Tips for Using the Discussion Board for English 287:
First: pick the right Message Board for your purposes.
[Note: the Message Boards are available only on our course site at KSU-Online (online.ksu.edu). If you are accessing our course materials at our backup site (on www.ksu.edu/english/baker/), you need to go to the other site in order to participate in Message Board discussions.]
Notice that there are different message boards for each of the works we are reading in the course of the semester. If you have a question or comment concerning some aspect of, say, Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, you should take care to enter that particular message board before you post your message.
If you have a question or comment concerning some administrative matter of the course, you should not put it in any of the message boards devoted to the individual works. Instead, put it in the special message board I have created for "Other matters." Some examples:
Comment: This is not a question about some aspect of Cat's Cradle. It is a question about when some graded exam is expected to be handed back. So it belongs in the discussion board labeled Other Matters, not the one labeled Cat's Cradle.
Comment: Again, this is not a question about some aspect of Cervantes' novel. It's a question about arranging a possible meeting with classmates.
Comment: This belongs in the discussion board labeled The Odyssey.
Comment: A question like this should end up on the discussion board labeled Other Matters.
Here's how it works:
What you see on the Board are a series of round "bullets," each followed by an underlined subject, a name (of the person who wrote the comment), and an italicized notice of the time of day and date the comment was made.
This list of bulleted subjects lets you "scan" the topics (or threads of discussion) without having to read the entire text of any of them -- like searching for a book in the library by scanning a list of titles.
When you find a subject that is interesting, just click on the underlined subject, and the text for that subject pops up. If you want to make a comment in response to what you've just read, scroll to the bottom of the page, and a "Message Form" template similar to an e-mail message appears.
Just enter your name and your e-mail in the appropriate blanks, then add your comments in the message box (it's labeled "Post a New Response"), below the text of the message to which you are responding.
When finished, click the "Post Message" bar, and your message is added to the message board, immediately below and indented one tab to the right of the original message. (If you would like first to preview how your message will finally look when it is finally posted to the message board, click on the "Preview Message" bar. If there is a change you discover you want to make, you can back up to the message box and fix things before you send it out.)
That's what makes the "threaded" part of a message board work. By indenting each response to a particular topic, and grouping all responses below the original topic, you can scan to the subject area of your choice and enter the discussion at any point.
If you want to start your own new subject, just use the message box that appears on the Index Page of the message board (it's labeled "Start New Message"), and go through the same process.
What kinds of contributions to a message board are eligible for credit?
First of all, the contribution must be made to one of the message boards open for discussion of one of the works we are discussing during the semester.
Take note that no more than 4 contributions submitted during the last week (dead week) will be eligible for credit towards the 20 responses necessary for full credit on the discussion board element of the course, and that no more than 10 contributions posted during the last 2 weeks before final exam week will count.
I'm lax enough to allow you to post, say, half of your 20 questions and comments during the next-to-last week, but that's as far as I'm going to bend on the requirement that you show some regularity!
"Subject" descriptions are important.
For any message board to work to best advantage, you will want to give careful thought to the description you put in the "Subject" heading for your message. Please don't just say something like "another subject for discussion." Try to come up with something informative for other people who will be scanning the message board on different occasions to decide what they want to read for the first time. Shoot for something specific that they might recall to mind when they want in some later session to get back to for another look.
Doing this is actually a good idea, too, when you are replying to a message by someone else. By default, the program will supply the Subject line of the replied-to message as the Subject of your reply. But you can and should instead write in your own Subject description, which will give other readers an idea of the "special twist" of your own line of reply. After you've reviewed what you've composed, consider re-visiting the Subject line and deciding on the best clue to give someone scanning (or reviewing) the index as to what is in your particular message. The threading itself will take care of reminding the reviewer of what the subject is of the message to which you are replying.
Check in frequently!
The whole point of this message board is to enable greater participation in the course. You should make a habit of checking the message board at least every couple of days to see what's new, and (let's hope) to consider replying to one or more messages. From time to time, I as the instructor will post new questions for discussion. But students should feel free to open new lines of discussion on their own.
Remember: your regular participation in Message Board discussions is responsible for a major portion of your final course grade. It is important to be "engaging your mind" regularly here by thinking about what your classmates are thinking, and going through the process of trying to formulate your own thoughts on relevant issues.
Since you need to post 20 eligible contributions before the semester is over, you'd want ideally to shoot for at least one a week, and to make sure that in at least 5 weeks you intervened an additional time.
You don't have to do it this way, of course. But you do want to take care to contribute regularly, and this means not to leave more than 5 for dead week or more than 10 for the last couple of weeks before finals week.
Questions or Comments?
Additional help with the Discussion Boards
There is an excellent introductory tutorial to the Message Board feature at K-State On-line, called "Getting Started," at http://online.ksu.edu/shared/webVine/1.0/get_started.html. You should definitely work through this if you haven't already done so. (The first time you enter the Message Board area, the program gives you an opportunity to do this. If you've already been through it, in another course [say], you can skip it.)
When you're ready to learn more about the message board, simply click on the "Help" button on the "Action Menu" of the Message Board itself. A separate Web browser window with the online help information will open on top of your current browser window (so you can flip back and forth). You'll be taken to links to
Suggestions are welcome. Please send your comments to email@example.com .
Contents copyright © 2003 by Lyman A. Baker.
Permission is granted for non-commercial educational use; all other rights reserved.
This page last updated 20 August 2003 .