Archive for the ‘Assessments in the Online Environment’ Category

Constructing Quality Questions for Discussions

In the required resources for week seven, Palloff and Pratt (2007) discuss key concepts of collaborative learning and offer multiple strategies for promoting collaborative learning in the online learning environment. Of all the strategies utilized in online learning, none has had the impact on promoting collaborative learning and a sense of community quite like asynchronous discussions. Boettcher and Conrad (2010) compare discussion boards to campfires where members of the course community bond together while simultaneously acquiring new knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

For learners enrolled in higher education online programs, asynchronous discussions are a regular component of course activities, generally occurring on a weekly basis. Most often the discussion topics and reflective questions are created by instructional designers and facilitated by course instructors, assistants, and/or tutors who if they are not careful, may end up dominating the activity, thus promoting instructor-centered instead of learner-centered discussions (Baran & Correia, 2009).

One of the strategies for promoting collaborative learning is through the use of student-led discussions, also referred to as peer-facilitation, which Palloff and Pratt (2007), Boettcher and Conrad (2010), and Baran and Correia (2009) all advocate. Correia and Davis found online learners prefer peer-facilitated discussions because they are “more meaningful, interactive, and provide a stronger sense of community” (2007; as cited in Baran & Correia, 2007, p. 342). Whether you refer to these activities as student-led discussions or peer-facilitation, there are pros and cons for using this strategy in asynchronous discussions. In some scholarly circles, the question is still being asked, “Should students lead online discussions?

This question will act as the springboard for this week’s discussion. Using the cited references and additional resources, reflect upon the following questions as you formulate your responses to this posting.

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using student-led discussions for promoting collaborative learning in the online learning environment?
  • What facilitator roles and responsibilities should be included in a list of guidelines to help students be better prepared for leading online discussions?
  • Do you believe student-led discussions should be required or voluntary? Why? Please explain.
  • Briefly describe how you would conduct a student-led asynchronous discussion.

I look forward to receiving your feedback to this blog posting.

Click here to access the rubric for this discussion: WK7Assgn2BakerP-Rubric


Baran, E., & Correia, A. (2009). Student-led facilitation strategies in online discussions. Distance Education, 30(3), 339-361. Retrieved from DOI: 10.1080/01587910903236510

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2007). Chapter 8: Promoting Collaborative Learning. In R. Palloff & K. Pratt, Building online communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Used with permission from John Wiley & Sons, Inc. via the Copyright Clearance Center. Retrieved from