technology tip of the month Pointer and Clicker Article
Tracey Smith
Asynchronous Discussion
November/December 2002


Characteristics of effective discussions

Effective discussion questions share ten (10) characteristics, no matter what type, style, or frequency of use. They:

  • Support course/assignment learning objectives
  • Generate interest
  • Questions facilitate thought, not “just the facts”
  • Can be applied to everyday life or professional goals
  • Provide clear explicit instructions
  • Receive points and/or graded
  • Reflect a percentage of the course grade that is appropriate, feasible, and significant
  • Provide a rubric or other evaluation tool that details the evaluation process
  • Require reply to other participants
  • Include effective facilitation

Taking the time to develop effective discussions that include these characteristics is a significant part of the instructional design of any online class. Development will be based on an analysis of your objectives, students, and discipline. Remember and apply the old adage, “prior planning prevents poor performance”!


  1. Introduction
  2. Why Use Discussions
  3. Approaches to Discussion Questions
  4. arrowCharacteristics of Effective Discussions
  5. Useful Forums
  6. Organization
  7. Facilitating Discussions
  8. Keeping Your Balance
  9. Evaluation
  10. Resources


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