Distance Education and the Importance of Course Discussions

Online classroom discussions are often the main area of the virtual classroom to engage in peer-to-peer learning and to participate in scholarly conversations about the course topics.

Online class discussions differ from a traditional classroom discussion in one main area, engagement. The online students must participate in the class discussion and cannot just witness the scholarly discussion unfold. The online student is forced to find their scholarly voice and engage with their peers and professor to be successful in the class.

Online Discussion Tips

  • Time Management: Stay active in the class and do not wait to the last-minute to post.
  • Post early in the week to give others the opportunity to read and respond to your posting. Those who post late become passengers in their own learning journey.
  • Do not just survive by doing the minimum amount of posting. Take ownership of your own learning and stay active.
  • Make quality post that demonstrates your mastery of the topic and support your ideas with acceptable and credible scholarly literature.
  • If you have an opposing viewpoint, attack the message never your learning peer. Academic debate is respectful and engaging. Support your argument with scholarly literature to add credibility to your position.
  • Connect with your learning peers in the class. You are on this learning journey together so share your experience and knowledge in a helpful way. Start networking within the discipline with likeminded scholars.
  • Be a mature scholar and accept the feedback and suggestions to learn and grow. Feedback offered is designed to help you focus on writing deficiencies so you can improve your critical thinking.
  • Properly prepare for the discussion by pre-reading the course material and using the online library academic databases to find your own answers. This requires effort and being an independent and discipline student.
  • Respond to peers when they have a follow-up question to your posting. Defend your position or argument by framing your response with supporting scholarly literature.
  • When responding to others analyze the post and ask follow-up questions for clarity.
  • Stay active. Take responsibility for your participation and learning journey.
  • Respond with substance and do not just agree or not agree. Explain your position clearly.
  • Respect opposing viewpoints and diversity of answers.
  • Do not plagiarize by cutting and pasting. Use your own original words and practice paraphrasing. Always give credit to the source/s that inspired your thinking on a topic. You were not born with this knowledge, so give credit to those who came before us.
  • Most of all, enjoy the process and have fun while you learn in an online environment.

Online Discussion Netiquette

Netiquette is the respectful and correct way to communicate in the virtual platform.

Netiquette Tips:

  • Do not post or respond with all caps. In internet communication this means you are yelling.
  • Do not use social media abbreviations (LOL, WTF, etc.) Use a scholarly voice in your academic communication.
  • Do not make emotional postings. Think before you post to the entire class. If you must, wait until you are calm to role model positive scholarly behavior.
  • Be responsible and accountable for your postings.

The Value of Distance Education

Distance education is a valuable and needed platform in higher education and is an excellent fit for first responders and active military members. The virtual classroom offers the opportunities to study and learn with students of different backgrounds and geographic locations. Distance education allows the student the opportunity to study when the time is most convenient to your personal schedule. The online class discussions offer the opportunity to challenge preconceived assumptions if you stay open-minded about alternative solutions to solve problems.

The key to success in any formal degree program is getting organized and using good time management. You want to show both quality and quantity in your postings to stay actively engaged and take ownership of your learning.


About the Author

Dr. Mark Bond

Mark Bond has worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms instructor for more than 35 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, federal, state, and local levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in criminal justice with high honors, and M.Ed. in educational leadership with Summa Cum Laude honors. As a lifelong learner, Mark has earned a doctoral degree in education (EdD) with a concentration in college teaching and learning. Mark is a member of the Academy of Criminal Justice Science (ACJS), and a founding faculty member of Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society Kappa-Kappa Chapter.  Mark has researched, lectured, and published in peer-reviewed journals articles on criminal justice topics and educational research within the criminal justice discipline.  Mark is currently an associate professor of criminal justice at an accredited higher learning university.