"Discussion Boards" - how can I use Storyline to make this more interesting?

Hi there,

I  work at a college and we're moving a lot of our classes from "on-the-ground" to online. As such, a lot (and I mean, a LOT) of the online classes use Discussion Boards as an "interactive" and "engaging" way to deliver the training.

I'd love to hear your thoughts around how I can spice this up and do away with discussion boards (or, at the very least, reduce their usage) and create a Storyline file to create TRUE interactivity and engagement.

Looking forward to hearing  what you creative wizards out there come up with!


4 Replies
Christy Tucker

Well-written discussion questions can actually be quite interactive and engaging. The trick is "well written"; it's challenging to write thought-provoking questions.

In a higher ed environment, I have used self-paced practice activities or scenarios as a way to prompt deeper discussion. For example, in a course for teachers, you might do a branching scenario related to classroom management. In the discussion board, you could ask follow up questions about what they learned in the branching scenario or what other choices they wish the scenario had allowed.

Steve VE


A lot depends on what you are teaching. Discussion groups are especially good for discussing ideas. Courses that dwell a lot on complex concepts are ideal. Courses that deal with hands on material will get much less out of them. It would be much better to use Storyline to show how an engine works instead of using a discussion board.

At its core, Storyline is designed to present information to learners in one direction only: from the teacher/professor/instructional designer/subject matter expert to the learner. As much as we can make it interactive through buttons to click, things to drag, and questions to answer (among many other things), the core of Storyline output remains an interaction between a software product and the learner.

Discussion boards, on the other hand, enable interactions between two or more people. They are fluid, dynamic, and can veer into the unexpected. Learners have diverse viewpoints and backgrounds. They are going to bring perspectives to the conversation that others hadn't thought of. As much as we try we cannot duplicate that in a one-way e-learning course.

Having said that, discussion boards are a bear to deal with if they aren't done right. The point of the discussion board is to discuss. Vapid comments like "Me too!" or "I agree" are completely useless to moving the discussion forward.

I did my entire Masters degree online and discussion boards were the main way of communicating with classmates and the professor. I can confidently say that I learned more than I ever have in those forums. Here's why:

  • There was an expectation that answers be of good quality. I don't know about you but knowing I had to write out my answer engendered some serious care on my part. Unlike a physical discussion where you can generally bull your way through (no one is fact checking on the fly after all), I had to properly research my answer to the professor's question and my fellow students' responses. With citations if possible. Over the course of a semester we had multiple discussions. I'd say that I wrote anywhere between 4000 and 20000 words (depending on the professor and course) in discussion groups on top of my regular assignments and projects.
  • The professor is expected to participate in the discussion. They were not expected to respond to every student but they were expected to take the best/most interesting answers and build on them. And after they answered a few questions, the other students would naturally move into the discussion as well.
  • There were clear guidelines of what was expected. There are plenty of pros and cons to setting a minimum word count and/or number of responses per topic. But the expectation was there, whatever it was. And, of course, vapid comments did not count.
  • The professor crafted appropriate questions. A good question leads to good responses. The questions from the professor were always relevant and interesting. And their followup questions were equally good.

The bottom line for me is that discussion boards make you think, think about what others are saying, and give you a window into what others are thinking.

This is a rather long-winded answer. I would suggest that you start with the material. Is an interaction between software (e.g. assembling the components of airplane engine) ideal? If yes, Storyline may be the answer. Will the learners/students be doing a lot of in-depth thinking? Like math theories? They may benefit a lot more from a properly run discussion board.

I hope this helps.

Daniel Brigham

Hi, Judy: You might play around with inserting web objects onto slides, as a way of bringing the web into the courses. I haven't done it, but I've seen others connect out to google forms or discussion boards. (Doubt this would work within an academic LMS, but...)

As far as interactivity is concerned, maybe just start with real-life scenarios and have learners respond. Interactivity doesn't require more than one person. If the content is relevant and invites the learner in, then you have interactivity.

If you want more detail on scenarios, just give me a topic and we'll brainstorm some ideas.  

Christy Tucker

I don't remember the source, but there's a model for thinking about interaction in higher ed courses. Students interact 3 different ways: faculty-student interaction (via grading, discussion, announcements, etc.), student-student interaction (via discussions and group work), and student-content interaction (via reading, online quizzes, and activities). Storyline is most helpful for the third type of interaction. The most effective online courses have a combination of all three; finding the right balance depends on the topic, students, and environment.