Discussion forums play an important role in the online classroom. From the student's perspective, discussion forums give the opportunity to exchange thoughts, share opinions, connect with each other, and build knowledge together. From the instructor's perspective, discussion forums represent a highly effective teaching and assessment tool. When students respond to prompts that require higher order thinking skills, instructors can use these responses to evaluate the mastery level of skills and standards. With this assessment data, instruction can be adjusted accordingly to meet students' needs.
In order to facilitate discussions effectively, it is essential for instructors to be present and active in the online forum. It is also critical that instructors respond to the first thread of all student responses to make sure that the essential elements are being addressed in the post. Lastly, when giving feedback, instructors must follow a rubric and be very specific regarding expectations and quality of student responses. Rigor is a key component in discussion forums' effectiveness.