By Ashley Wineland, ASU Brand Ambassador

ASU student Ashley Wineland stands outside with her guitar, advising on how to excel at online discussion posts.Moment of truth, how many times have you sighed, groaned or felt completely deflated after noticing that one of your online classes require a discussion board? Group discussion boards tend to include bland, long-winded responses in an attempt to meet the required-word-count. What if I told you it didn’t have to be like that? That you could actually enjoy the process of writing and responding to a discussion prompt? You’d think it’d be too good to be true, I’m sure, but in reality, all it requires is a change in mindset: you just need to go from “student trying to finish an assignment” to "future TED Talk speaker trying to engage your audience.”

How do you go about that? There are a few elements that you can incorporate into your discussion board post that will make people genuinely engage with your work and provoke them to leave responses that bring the fire to the conversation.

There is nothing more boring than reading a post that is obviously written just to meet perceived expectations. Truth is, it’s more interesting to read what the writer is actually thinking. For example, have you ever been at a concert, and the artist is explaining their story behind their song? It’s more impactful right?

The best stories go deep; they’re packed with detail, and most importantly, they have an evident amount of passion. They draw you in to the narratives they want to share with you. They make you think. They make you feel. That is what you should strive to do with discussion boards. Even if your opinion is unpopular or in the minority (which is actually even better for a rousing discussion), write how you genuinely feel about the topic. Include quirky phrases that convey the emotion behind your thoughts. Bring in stories of why you feel that way. Make connections that your fellow classmates can relate to and know how to respond to.

In a sense, write how you would speak about the prompt if you were actually talking in person with someone or presenting to an audience. You’ll find you have more to say and that word count requirement all of a sudden becomes less daunting. Focusing on making your prompt a narrative as opposed to an assignment will also allow you to further engage with people. Writing solid points of interest makes it easier for your peers to respond to your post. You can engage them further by prompting them with specific questions pertaining to a point you’ve made. By doing this, you create an environment for others to really look at your work and respond to it with fervor, as they’ll be interested in where the conversation is going next. Always make sure to go and reply to any responses to your post to keep the discussion alive and make your teacher beam with pride.


We're so excited to share Ashley’s story! Ashley is a part of our #LearnASULive team, an ASU Online Brand Ambassador program highlighting students who are earning their degrees while living their lives to the fullest. If you enjoyed this, be sure to check back for new articles from Ashley so that you can follow along with her journey. To check out all her posts to date, visit Ashley’s Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and website.

Want to hear from our other Ambassadors, too? Use the #LearnASULive hashtag across your favorite social channels to browse through them!

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