3 Questions about discussion board posts we’ve all had

Before enrolling in an online class, the thought of being able to take an exam while in my pajamas seemed ideal. However, the reality soon struck me as I encountered the bane of all online classes: discussion board posts. Specifically, there are three questions I’ve had concerning them over the course of my college career.

  1. Is there truly a word limit?

As an incoming senior, I have had my share of online classes and countless discussion board posts. Typically, these posts require a concise answer to a question within a 200- to 300-word range. In my first online course, I confidently wrote a brief reply, consisting of 299 words. As I ventured through other students’ responses, I noticed that their answers were way over the limit. At the end of the week, they received the professor’s praise for the breadth of knowledge they displayed. When it came to my evaluation, this is what my professor said: “Hey, Brandon. It looks like you didn’t cover the topic thoroughly enough. Have a nice day.”

Despite covering the topic within the apparent boundaries, 299 words were simply not enough to attain an A. I soon found out that the more I wrote, the higher the grade I received. Yet doesn’t this defeat the purpose of a discussion board post? These posts are meant to be constructive and succinct, not full-fledged research papers that require hours of deep exploration into a topic. How are students supposed to learn concision and effective writing if professors purport the idea that “more is better?”

  1. Why are discussion board posts required for some classes that I attend on campus?

This is perhaps one of the most frustrating issues I have encountered throughout my collegiate years. These classes are still held on campus, involve in-class participation, and require students to attend lectures for attendance. If we participate in class and answer our professor’s questions, then we should be exempt from having to write a discussion board post, right? Unfortunately, this has not always been the case.

Perhaps one counterargument for this requirement may be due to the lack of student engagement. There are times when a professor asks a question and there are no hands raised. But discussion board posts’ main purpose is for those students who are participating in online classes. Although many on-campus classes have ruled out these posts, there are still others that require them, adding to the work and stress of students.

  1. Should there be a biblical application for every question?

I cannot agree more on how important it is to challenge one’s faith, growing spiritually in the process. However, does every discussion board post question need a biblical application? Of course, Scripture can be applied to many aspects of our lives. But when is it fitting and when is it forced? Let’s take this sample question from an online Algebra course:

“What parallels or analogies do you see in math’s relationship to the other sciences when compared to the role of Scripture in our lives?”

I have no doubt that students can offer an answer that intertwines the domains of biblical exegesis and mathematical foundations. Yet is it truly conducive to the understanding of mathematics, even in an introductory course? I understand and agree that there should be a degree of biblical integration in every class. But isn’t this why there are required biblical studies classes that primarily focus on these types of questions? There is certainly a time and place for Scripture that allows progression throughout one’s spiritual walk. Yet, when one’s growth is not organic, is there truly growth?

Although discussion board posts are here to stay, not all online classes are horrible. In fact, I have had some fruitful experiences in these 8-week virtual courses. Yet these three questions seem to be enduring, at least in my experiences. Luckily, the end of the semester is near and we will soon relax in the summer sun once again. For those who are taking classes this summer, Godspeed.