Are discussion posts worth it?

Via FIU Flickr.

Heidi Cuevas | Contributing Writer

Discussion boards are part of a large number of courses at FIU; However, it doesn’t mean they’re a constructive assignment for students compared to other alternatives available through Canvas.  

When I decided to attend a university over a community college, there was an expectation that the money would be equal to the academic stimulation I would receive. Students are promised a better education compared to attending a community college, therefore, paying a larger sum of tuition would make sense. 

So when I walked into my first class and my professor explained that discussion boards will be playing a large role in the course, I was concerned.

 In an instant, all the confidence I had in receiving the better education at FIU has vanished. I questioned whether coming here was the right choice; Was it, in fact, worth it, financially and academically, to enter a university after graduating or should I have attended a community college? It seemed that everyone was content with these discussion boards, but many of my classmates admitted that the discussion boards were not worth the effort.

A majority of discussion boards consist of a prompt that students will give an initial response to in a paragraph or two for their peers to read. Afterward, students are told to reply to two classmates and provide a different perspective on the topic. The idea seems to be that the class will be able to provide feedback to one another which will broaden their form of thinking, provide a different audience, and strengthen their communication skills.

Despite the original idea being beneficial to students’ writing and critical thinking skills, it has become an assignment that students put off until the last minute and pay little mind to. 

Depending on the time students post their initial reply to the prompt, they could receive numerous replies or none, which defeats the purpose of strengthening communication skills. Furthermore, a majority of the replies students do receive are generic such as “I completely agree with you” or “I find your topic interesting” which lack any sort of constructive criticism. 

These replies provide no benefit to the student, which enforces the idea that discussion boards lack academic stimulation which will inevitably lead to less effort put into them. 

Nora Cunningham, a first year marketing major, believes replies are not even necessary. It is shocking to believe the amount of students I talked to who agree with her statement.

 “I don’t think the replies are necessary, to be honest. Most of the replies are “I loved your post” or something similar. I would say that it is not good for long-term retention since none of the information sinks in, ” she said.

In other words, discussion boards are not meeting the academic expectations FIU has set for itself. As first-year students we were explained at great length about the extraordinary education we would receive attending FIU. 

Now it can be argued that removing discussion boards would leave a large gap within professors’ lesson plans but there are alternatives. One alternative is peer reviews, which is when two student documents are exchanged by the professor, randomly or intentionally, through Canvas and each student is given the ability to comment on the paper as a whole. 

This allows students to strengthen their critical thinking skills, understand different writing styles, receive a different perspective on their work and the comments received are more personal rather than generic. Comments or replies are a big issue with discussion boards since many students do not find them beneficial to their initial post. Peer reviews allow students to focus mainly on formulating constructive comments. The ability to shift perspectives can gain new insight into the purpose of the assignment by observing how other students view your approach on meeting the professors criteria. This is a similar concept to the original idea behind discussion boards however done more thoughtfully among two peers rather than an entire classroom. 

These discussion boards are not meeting students’ expectations, therefore, it may be time for professors to limit or remove discussion boards from their lesson plans and replace them with another alternative so students no longer doubt FIU’s ability to provide better education.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.