A Discussion Board Guide for Undergraduate Learning Assistants (Assignment Example)

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A Discussion Board Guide for Undergraduate Learning Assistants (Assignment Example)

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Author :
Andrea Bierema
A Discussion Board Guide for Undergraduate Learning Assistants (Assignment Example)

AB Contact profile image
Author :
Andrea Bierema

The ISB202 course is asynchronous, and thus one of the main ways that the teaching team (i.e., the ULAs and instructor [Dr. Bierema]) interact with students is on the discussion board. This guide was created for ULAs, but much of it might also be helpful for instructors that are new to participating in a discussion board.


You can read more about the instructions provided to students as well!

How is Participation Different for a ULA vs. a Student?

  • In some ways, participation looks the same for a student or ULA, but the purpose of posting is different. As a student, the goal of participating (whether the student realizes it or not), is to engage with the material of the course in a meaningful way. As a ULA, it is to further discussion so that students engage with the material on a deeper level.
  • Some ULA posts may be representative of a student post. For instance, if students are posting about a specific topic and you know of a great resource for them to check out, the resource should be cited properly. This allows the students to see what a good post looks like.
  • Other ULA posts are different from a student post. For instance, sometimes we need to ask students to think more deeply or research an idea further. Although these posts would not count as a student participation post, they are essential for furthering that student’s engagement with the material.
  • Some types of posts may or may not be representative of a student post. For instance, if a discussion is moving off-track, then a student or a ULA may bring it back to the course objectives by asking a meaningful, detailed, possibly leading question. A student may do this, but they are not in charge of this. It is our responsibility as a teaching team to bring the discussion back to the course objectives.

Why Participate in the Discussion Board?

  • Interact with and form relationships with students.
  • Illustrate how to setup a meaningful and detailed post.
  • Move off-topic discussions back to course objectives.
  • Have students think more deeply about their posts.
  • Offer new information and new resources relevant to student posts.
  • Relate posts to what was covered previously in class or what will be covered in the future.
  • Encourage students to look up information rather than guess.


When do I Participate?

  • Start at the beginning of the discussion week. It can be overwhelming to start later in the week when there are so many posts.
  • Have the goal to participate more during the beginning than later in the semester (not vice versa). If we do a good job in our posts and feedback early on, then students should need less of our help later in the semester.
  • If the class is divided into multiple discussion board groups and there is more than one ULA, then self-assign yourselves to different groups and change it each week. Make a calendar to keep track.


How do I Format the Post?

  • Address the student and, if posting something for the entire class, also refer to the class.
  • Change the text color of the post. Everyone in the teaching team can use dark blue to make it clear which posts come from the teaching team.
  • Italicize components of a post that address the entire class. See examples throughout this document.
  • There may be a few students that posted something similar for which you would like to address. If so, acknowledge all of them in your post.
    • Example response:
      • Interesting point, [student], about using greenways to connect areas for nature. Although we tend to only think of paths being used by humans, there are also non-human animals that might use these paths. Class, do a little research and let us know which animals might benefit from having these paths and which ones might not benefit. Explain your reasoning and don’t forget to cite your sources. 


What do I Post?

The following is a list of different types of possible posts.

  • Request that the student think more deeply about their post and provide additional information.
    • Example response to one student:
      • Student initial post: My family does our best to limit of carbon footprint. We recycle more than we throw away, reuse as much as we can but aim to reduce our plastic consumption, and limit our mat consumption (I consider myself a flexitarian) There are still a lot of adjustments to be made. 
      • I really like the term "flexitarian," [student]! What are some ways that you and your family are working to reduce your plastic consumption?
    • Example response to the class:
      • Context: Students were posting generic concepts regarding ecological footprints.
      • [Student], you brought up an important point about how overwhelming it can be to make these steps. Some of the points brought up by others, such as remembering to turn off the lights or trying a vegan meal once a month, as [student] mentioned earlier, are things are not too drastic. Class, look back at your reflections- or if you haven't written one yet, consider this question: are the ideas that you brought up actually likely to happen? Which specific things could you start doing now that wouldn't be too costly or too life changing?
    • Provide a more specific question than what a student originally posted.
      • Example response:
        • Student’s question: “I wonder if in the United States they implemented more options in more places, if people would be less likely to litter.”
        • Great question, [student]! Class, do some research in your own area. What are the recycling capabilities in your area? Does it match what you see? Explain.
      • Re-route the conversation to class objectives with leading questions.
        • Example response:
          • Context: A course focus was on environmental impacts and a discussion on Covid-19 drifted off-topic.
          • Nice job [student] and others for relating the topics to a truly "current event." Class, how much has delivery increased during these times? How is that overall impacting the environment compared to the positives of so fewer people driving and less manufacturing? Do some research and get back to us!
        • Provide more information. Make the post representative of the ideal student post: cite properly and hyperlink as needed.
          • Example response without a citation:
            • Great point, [student], about avoiding plastic bags at grocery stores. This point, though, reminded me of another interesting point- Class, how have your behaviors that affect the environment been impacted by COVID 19? For instance, I have used reusable bags for years- this is why it got me thinking- but now many stores will not allow them during this pandemic. On the flip side of things, I live in Kalamazoo and used to commute to East Lansing three to five days a week, but since campus closed, I barely drive my car at all.
          • Example response with a citation:
            • Great point, [student], regarding how we also need to consider our impact on water when we are determining our ecological footprint quiz. There is actually a calculation for determining our water footprint! Class, check out the Water Footprint Calculator created by the Grace Communications Foundation (2020). What did you find out? Compare it to the ecological footprint quiz- why do you think those similarities and differences exist?

Citation: Grace Communications Foundation. (2020). Water footprint calculator [web interactive]. Retrieved from

  • Ask the class to think about topics in different ways.
    • Example response:
      • Context: Each student had to choose a specific stakeholder to represent, and after the first day of discussion everyone had chosen the same stakeholder.
      • Hi class,we've heard from a couple of "environmental scientists" now and they have opposing views. After reading through them and critiquing their explanations, what do you think? Would one area be better than another? Those that have written the posts from the perspective of an environmental scientist- what do you think? (Please note that I am not leading to one right answer- the goal is to evaluate the evidence.)
    • Admire and acknowledge a great post
      • Example response:
        • Interesting question, [student]- it takes the idea of our case study this week and really scales it up. I look forward to hearing students' responses!

How do I Build Relationships?

  • Address the specific student that you are replying to.
    • If more than one student posted a similar idea, then state all of their names.
    • Or, if it is more than a few students, use the person’s name for which you are replying and add “others” or “and other classmates.”
    • If posting a question to the entire class, then address the class, not just the student who you are responding to.
    • See the various examples in this document.
  • Acknowledge the good work that students do, such as participating early in the week.
    • Example response to a student that posted early and thoroughly:
      • Thanks for starting the conversation, [student]! [student] concluded that this greenway "would help all of the public in many ways."Class, which stakeholders are part of the "public" and which ones benefit from this greenway being between 2 and 5 (besides City Bicycling Club, as [student] thoroughly described)?
    • Example response to a student that posted a detailed question:
      • Great questions, [student]!Class, I look forward to your thoughts!
    • Example response to a student that posted a useful resource:
      • Thanks for sharing the infographic, [student]! I'm going to post it in the announcements so that students in all of the DB sections are aware of it!
    • Encourage students to bring in information specific to their discipline.
      • Example response:
        • Very interesting question, Sean! Any engineers in the class (or engineer enthusiasts)? How could Houston approach this problem? Feel free to bring in ideas learned from other classes!
      • If a student seems to be struggling with developing thorough posts, then send the student an email with the included post. Do not wait until grading the following week.
        • Example Email:
          • Thank you, [name], for participating in the discussion board. Although I noticed that you have already done a few posts, they are not quite yet demonstrating critical thinking. For instance, rather than posting that someone should look into a topic, do the investigation on your own. What did you find and where did you find it? Post a reply with your findings and citations and explain how it relates to what your peer posted. Please see the rubric on D2L for details on what we look for in posts and contact us if you have any questions. We are here to help!


  • DB_Guide_for....docx

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    Posted by:
    Dave Goodrich #iteachmsu
    #discussion board