In many online classes, discussion forums are used to encourage a good back-and-forth exchange of thoughts and ideas covered in the class. A question is posed in the instructions, and then every student is expected to post an initial response, and then respond to the posts made by their classmates.

A big portion of grading the discussion assignments is based on a student’s initial response to the question. An example from a typical grading rubric includes an evaluation of the quality, support, and mechanics of the post.

And while there may or may not be a minimum word count required, a response that is too short make lack enough depth. Perhaps more needs to be said about the topic, including support and/or examples.

Online discussions are a bit different from a face-to-face discussion in a classroom. In a classroom, if we don’t understand something that was said, we can immediately ask for clarification or for an example. This can be done online, too, but it may take several days to post a question and then receive a response.

With that in mind, think of an initial response to an online discussion like a mini-paper. It should begin with an introduction and thesis statement, have one or two supporting points, include evidence from Scripture and our textbooks, and then a conclusion. In other words, you want your post to be as clear and complete as possible, which cannot always be said in a short post.

Before you submit your initial response, ask yourself these questions. Does your post have a good introduction and thesis statement? Did you provide at least two examples that are supported by a reference from Scripture and your textbooks? Did you wrap up your post with a solid conclusion? Answering these questions is a good way to evaluate the quality of your initial response before posting it to a discussions forum.

Let me know in the comments if you found this helpful. And of course, if you have any questions, please contact me.

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