Teaching Matters

Presentation 5 LT5

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Teaching Matters 2018 | Presentation Details | 2018


Achieving excellence in online discussions: Improving facilitation to engage active student learning in online discussion boards


Tracy Douglas, School of Health Sciences
Sandra Murray, School of Health Sciences
Carey Mather, School of Health Sciences
Allison James, Australian Maritime College
Susan Salter, School of Health Sciences
Louise Earwaker, University of Tasmania Library


Excellent teaching engages students and encourages them to learn

Presentation Type



Lecture Theatre 5




At the University of Tasmania, online discussion boards are frequently integrated into the blended framework of learning and teaching as an asynchronous online communication tool. Asynchronous online discussions are known to support active learning and higher-order thinking, yet active engagement in online discussions is commonly not observed (Hew et al., 2010). This is often linked to poor facilitation of discussion posts.

As a project team, informed by existing literature, we investigated staff and student perspectives of online discussions using UTAS ethics approved surveys and interviews (H0013544). From this, we developed a web-based guide on the effective use and facilitation of online discussion boards at the University of Tasmania, launched at Teaching Matters 2017. The project team has now analysed the staff and student perspectives in a fully online third year unit in the School of Health Sciences, before and after, implementation of the guide. This presentation captures the journey of the online discussion board project in the online unit, identifying the issues found with the facilitation of online discussion boards, including lack of student engagement and confidence and, poor online communication skills of facilitators.

The benefits observed from the implementation of the guide to support facilitation will also be discussed. This includes building confidence in the unit coordinator to coordinate and direct facilitators, as the guide exemplifies best practice. Insights into how online engagement in asynchronous discussion boards has been enhanced in the fully online unit to achieve excellence in learning and teaching will be shared throughout the presentation.


Hew, K.F., Cheung, W.S. and Ng, C.S.L. (2010). Student contribution in asynchronous online discussion: A review of the research and empirical exploration. Instructional Science. 38(6), 571-606.

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