Anatomy of a discussion forum prompt

Posted on Aug 18, 2015

Anatomy of a discussion forum prompt

It is not unusual for online learners to be working full-time with family obligations and other commitments. They choose learning online because it allows them to be engaged 24/7, anytime, anyplace.

However, with those affordances comes the possibility that learners will be engaged with course content, readings, and media in fragmented intervals across several days (and perhaps several times a day!).

An online discussion forum prompt should help students to make the best possible contribution, and utilize their time effectively. As the instructor, simply writing a question in the forum prompt will not be enough.

Below is an example of a discussion forum prompt with commentary (in red, on the left) that describes how it helps to sustain clear focus on the discussion topic and aid learners in completing all of the required tasks.

The point values are not required, but if your assessment strategy includes evaluation of each facet of the discussion as you have prescribed it, then make it clear to students how that method will work.


The opening of the prompt is intended to recall the media and readings assigned to the module, and to frame the character of the discussion. Remember that your students will likely engage with readings and media in many intervals over the week. Offering an overture will help pull everything together.







The Assignment part clearly articulates the activity. It is always a good thing to help a tired student devote less time trying to understanding the assignment and more time thinking about the topic.


Since there are multiple questions in this prompt, direct students to copy/paste all of the questions into their response post. It will help them stay focused on completing the entire assignment. It may also help you to more efficiently evaluate what parts of the response are related to the questions.




The Tasks section clearly identifies what the students are required to do in the discussion, as a whole. It will also explain how their work will be graded. It is assumed that the course orientation has already explained to students what is expected in forum participation, so it is not included here.

From this week’s readings and media, it is evident that people are enamored (if not obsessed) with their mobile devices. And app developers are only too happy to accommodate our desire to draw and send information from them.

What’s more, there is a slow but fervent creep forward in the use of devices that are “alive” and can be monitored and controlled by their users. Potentially, there are great advantages in a world populated by an Internet of Things: conservation, medical innovations, safety and security enhancements, etc.

Rather than focusing exclusively on the risks presented by these realities, let’s take a moment to utilize the overwhelming human energy devoted to using mobile devices and connected objects. Let’s propose some uses for them that would improve your life or the lives of others (locally or globally).

Assignment: Scan your environment and select an object in your home, business, school, or another venue that you wish you could connect to the Internet of Things, and describe how you could monitor or control it with a companion app. Answer the following questions below. For the sake of being creative in this activity, please suspend your well-founded paranoia about posting anything personal or private online.  


  1. What object would you connect to the Internet? Describe it and the context of where it may be found.
  2. What capabilities would you give it, such as, the kind of data it would collect?
  3. How would this data be monitored with an app, and for what purpose?
  4. What benefits could there be to making this data available as SM?


Tasks (30 points):

  • (10 points) Post your initial response according to the example.
  • (10 points) Post a response to the instructor’s challenge.
  • (10 points) Reply to another student’s post.
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