9 Tips For Conducting A Live Online Discussion

As a teacher, getting students interested in and thinking critically about a particular subject is often what you’re looking for from your students. This can happen through group discussion – either with the whole group or in smaller groups. In an ideal scenario, a worthwhile group discussion will have students digging deeper, asking tough questions, and searching together for answers about your chosen topic. 

So what happens when your room full of students is just a computer screen full of students – because you’re teaching an online course? You don’t need to lose this useful class discussion component of your course. Many teachers have ongoing discussion boards set up via their LMS, which students can access 24/7 and instructors moderate regularly. Adding in a live online discussion may seem daunting at first, but if you follow some tips and tricks from folks who have done it before, it can add a lot of value to your class without a lot of stress. The handy infographic below takes a look at 9 tips to make conducting a live online discussion easier. Have you facilitated a live online discussion? What tips would you add to this list? Weigh in by leaving a comment below, mentioning @Edudemic on Twitter or leaving your thoughts on our Facebook page.

9 Tips For Conducting A Live Online Discussion

  1. Discuss
  2. Go in with a plan
  3. Listen
  4. Provoke thought
  5. Use a case study or current event to carry the discussion
  6. Know the technology
  7. Invite guests
  8. Break often for Q&A
  9. Use people’s names




  1. Steve Ediger

    September 9, 2014 at 10:54 am

    I would add “Hone your discussion skills” (to keep the discussion on track).

  2. Gaurav Pandey

    December 1, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Great post Katie. I can relate to most of the points mentioned above, having participated in many online discussions as well. I really liked the idea of use of case studies related to the topic. This helps the group come prepared in the discussion and can give them a basic idea related to the discussion before hand. Reading a case study will allow them to think out of the box and contribute new Ideas to the discussion. One really important point, which I believe everyone misses out is “Know the technology”. It will be very difficult to conduct the discussion activity if the participants don’t know how to use the technology. Another point I would like to add would be, “enforce guidelines”. As the discussion can involve lot of people concurrently participating and poor co-ordination can make the whole activity chaotic. I like Steve’s point as well, but I think that is the thing that we take from the discussion activity, it can’t be enforced in a discussion activity.

    • Vinit Badrike

      December 10, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      Nice post Katie and Gaurav you have suggested quite a few good points. Building up on your suggestions. It would be better if students were motivated to participate in the group discussion. The onus lies on the instructor to ensure that students effectively participate in the group discussion and another related point will be to emphasize on equal participation from all students.

  3. Supriya Prabhakar

    December 9, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Thats a great article Katie. Some interesting views from Steve and Gaurav too. I could draw a lot of parallels with what you have suggested and the section about “Approaches to promoting beneficial process and inhibiting detrimental process” in Noreen Webb’s article – “Information processing approaches to collaborative learning”. A few that I could add to the list are:
    — Cognitive Role specialization (This would not only ensure participation by all members but also bring in moderation)
    — Open ended topics of discussion (People tend to have great inputs when there is no definitive answer. This could promote online discussions and structured controversies.

  4. Piyush Bandil

    December 10, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Nice Post Katie, and I also appreciate Vinit, supriya and gaurav’s contribution But I am little-bit disagree with your last point that people should use their names for a live discussion, because in a discussion there could be a lot of building and counter arguments on a post and if you use real name this could have some negative impact. Like: if you are known to a person who is arguing with you on your post, this would somehow creates a negative image of that person in your mind because his/her thinking style is different from you. Similarly, if you found some strong point to counter for a post and you found that someone whom you are already known to wrote that post, then you are not able to counter and argue effectively. So, I think using real name is not a good idea for live discussion.