Campaign closing soon: Re-imagining online discussions

With only four days left in the campaign to re-imagine online discussions, the Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence invites you to consider contributing. Five great ideas have already been posted in the campaign website: Ed Stem,, Piazza, Feedback Fruits and Padlet. There is still time for you to “vote” or contribute. Log into the campaign page to browse ideas, like an idea or add a new idea to the campaign.

Why is this important?

The use of discussion forums allows students to mold and shape their own unique knowledge structures in dialogue with their peers. This means that the curriculum is no longer static or unidirectional, but is constantly evolving, adapting, and reflecting a range of contemporary student perceptions and discourse (Dolan, S. ,2011).

Currently, for discussion, UIC centrally provides:

  1. Blackboard Discussion Board, the default discussion tool that allows threading for students and groups of students.
  2. VoiceThread, a multimedia collaborative tool that can be used to discuss via text, image or video.

UIC instructors have expressed that Blackboard discussion boards are difficult to manage for online conversations in large courses. LMS discussion boards in general have significant limitations, and Blackboard is not the exception. Here are some limitations that UIC instructors have identified:

  1. Discussion posts on Blackboard are challenging to track and grade due to the many posts they need to read and evaluate each week.
  2. There are not automated feedback mechanisms to help students self-measure their engagement quality, which makes it difficult for students to improve their participation skills.

Well-designed discussion assignments facilitate meaningful cooperation among students, engaging learners, fostering community, and enabling higher-order cognition and learning. Good practices for online learning encourages cooperation among students (Alzahrani, M.M. & Aljraiwi, S.S., 2017). Hence the importance of providing a better discussion board that student and instructors can use within the LMS.

How can you participate?

Consider helping CATE bring the right functionality to the LMS. If you know a tool that can be used for online discussions or have comments for the innovation team to consider, please participate in the campaign. If you prefer to send your idea or comment regarding online discussion tools or techniques via email, you can do so by emailing CATE Support Staff at, and a member of the subcommittee will submit your idea on your behalf. The Innovation Team will review every idea/comment submitted and provide feedback through the campaign website.

If you have any questions, feel free to email CATE at We look forward to your submissions.

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