Online Discussions – Discussion Formats

There are a number of discussion formats available for instructors to implement. Each format has its own purpose and pedagogical benefit.


  • To increase the understanding of a specific topic, concept, or reading
  • To pose questions that stimulate critical thinking
  • To create instructor social presence or to model interaction

Small Group:

  • To discuss a reading or topic
  • To analyze a problem or issue
  • To synthesize and present results

Role Play:

  • To enhance understanding of the views of various stakeholders who may be affected by a particular event or situation
  • To allow students to rigorously consider an alternative viewpoint
  • To sanction and encourage dissension without the risk of conflict


  • To stimulate interaction and allow for the expression of personally held beliefs
  • To encourage critical thinking and the free exchange of ideas
  • To explain and evaluate different viewpoints