5 Tips for Online Students: How to Participate in Discussions

In an online or distance learning course, it’s important to contribute your opinions, thoughts and ideas in class discussions. It will not only clear your doubts but also engage you in active conversations.

Sharing ideas and opinions with others, and questioning and thinking critically about responses will help you learn more about the subject matter. There are three important steps to take when participating in online discussions:

  • Think of the right answer
  • Craft a thorough response
  • Check one more time before you contribute

However, genuine engagement in conversations goes well beyond that. Here are a few noteworthy ideas you can use to get the most from your online discussions.

Start the conversation


SCDL Online students - Prticipate in discusions


  • Ask queries about the discussion topics, and ask for your peers’ advice in answering them.
  • Ask other students to brainstorm ideas with you, especially for upcoming assignments, papers, and presentations.

MindMeister is an excellent tool for collaborative brainstorming. It can be hyperlinked directly in a reply in the discussion room.

Give examples

  • Point out interesting facts from other student’s posts and follow up with your opinion about their thoughts.
  • Use real-life examples, experiences, or observations.
  • Tie responses to current events locally and globally.
  • Try to figure out what can be the future outcome.


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Share helpful resources

  • Share links to the specific discussion threads — especially articles and videos from credible sources.
  • Cite authors who support the ideas being conveyed.
  • Share scholarly articles to promote further discussion of topics.

Use Rich media


SCDL online students - Share media


  • Post images and short clips in the discussion threads to support your thoughts and ideas. Note: Be sure to credit the photo source.
  • Don’t hesitate to draw or illustrate a figure. Use your smartphone to upload it to the discussion room.

Don’t forget

  • It is okay to disagree with other students’ responses. When doing so, however, be sure to use proper language and tone. Disagreements are essential for a healthy discussion, especially when it’s backed up by supporting evidence.
  • Take ownership of ideas by using “I” (e.g., “I believe, I feel, I think”) instead of “you” (e.g., “you should, you might, you didn’t”).
  • Use the names of classmates in the threads as well. People pay attention when their names are mentioned.
  • Do a thorough grammar check. Your ideas will come across as more credible this way.

It’s okay if it all looks haywire to you. Sometimes it’s hard to remember everything. So if you are having trouble doing it all at once, follow three simple rules.

  • Post elaborative responses to several of your classmates’ posts.
  • When in doubt, SPEAK UP!
  • Use ‘who, what, why, when, where, how’ - in your reply to cover every little detail.

Online learning demands innovation. You should try new things and they need to begin with an open mind. So be open to discussions; you may never know what you may encounter.

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