Creating and Sustaining Effective Online Discussions: Strategies to Foster Critical Thinking and Student Voice

Seminar Date: November 4, 2015 at 1:00 pm


Online discussions are extensively used in online and mixed-mode courses. However, a common concern is that students will minimally participate in order to fulfill the grading requirements, and not truly engage with the content, instructor, or peers. In this session, we will share strategies to create and sustain online discussions that foster critical thinking and student voice. These strategies guide an instructor to effectively design the discussion before it commences, as well as to facilitate the discussion as it progresses, and assess the discussion when it concludes. Specifically, an instructor’s experience of using innovative discussion prompts within Webcourses@UCF will be showcased.


Beatriz Reyes-Foster Ph.D.

Beatriz Reyes-Foster PhDAssistant Professor of Anthropology
College of Sciences
University of Central Florida

Dr. Beatriz M. Reyes-Foster is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UCF. Since 2012, she has taught online and mixed-mode classes and regularly incorporates online discussions. She has co-authored two articles that explore the relationship between the use of word clouds in online discussions and increased critical thinking and engagement. She is also the 2015 recipient of the Chuck D. Dziuban Award for Excellence in Online Teaching.

Rohan Jowallah Ed.D.

rohanjowallahwebInstructional Designer
Center for Distributed Learning
University of Central Florida

Dr. Rohan Jowallah is an Instructional Designer for the UCF Center for Distributed Learning, assisting faculty in the design, development, and delivery of online courses. He has over twenty years of experience in the educational field and has taught online, mixed-mode, and face-to-face courses in the United States, the Caribbean, and England. His research focuses on developing and sustaining participation in the online learning environment.

Session Recordings and Supporting Materials


Streamed Podcast Session:

Presentation Materials

Seminar Presentation (3.5MB; PDF)


  • Wordle: Free, online word cloud generator used by Dr. Reyes-Foster
  • TedEd Talks: Build a lesson around any TED-Ed Original, TED Talk, or You Tube video – as presented by Dr. Rohan Jowallah
  • Pic Collage: Application which allows you to build a collage made up of student photos, used by Dr. Reyes-Foster in her photovoice assignment. Available for iOS and Android.
  • Word Cloud Discussion: Dr. Beatriz Reyes-Foster’s discussion activity with word clouds is located in Canvas Commons, which is a learning object repository available to Canvas users. Log into Canvas and click on Commons. Search for “Group Discussion Using Word Clouds”. Click “Import into Course” if you’d like to use/edit the survey in one of your courses.
  • Survey about Discussion Strategies: Dr. Beatriz Reyes-Foster’s survey about discussion effectiveness is located in Canvas Commons, which is a learning object repository available to Canvas users. Log into Webcourses@UCF and click on Commons. Search for “Survey about Discussion Strategies”. Click “Import into Course” if you’d like to use/edit the survey in one of your courses.


TOPR Entries
(from UCF's Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository)


  • Engaging Online Students: Practical Interaction Strategies to Enhance Learning: This was a seminar held in 2011, in which presenters reviewed a variety of asynchronous and synchronous interaction strategies with a particular focus on designing and facilitating meaningful online discussions. You can watch the recorded session, listen as a podcast, or simply view the presentation slides.

Webcourses@UCF How-to's

Leave a Reply

Navigation Menu