Q&A: Are Online Students Required to Participate in Class Discussions?

Answer: Every online teacher has different requirements regarding participation, homework, assessments, etc. The amount that your child will need to participate in online discussions depends on the teacher that he or she is assigned, as well as the structure of the course being taught. Many online teachers include discussion forums as part of their online class experience. Your child may be required to post a certain number of messages each week on different discussion topics or threads. Students may also be asked to respond to classmates' posts in an effort to create a constructive dialogue.

Many online teachers also host live webinars on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. During these sessions, students log on at the scheduled time to watch their teacher conduct a lecture on course material. Students typically have the opportunity to participate in these webinars by posting questions to the teacher in the live classroom that other students can view or respond to.

It is important to keep in mind that webinars and discussion forums are often recorded, allowing the teacher to both monitor conversations and see which students are actively participating. So, while participation may not be a vital part of your child's grade, the teacher will be aware of who is, and is not, engaging with the material in this manner.

Some students may have a difficult time participating in live discussions or posting on public forums. If this is true for your child, I would suggest contacting the teacher for advice. While it does require some practice and confidence, participating with peers in thoughtful online discussions can be beneficial to every student in the course.

Christi WilsonChristi Wilson is a credentialed teacher of highly-gifted students in Northern Nevada. She has 11 years of classroom teaching experience, a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in education leadership, and has even taught K-12 education online. A mother of three busy boys, she knows how important it is to keep students engaged in the classroom and interested in a lifetime of learning.