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How to wow professors with your discussion posts

Discussion boards are one of the ways that professors are grading whether or not students are keeping up with the material.  – Photo by Salma HQ

Discussion posts have been the way that most of our professors are grading our work and making sure that we’re staying up to date with our syllabi. 

Although discussion posts have been used since online classes were ever a thing, the move to virtual learning has placed a particular emphasis on this tool. As far as grading goes, discussion posts are probably one of the less difficult ways to make sure you to get the grade you want this semester. 

Wondering how to get those relatively easy points? Here are a few tips that could help: 

Do your readings, take notes 

I don’t mean this in an annoying way at all, but doing the work required for the discussion post — whether that be readings or watching lectures — will make it a lot easier to do the week’s assignments. Reading critically, taking good notes, watching the lectures thoughtfully and prioritizing the class work will seriously help you when it comes time to rack up those discussion points. 

You know how people say that paying attention in class makes tests so much easier? Same thing for discussion posts! When you put in the time beforehand, it makes it so much easier to actually do the work. There are several ways to take different forms of notes that are helpful for virtual learning, but I personally use colorful pens and annotate a lot. 

If you aren't able to get to your readings attentively this week, make sure to skim through the work and ask yourself what the author's main point of writing the article was. 

Read the question. And read it again. 

One thing I’ve noticed when I’ve been doing discussion posts is that oftentimes I find myself going off topic or not answering the questions that my professor posed. This will obviously result in points lost, even if I did do the work. 

A helpful tip is to always start with looking at what the assignment is for any given week. Is your professor asking you to answer specific questions? To look out for a key idea? It’s a lot more efficient to take notes and respond to the questions posed while doing the readings and watching the videos. 

When it's time to construct your response, you'll have notes available from your time interacting with the assigned work that it'll be far easier than going back to look for a quote from an author or a point that your professor made in lecture. 

The point of discussion posts is to make sure that you’ve done the assigned work and that you’ve thought about the material. Instead of summarizing the text, try to sprinkle in a summary, Salt Bae style. 

Actually respond to someone 

This one seems pretty straight-forward, but if you have to respond to some of your classmates’ discussion points, then really do it! Don’t just take what the person said and spit it back out to them in a different way. Further expand on their ideas, highlight something you might agree with and why or challenge the classmate. 

If you aren't contributing to the other person's discussion in any meaningful way, it takes away from the exercise and you'll probably lose points for it. Your professor can totally tell when you're just rambling — try to take some element from your discussion, your peer's discussion and see what's different. Comment on the approach the other person made! 

Respect discussion post etiquette

One of the easiest ways to lose points is to annoy your professor! Make sure you're following unofficial-official-discussion-post manners by writing in full sentences, reading over your work, using proper punctuation and more.

Also, try not to post your discussion right before it's due — it defeats the purpose of cultivating a meaningful class discussion with your peers. Nobody's going to respond to your 11:58 p.m. ramblings if the deadline is at 11:59 p.m., and your professor will probably be less lenient if they see you consistently getting in the work the second before it's due. 

Try to link to some new information 

A lot of professors want to see that you’re thinking about the material in a contemporary and meaningful way. To really show that you know what you’re talking about and that you’ve done the work, try to link to a news article or any form of new information that could take this week’s discussion further. 

This trick will definitely get you some points, and your professors will be thrilled that you're thinking about the assignments in a different way. 

Discussion posts are used to check that you’re reading, and are oftentimes the replacement for in-person class discussion and participation. Try your best on these! It's way easier to get three points every now and then from a discussion post than to cram for a midterm, right? Plus your close attention to the readings and construction of the post will make it easier to study once the time comes. 

And while discussion threads may be annoying, at least they aren’t Zoom breakout rooms, am I right? 

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