September 15, 2020
Volume 5, Number 3
The Secret Weapon of Good Online Teaching: Discussion Forums
People often ask me to name my favorite online teaching tool. My answer is always the same: Hands down, it’s online discussion forums. As a veteran online teacher, I view discussion forums as the meat and potatoes of my online courses. They are where my teaching happens — where I interact with students, guide their learning, and get to know them as people. The joy I’ve come to find in online teaching stems directly from those interactions.

Covid-19 has all of us preparing for a fall semester unlike any we’ve ever seen. Online teaching is front and center again, but remains underexplored terrain for many faculty members. Learning how to use online class-discussion forums to their best advantage is probably the smartest, and easiest, thing you can do to improve your online teaching and your students’ learning. Why?

First, they reinforce what we’re all hearing from teaching experts: Lean into asynchronous teaching, and do more with your campus Learning Management System (LMS). That’s been my focus in this online teaching series (with previous installments on how to connect with students and be more inclusive).

Second, online discussions are the equitable and inclusive workhorse of online teaching. Using assistive technology, students with disabilities can use an LMS forum more easily than a Zoom discussion. And the low-tech nature of the forums can diminish inequities in other important ways:

  • Students can submit discussion posts at any time of the day or night, and they don’t need a fast internet connection to do so.
  • They’re not required to show their physical surroundings to participate.
  • Forums get students to interact with one another, which is crucial to helping them feel connected and engaged in virtual classrooms.

Leading an effective discussion in an online forum is a skill you can learn, much as you learned how to lead class discussions in person. A forum discussion just seems harder to oversee because it’s so unfamiliar — you probably never participated in one yourself as a student. To that end, here are six simple ways to foster meaningful conversations in an online forum:

Take part in the discussion. Full disclosure: There is a school of thought that suggests only students should comment in your course’s online discussion forum, and not you, the instructor. But I’m in the school that argues just the opposite. Would you announce a discussion in your brick-and-mortar classroom, and then walk out the door? If not, don’t do it online.

To continue reading this story, please click the link.

– by Flower Darby, The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Chronicle Webinar:
The Human Element in Online Learning
The Chronicle of Higher Education is offering a free webinar on September 21, 2020 @2pm EDT - "The Human Element in Online Learning".


When colleges made the abrupt shift to online learning in the fall, the loss of human connection struck both students and teachers alike. How can colleges continuing in the virtual space this fall create a more intimate and engaging experience?

That’s one of the pressing questions our panel of teaching and online learning experts will address in an upcoming virtual forum.

Join us as we examine how colleges can make the online experience more human, help students form bonds with one another, and better translate the campus experience to the computer screen.

Click here for registration information
Gather & Share Events
The FCTL is offering " Gather & Share " events on the 2nd Tuesday of each month, from 3:45pm - 4:45pm on WebEx. The objective is to have a "topic" area and share a couple of ideas and then have folks gather and share about the topic.

The Next Gather & Share Event:
Topic: High Impact Practices
When: Tuesday, October 13, 2020; 3:45pm – 4:45pm
Where: The following link, WebEx
Educator: FCTL
Synopsis: Join FCTL in exploring “High Impact Practices” at this “Gather & Share” event. Come ready to “chat it up” with your colleagues.
Book Reads
In addition to offering traditional professional/educator developments, the Faculty Center for Teaching & Learning (FCTL) is offering Book Reads. Faculty, staff, and students may participate in these book reads. The Book Reads will run from September 18 - November 6, 2020.

Fall 2020 Book Reads:
  • Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto - Kevin M. Gannon
  • Multiple Pathways to the Student Brain: Energizing and Enhancing Instruction - Janet Zadina
  • Geeky Pedagogy: A Guide for Intellectuals, Introverts, and Nerds Who Want to Be Effective Teachers - Jessamyn Neuhaus
  • How to Be an Antiracist - Ibram X. Kendi-

For more information on the books and to register for a book read, click here.

If you have suggestions for books and/or would like to lead/facilitate a Book Read, please email Daryl Privott at
What I Love About Teaching
Response from Matt Knupp:
It is difficult to boil down to a concise statement what I like about teaching. I became a teacher because I liked being a student. However, that is not what has kept me teaching for 35 years. I also tried a couple of jobs in education that were not teaching jobs, and found those not to be fulfilling. I guess that is why I stay in teaching; I find it fulfilling.

What is fulfilling about it is hard to pin down. Pat reasons like "helping students move along their life path" is true, but it is more than that. I find fulfillment in small things like hearing a student say "oh ...." when they finally see how to do something (and they think no one is listening). I find fulfillment when a student explains a problem correctly when I know that the week before they had no idea how to do the problem (yep...I teach math).

Mostly I enjoy teaching because when I go home at night and am reflecting on the day, I feel I am doing something that has real meaning to not just myself, but to my students and my school; and that makes me glad to be a teacher.

Matt Knupp - Instructor Mathematics

To share your response, click here.
Blackboard Buzz
Using the Blackboard Calendar
Are you familiar with the teaching plan for this semester? Whether you are familiar or not, check the school calendar from time to time to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Blackboard Calendar is an easy-to-use feature that students and instructors can utilize when they’re not sure about the teaching schedule.

This tutorial video on YouTube explains the features students and instructors use in Blackboard.  Email for additional information and on-campus support.
Ambassadors for Excellence in Teaching
Morehead State University