Answered By: Priscilla Coulter
Last Updated: Jun 13, 2023     Views: 103

Discussion posts are common in online courses, because they give students a chance to interact with one another while demonstrating what they're learning. This may feel a little intimidating, but remember that your classmates are learning right along with you. You aren't expected to be an expert in the topics that you're discussing - only to show how you are thoughtfully exploring them!

Here are some tips to help you write meaningful and engaging discussion posts:

1. Read the discussion instructions carefully.  Take note of any questions you should be answering or any tasks (like readings or videos) that you should carry out before you start writing. Is there a word limit?  How many classmates are you expected to respond to?

  • It's a good idea to look at each week's discussion instructions before you go through the week's lesson content. That way, you can take notes as you come across details that will help you write your discussion post.

2. Look at the discussion grading rubric.  It will explain exactly how points are awarded, so you can make sure your post meets all necessary criteria.

3. Make an outline. In a Word document, list the points you need to make in your post, based on the instructions and your reading. It will help you stay on topic and make sure you don't leave anything out.

  • If there are parts of your outline that you feel you need to learn more about before you can explain or discuss them, let your librarians help you find background information or current research.  Backing up your points with information or examples from credible sources will strengthen your points, and demonstrates that you're being proactive about learning.

5. Make your post engaging!  Help spark conversations each week by giving your classmates something unique to respond to. 

  • Weave in your own life/school/work experience, if it's relevant (and you're comfortable sharing).
  • If you found a really interesting video or site or book as you worked on your own post (even if it's not one of your sources), share it. 
  • If you wondered about something as you wrote, pose a question! Ask your classmates for their thoughts or opinions.
  • When you start your discussion thread, type in a meaningful subject line, to catch your classmates' attention.

6. Review your post before you submit it.  If you can, draft your post a day or two in advance. Set it aside for awhile, then read it again with fresh eyes.  Does it fully address the instructions and grading rubric?  Are all your sources credited and linked?  Are your grammar and punctuation correct?

7. Respond to your classmates. Your discussion instructions should specify how many classmate responses you need to make each week - but remember that the goal is to have a conversation

Be curious about your classmate's responses and ask questions. Offer encouragement, or share ideas and information that you came across as you wrote your own post.  In particular, try to:

  • If you agree or disagree with a classmate, explain why.  Back up your point of view with your research or experience.  
  • Keep an open mind, and don't take it personally if a classmate (or your instructor) disagrees with you. Debate can be a stimulating way to learn more about not only your position, but someone else's!  Read more about How to Respectfully Disagree.
  • Above all, remember good classroom etiquette. Model kindness and respect when you interact with classmates.


If you are unsure about any aspect of your discussion instructions or grading, reach out to your instructor to clarify!


See also:

Writing@APUS: a comprehensive writing resource for students at all levels.

Where can I have my paper proofread or reviewed?



writing tutor

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