly being in a classroom.

Again, discussion boards are now designed by many professors to replicate what would be an in-class discussion – but I do not believe it does this. It feels more like one long email chain than it resembles anything close to a normal conversation.

For starters, we don’t naturally converse or com-municate with each other. There is something about a classroom discussion, with openness and off-the-cuff thoughts and opinions coming forward, that can-not be replicated virtually. Every student’s replies seem to be something along the lines of: “Hi I agree or disagree with you because” which only scratches the surface of its intention.

The discussion boards are noticeably one-way streets because thoughts and questions seem to be posed in them, but with-out the dynamic of a literal face-to-face discussion, answers and follow-up thoughts never come to light.

Graded participation in class discussions is nothing new and is a concept I have always thought beneficial to the rest of the group because it forces everyone to get involved, but the discussion boards are not the same.

By having instructors grade participation by requiring, for example, one discussion board post and numerous responses, I feel that students become more fixed on just getting the required number of responses rather than what is being said itself.

Try imagining a conversation where everyone is more focused on how many times they speak rather than what is being said around them. Nobody would really learn any-thing.

As somebody who loves conversation and lives for human interaction, discus-sion boards are not conducive to the way I communicate.

To me, these asynchronous courses feel, at times, less like class and more like a random Reddit thread.

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