Alternative Discussion Methods

AOI | Learning Innovations
Faculty Insider

Weekly Tip: Alternative Discussion Methods

The overuse of standard discussion board posts can quickly become a daunting, redundant task for students. The results of which can lead to students disengaging with the content. To be clear, the practice of guided discourse is an incredible way to help students retain information, but there are ways to reimagine the conventional discussion board and create a more engaging exercise. Here are some variations to help get you started.


VoiceThread is a web-based tool for having asynchronous conversations around media such as images, presentations, videos, documents, and lectures. Students and instructors can upload their media files then add their comments using voice, video, and text. VoiceThread allows users to share what they have created and engage with others in a dynamic discussion. It can be used for a variety of activities including speaking practice, presentations, portfolio building, office hours, or assessment. Most importantly, it is a wonderfully interactive alternative to discussion boards.


Think about using Panopto to record your discussion question, link it into the rich content editor for the discussion forum, and then have students post their own Panopto recording as a hyperlink right in their reply. 


While engaging with content, a deeper learning experience can be achieved through a discussion “within” the content by using Perusall. It provides tools such as a Confusion Report and Annotation Submission Time Heat Map to identify the content areas where students are most active.

Google Docs

Google Docs is a real-time collaboration tool where students can communicate within a single document synchronously or asynchronously. A Google Doc can be used in a synchronous class session as a discussion tool among the students present. Simultaneously, any students who cannot attend the live, synchronous class for whatever reason, can still participate by using the Google Doc. Any contributions a student makes to the document will be received in real time.  Additionally, students can continue to access that same document asynchronously if the instructor leaves the document available.

Our On-Demand and Bookings services will be closed November 22-26 and December 20-31.

While our On-Demand and Bookings are unavailable, you can contact the following resources:

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.