Re-imagining online discussion

While UIC’s learning management system Blackboard contains all the basic needs for online and hybrid learning, students do not always fit neatly into a one-size-fits-all learning strategy. The online discussion board specifically has become a widely used tool in the online and hybrid classroom as a means of engagement and assessment. UIC instructors from discussion-heavy courses, however, have often cited the need for deeper discussion practices that most LMSs, including Blackboard, cannot always accommodate.

While the use of discussion boards has skyrocketed due to COVID-19, online students are struggling to engage with the typical “Post a comment, and then reply to 2 peers’ comments” discussion board formula. Even worse, instructors find themselves backlogged with increased grading loads of rushed student responses. With a recent survey noting that “74% of students thought that online learning was better than or equal to on-campus learning,” better student-content engagement strategies are sorely needed. How do we address this issue as a campus community?

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.

In an effort to support and boost student success, the Instructional Technology Innovation subcommittee (from the ITLC Educational Technology Committee) would like to find a campus solution that would complement Blackboard’s basic discussion board features.

Questions to consider:

  • How might we re-imagine the basic discussion board?
  • How can we engage our students so that they don’t see discussion as busy work but as meaningful learning
  • What would facilitate this engagement?


Join your colleagues in a campaign to reinvigorate online discussion. If you have ideas or a tool you’d like UIC to explore, here’s how to contribute:

  1. Review the campaign: Re-imagining Online Discussion.
  2. Review ideas posted by scrolling down the page. If you like any, click on it and use the “Like” button to vote for your preference.
  3. If you have a new idea, navigate to the dark green+ New Idea button in the top left-hand corner and click to add your idea.

The Innovation Team will review every idea submitted and provide feedback through the campaign website.

If you prefer to send your idea via email, you can do so by emailing CATE Support Staff at and a member of the subcommittee will submit it on your behalf.

If you have any questions, feel free to email any member of the ITI subcommittee. We look forward to your submissions.

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