Attending School Or College: First off, you need to know the real purpose behind the discussions. When you attend a traditional campus school or college, there are often class discussions wherein students and teachers discuss the current subject matter. The purpose of discussion forums is to duplicate that exercise to create a more interactive learning experience. In a virtual classroom, your voice is sent through the typed word. Remember to write in a conversational tone so that you do not sound offish.
Forum Discussion: Every discussion forum has a list of rules as to what you can post, where you can post, what you cannot post, what language manners are expected, and so on. This means that you ought to know what you are about to post. Some discussions may allow personal responses to seep through while others may choose to remain more formal. Keeping up with your studies is also important; if you are lagging behind, then you may end up asking questions that were answered a long time back. This creates a negative impression that you may wish to avoid. Always be aware of the topic of discussion before making a single post. Prepare Yourself Mentally: Think clearly and in detail about what you wish to convey to your professor and to your classmates. This will help you stay focused on one topic and will prevent you from going off on a tangent. In case things are not clear, you can email your professor personally instead of making a public posting. Do not litter the discussion forum with questions that are best answered elsewhere.
Reference Citing: When you are posting in an online discussion forum, you must always cite your references so that readers can look them up. Citing means giving the source credit for the information. Though regular discussions are not guarded for plagiarism violations, it is always a good idea to cultivate the habit of attributing even the smallest information to the right source. Formal citations contain too much information they may not be relevant to online discussions. What you need to do is include enough information in your citation so that anyone who decides to follow up on that information does not have to go into hunt mode. As long as your citation makes it easy to find the referred source it is effective.
Spelling Check tools: Make use of the tools provided to you. These include a spell checker and preview mode. Always spell check your entries, even if you are a good typist, and always preview them before sending them out. If your school does not provide these tools, then you can use any document editing software on your computer to edit and spell check your post before adding it to the discussion forum. Once you are done you simply need to copy and paste the text onto the forum website.
Forum: Discussion forums can get quite heavy because of the thousands of posts occurring every day among various classes and classmates, and between students and professors. This complication can be easily solved by following what you would do in real life. For instance, when you see discussions taking place then ask yourself if, in real life and in a real class, a fellow student had said that, would you respond to it? If your answer is “yes” then you can jump right in and contribute to the discussion. You are not obligated to join each and every discussion that takes place in an online forum.
New Students: Some new students often end up posting just because they wish to appear agreeable. So posting things like, “I agree” or “Great idea!” and similar short responses is not such a good idea. Give some meaning to your posts. If you agree with something then that is fine, but be sure to explain why you agree. Did you have a similar experience? Did you read it somewhere? What happened that makes you agree? The same goes for disagreements. A comment like “As if” might sound great and will give you a sense of victory, but it does not add anything to the discussion. Be more expansive than this. If you disagree, then write why you disagree so the discussion stays appropriate and meaningful.
Pay Attention: Pay attention to how far a discussion has gone and whether what you have to say has been said already or not. Posting too late in a discussion is never a good idea. Most of the pertinent points about the discussion are already said and done; jumping in at this point is very bad form. This is especially true of assignment related posts. You must start early and not halfway or later. The earlier you begin the more worthwhile the discussion will be and the more it will be noticed.
Conclusion: Let your inner self show in your posts. It is okay to include non-academic anecdotes and stories from personal experience if they fit the overall discussion. Anything that helps to get the point across is good material for online discussions.