Student-Led Online Discussions

AOI | Learning Innovations
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Weekly Tip: Student-Led Online Discussions

Have you ever considered allowing students to take a greater role in facilitating class discussions in online forums? This week’s tip provides some ideas for how to do this in your course.

In this example, students create discussion questions and act as the facilitators of those discussions. You can do this in one discussion thread where students will post their questions, or you can adjust the settings to allow students to create their own discussion forums. If you have a large class, you could pick different students to take the lead each week.

To allow students to create discussion forums, select Discussions from the course menu, then select the discussion settings button (cog icon). On the settings page, select Create discussion topics under Student Settings.

Screenshot: Student settings, Create discussion topics selected.

Next, tell your students to do the following:

  1. To create a discussion topic, Select Discussions from the course menu. Then select + Discussion in the upper right-hand corner of the page.
  2. Write a discussion question. Read the questions already posted, and do not repeat a question asked by another student. Your questions should relate directly to an issue discussed in this course, and they should require a thoughtful response. Do not ask a question which can be answered by looking up the answer. Attitude, opinion, and application questions usually get thoughtful responses.

Participation in a student-led discussion consists of the following 3 steps:

You can guide your students to be effective discussion facilitators by modifying the following instructions:

  1. Post your original question. This must be done within the first two days of the activity. This will be your thread and you will be the discussion leader. Your job is to facilitate this discussion and get as much information from the other participants as you can that relates to the question you have asked.
  2. Read the questions posted by the other students and respond to at least three of them. Choose the threads you think will be the most interesting and beneficial to you. You will be a participant in these threads.
  3. Respond to every student who responds to you. Do this in your own thread as well as the other threads where you are participating.

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.