Many schools of nursing are offering their graduate and undergraduate programs online. These programs are convenient for students as they can participate in the class on their own schedule and this format allows classmates to be from all over the country. However, online courses also create challenges for faculty. Some of these challenges include: how to create and maintain faculty presence and how to facilitate student engagement.
Discussion boards, also known as threaded discussions, are one of the most common mechanisms used by faculty to foster an online community and student interaction. These discussions allow students to reflect and research their thoughts and ideas before posting for the class to view. Discussion boards also promote student interaction, if faculty require students to respond to the work of others in a substantive and respectful manner. Grading rubrics for the discussion boards are useful in helping students to understand what is expected for a substantive post that demonstrates knowledge of key concepts, critical thinking, and synthesis of knowledge.
In addition to discussion boards, there are several other strategies for engaging students and building a sense of community in an online course. I recently read a post from Matthew Lynch on The Tech Advocate that addresses six other strategies to engage students. These include: videos from course instructors, live (synchronous) class sessions, class surveys, private instructor feedback and encouraging messages to students, and opportunities for group work. Mr. Lynch’s posting can be found at http://www.thetechedvocate.org/keep-humanity-online-courses/.