Online discussion boards for Skills based classes

I read with interest the article Making Online Discussion Boards Work for Skills-Based Courses, by Rob Kelly. As I am very interested in incorporating discussion boards and blogs in my mathematics classroom, I am eager to see what the voices of experience have to say.

Kelly explains how he has come to realize his initial approach to discussion boards was not the best way forward.  By merely posing a problem,  the first student would tackle the problem, and whether they were right or wrong, the other students would blindly follow.

According to Kelly, the best use of discussion boards is soliciting the opinion of the participants.  Usually the topic does not pertain to the nuts and bolts of accounting, but the larger issues, such as which retirement plan is best (from a selection) and participants need to back up their opinions with facts.

Kelly also has two other strategies to ensure success.  If necessary he breaks the class into smaller discussion groups so the threads do not get too unwieldy or repetitive.   He also has a requirement that each student should make at least one post and one reply for each discussion.

I can see that this strategy could be very useful in mathematics. Students could the relative merits of various methods of solving problems, or discussing the connections between topics and indeed between subjects.  The possibilities are endless!  The only limit is my imagination.


Kelly, Rob. “Making Online Discussion Boards Work for Skills-Based Courses | Faculty Focus.” Effective Teaching Strategies for the College Classroom | Faculty Focus. Magna Publications, 11 Nov. 2010. Web. 16 May 2011. <;.

About eadurkin

Originally a HS Mathematics teacher from New Zealand, currently working as Associate Principal in the Secondary School at Canadian Academy, an international school in Kobe, Japan. Married with two children.
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4 Responses to Online discussion boards for Skills based classes

  1. Liz: I agree with you that the possibilities are endless and also that discussion boards and blogs are a great tool to use for math. As our school transitions to the MYP math program I find the blog is a great way for students to practice the math communication skills, such as justifying how they completed a problem or the connections they can make to a specific skill. I also find the blogs are a great platform to share mathematic connections that we may not have time to discuss in class, example the mathematics involved in the rescuing of the Chilean miners or the Mars Rover robots. The articles recommendation of posting and replying is important for students to actually share and not just write their own ideas. The sharing part is key so that they have the opportunity to learn from each other. This is something I need to improve. One tip I have for starting this type of communication is to do it on a regular basis that works for your schedule. For example: in my math class they have a blog post every Monday. You can do it! Katy

    • eadurkin says:

      Wow, Katy, I think that is brilliant that you looked at the math behind the Chilean miners’ rescue and other such events using blogs. That is so cool. I agree with you that there needs to be some regularity to the postings though, so I will take your advice and have some weekly schedule for that.

  2. Ken Koster says:

    Great ideas for making discussion boards more educational and less stressful. I like the idea of smaller groups so the number of unread responses is not as large. So many different options to use discussion boards, the key is to try something and then adjust as you go to improve. I am always looking at new ways to make my discussion boards more engaging for students and staff.


  3. I imagine that is splendid that you took a gander at the math behind the Chilean diggers’ salvage and other such occasions utilizing sites. That is so cool. I concur with you that there requirements to be some consistency to the postings however, so I will take your recommendation and have some week after week plan for that.

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