Distance learning online utilizes asynchronous/synchronous learning. This means some conversations will be in real time, but oftentimes will be asynchronous meaning “posted at various time”. What this essentially means is that you may be posting to a discussion board once or twice a week to enhance your learning as well as to show how much you have learned. In order to do that it requires preparation, communication skills, and technology skills.
When you are first handed an assignment, look over it and begin to do your reading. Make sure to highlight key terms and such. Really get a feel for what the text is saying to you. Next, find out what that week’s discussion will be about. More than likely, it will be based off of your interpretation of the readings. If you have not completed the work, it will be reflected in your posts. The next step in preparation is to draft your response. You may do this writing in a notepad or on a word processing program on your computer. Either way, you’d want to type out your response to see where you are going with your thoughts; this is also good in case your school’s discussion portal shuts down suddenly. You’d want to have a backup of your response.
The second most important way to contribute better to a discussion forum, is to be a conscientious communicator. Really read what others are saying before responding. Nothing hurts worse than to have someone quickly scan your discussion post and then answer you incorrectly or half heartedly. Plan some time to read their discussion post and focus on some key points. In any communication setting, people may not always agree face to face- same here. The best thing to do is to not have a lengthy debate. Just post, respond, post again(to their response) and let that be that. Sometimes the professor may join a discussion and want you to broaden your response or answer an additional question. This is good. That means they want more feedback from you.
Last, in order to become an online student, you must know a little technology. While doing discussion posts, you will be incorporating one or many of the following:
1) Copying and pasting documents.
2) Adding attachments.
3) Uploading media such as videos and audio files.
4) Downloading materials.
5) Opening multiple windows and tabs.
6) Performing searches online.
In order to contribute better and wholeheartedly to online discussions, reading material ahead of time, treating one another with respect, and using available online tools can help you be a better student and communicator.