Online Discussion Boards & Rubrics


Discussion is at the heart of asynchronous online learning. Critical thinking skills for students can be developed. The expanded time frame offered by asynchronous learning gives ample time for reflection. Writing skills can be honed.

So how do we create effective discussions in online courses?

Do we simply ask open-ended questions? Do we assign each student a different aspect of a question? How do we manage discussions? How often should I post in the discussion forums?

In the articles below, you can explore various aspects that successful online instructors and researchers have found to be effective in courses.

How Often Should Faculty Post?

See Dr. Cheryl Hayeck’s response to this question in Faculty Focus: How Many Faculty Discussion Posts Each Week? A Simply Delicious Answer.

One of the most frequently asked questions from veteran and novice online faculty alike is, “How many weekly discussion posts should I contribute?” The reality is, there is an intricate balancing act to achieve the coveted “guide on the side” role in discussion forum facilitation. At the onset of weekly discussion, outstanding online instructors wait cautiously to ensure that peer interactions and student self-discovery have the time to flourish. Then, at precisely the right point, they add several probing responses, invoking relevance and scholarship into the discussion. Concomitantly, they vigilantly strive to avoid omniscient, overbearing, or evaluative posts that inhibit future participation. This professional dialogue continues in this way throughout the length of the discussion, where sustained interaction becomes a rich environment for critical thinking to flourish.

More Resources for Online Discussions


RubricRubrics are assessment tools that help educators clearly communicate expectations for student work. Rubrics also present a valid way to reduce grading bias and set a level playing field so that each student understands how to perform in order to achieve each standard.

Rubrics are often set up in a grid that defines quality of work (from excellent to poor) for each criteria of the assignment. Points may be associated with each quality indicator.

Rubrics play a vital role in helping students identify their own strengths and weaknesses. If a students understand their weakness then the they can use rubric feedback to improve future performance.

Three Point Discussion Rubric

Many times, simple is best. Some faculty at UIS have adopted a three-point grading rubric for students that is easy for students to master and easy for instructors to grade.

  • Up to 1 point for original thought / contribution (perspective not previously posted)
  • Up to 1 point for development of thought ( full explanation, detail, insight; this usually requires a couple of paragraphs or more to accomplish )
  • Up to 1 point for responding to posting of others

COLRS has several discussion rubric examples posted on the Online Teaching and Technology blog. These discussion rubrics are also available in the UIS Canvas Commons, so you can easily import them into your class.

Ideas for Rubric Use

  • Self-assessment for the student A student may use the rubric to judge the quality of their own work.
  • Peer review tool A student uses a rubric to evaluate a classmate’s work and provide feedback.
  • Reduced grading time Instead of engaging in subjective grading an educator can focus on rating each performance area according to specific, consistent standards.

More Information on Rubrics