If you are starting to dig a bit deeper into the Blackboard realm and its tools, you may be using the discussion feature. In a strictly online course, the ability to have students interact with each other in a discussion becomes all the more important, but the tool can still be useful for in-class courses.
Some of the challenges, however, with discussions are with organization and evaluation. It can be challenging to come up with discussion topics that students will actually want to engage with, not just because they have to. This is why a few of the recommendations in a recent Faculty Focus article on discussion boards were particularly helpful. For example, one great suggestion is to limit the group size. Apparently, smaller group discussions are more effective than larger groups. The suggestion in this case is to limit the group size to about ten people.
Developing rubrics for online discussions can also be a challenge, so I was really pleased to see that Gloria P. Craig, the generous author of the article, was kind enough to share the rubrics she uses for both undergraduate and graduate students. You can see the undergraduate example here: http://www.facultyfocus.com/wp-content/uploads/images/Figure-1-Analytic-Discussion-Forum-Grading-Rubric-for-Undergraduate-Students.pdf
And should you want to read the article in its entirety to see what other great tips you can pick up, you’ll find it here: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/evaluating-discussion-forums-undergraduate-graduate-students
For a more comprehensive look at the idea of online discussions, should you be considering adding them to your courses, check out Cornell University’s page on the topic: http://www.cte.cornell.edu/teaching-ideas/teaching-with-technology/online-discussions.html
And closer to home, don’t forget about our talented and knowledgeable E-Learning specialists: Jamie Edwards and Carolle Boudreau.