Change the Prompt, Not the Tool: Developing Effective Discussions

Thursday, October 28 | 3:00PM–3:45PM ET | Board 303, Poster Area, Exhibit Hall A, 200 Level
Viewing Location: Philadelphia
Session Type: Poster Session
Delivery Format: Poster
We know that social isolation is a barrier to online and remote learning and that learner-to-learner engagement is an essential component of creating connection and community. Asynchronous discussion forums seem like a clear solution. Yet they, and the “post once, reply twice” format, often fall flat. Instructors frequently perceive them as educationally ineffective and incapable of achieving desired learning outcomes. And students perceive them as rote or forced. But well-designed discussions do not have to be that way for either group. Many edtech tools promise to improve engagement and effectiveness of discussions by imposing structure, adding features, or restyling the user experience of the forum. These additions all have the potential to invigorate virtual classrooms, but their advantage is in the change of venue or in addressing narrowly defined pedagogical challenges. With deliberate planning and design, effective discussions can be done in an existing LMS. In this session, instructional designers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Schools of Arts & Sciences, Business, and Medicine introduce strategies and templates for developing asynchronous discussions within the LMS that connect students, reinforce course concepts, and motivate engagement. We offer generalizable models that provide context, help, and scaffolding and which suggest schemata for creating accessible, educationally effective prompts.


  • Meryl Krieger

    Senior Learning Designer, University of Pennsylvania
  • Linda Lee

    Technical Director, Instructional Design, University of Pennsylvania
  • Adam Zolkover

    Associate Director for Online Instructional Design, University of Pennsylvania