March 31st, 2014 E-Learning

social-learnOne of the major benefits to elearning, or any online training for that matter, is the ability to facilitate comments and discussion. It can be a great way for learners to interact with one another despite large distances, and it is also helpful in learning retention.

But despite these benefits, there is one problem: many discussion boards are empty.

An  empty discussion board or forum has the potential to reflect poorly on the course content, and even the institution responsible for the material.

Why Aren’t Your Learners Participating?

Here are some tips to help you better promote your online discussions with the content takers:

  1. Make the discussion board graded, or part of a certificate process.
  2. Don’t hide the link to the forums – it should be clear where discussions take place.
  3. Clearly post all guidelines (in multiple places) for the forum.
  4. Display topics in chronological order.
  5. Tie all discussion back to core learning objectives and include a link to the course or any referenced material.
  6. Don’t ask questions that are too broad – keep the topic focused.
  7. Encourage (and even start) controversial discussion.
  8. Discussion topics in a forum should be spike curiosity (the previous tip is a great way to do this).
  9. Don’t just moderate the discussions, participate in them and help bring it back to the main point if it starts to go off topic.
  10. Don’t dominate the discussions.

Keeping these tips in mind as you implement an online discussion forum with your elearning will go a long way in encouraging creative thinking and getting the learners to think about the content in another context.


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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter

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6 responses

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These are some nice suggestions. I would love to see LearnDash have some integration with bbpress or Buddypress so that when someone registers for a course they automatically have access to a particular group or forum. I know there are work arounds but formal integration would be a more elegant solution.

Avatar Alex Ferrara

Thanks Alex, this kind of integration is currently on the radar.

Justin, #1 is important but requires implementing in a thoughtful way or it can become a “be careful what you wish you for” scenario. Just requiring students to respond to each other to get a grade, for instance, may fill up your discussion board, but it does not mean that there will be a quality discussion. That requires a combination of intrinsically motivated students and/or a rubric that requires a thoughtful response rather than “I agree!” The other important point you have made here is that INSTRUCTORS need to stay INVOLVED for success.

Avatar Mark Scott

Hi Justin,

I am using bbpress for my discussions and want to heed your advice about making participation graded, plus your other tips on encouraging participation in the discussion boards. Is there a facility currently to grade forum participation, as a feature in LD or some other way, or will I have to grade them outside LMS in a manual record of sort? Any update on bbpress integration? That sure sounds very promising and powerful.

Thank you.

Avatar Celito Macachor

Any updates on this, is there a discussion forum for a class in LD?

Avatar RItz is a great free forum plugin that can be used on a site running LearnDash.

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