Class discussion is an important part of any college experience. Most students at traditional universities differ in the amount of discussion they wish to participate in during class. Some feel comfortable giving their opinion non-stop, while others would rather fail the class than have to speak up in front of everyone. For online students, the mode of participation for class discussion is very different, and, although there are often participation requirements, it is still up to the student to decide how often he or she would like to participate in a real way. Participating in class discussion, however, can be hugely helpful and really enhance your learning experience.
Class discussion in online courses usually consists of posting comments or questions on a message board, or communicating in real time through live chat. One of the best reasons to take advantage of class discussion is the fact that it is one of the only ways to ask and answer questions. While your professor is always on hand to answer personal emails, tuning in to your class’s discussion board will help you get answers more quickly because the issues may have already been addressed by another student. The online forum is an excellent place to see how other students are doing with the subject matter and find answers to common questions. Just as important as asking questions, however, is answering questions. When you follow the class discussion and look at the questions other students have posted, you will be able to ask yourself whether or not you know the answer. If you don’t, that is a good cue to look up the information. And if you do know the answer, you can sort out your own understanding by communicating that to others.
Another useful part of the class discussion is the ability to talk to the other students about assignments and preparation for tests. If you are struggling with a particular assignment, there is a good chance others in the class with be having the same problem. Students also often post their ideas about subjects that may be on the test or give advice about the best sections of the textbook to cover when you study. These tips are invaluable as a student. Most students at traditional universities work together at some point or another on test preparation, so there’s no reason you should go it alone just because you are in a distance program.
A final reason to participate fully in class discussion is because education should never be a one way street. As an online student, if you don’t pay attention to what your classmates have to say about the material, it will just be you alone with your computer, textbook and lecture notes. The point of an undergraduate degree is to think about new ways to see the world, and if you don’t listen to anyone else’s opinion, you will receive a degree without ever thinking past your own perspective. Because online students can participate from anywhere across the globe, you have a real opportunity to gain valuable perspective on your subject matter than you may never have considered without class discussion.