Weekly Discussion Instructions

by John Bandler

Most of my formal courses require weekly discussion. That is where students engage with each other.

In sum

In sum, remember the goals of these weekly discussion-- for you to communicate with your classmates. You practice your thinking, writing, and editing, you share thoughts and opinions, and learn from each other.

The goal of these weekly discussion is for you all to contribute, read, respond, interact, think, learn, teach, put in effort, etc. So always focus on this goal, the "big picture".

Be respectful of your readers.  Make sure every word is your own and is thoughtful. Not just to fill space.

Don't write too long a post.

Never copy.

If you are researching, start with course assigned materials. Don't go to Google. Never go to AI tools.

The discussion prompt

The discussion prompt requires you to think and offer a thought and opinion.

The deadlines

The typical deadlines are:

  • Tuesday 11:59pm: Your deadline for your first post (responding to the prompt)
  • Tuesday-Friday - You read what other people wrote
  • Friday 11:59: Your deadline for any replies to classmates

See the instructions for the number of replies required by the Friday deadline. Typically it is 2-3. On a few occasions it will be to all.

Some first details

  • Deadlines are a part of life. Practice good habits to meet the deadlines.
  • In these short responses, rarely should you need to quote or copy. Use your own words.
  • If you copy, you must quote and cite.
  • Observe word count limitations.
  • Make sure every word is your own. Make sure you type every character.
  • Visit the discussion board throughout the week, don’t just swoop in and do X posts in quick succession, never to return.
  • While there is no “minimum” length, you need to write enough for it to be a thoughtful post.
  • Be thoughtful and efficient with your words.
  • Think of your reader. Continually improve your thinking and writing.
  • Normally you reply to two or three classmates.
    • Make an effort to interact with those you might not customarily.
  • One discussion that is different is Week 1, where you reply to ALL of your classmates.
  • Another discussion that is different is your paper presentation discussion assignment at around Week 9, which involves significant preparation, and will be due Friday, with replies to ALL classmates due the following Friday. See Paper Presentation Discussion Assignment

Some further details

  • First post by Tuesday 11:59pm.
  • Quality is the goal. Quality over quantity. Aim for about 200 words but see instructions.
    • Too short and you can't convey a thought properly.
    • Too long and it is a burden to the reader.
      • Don't exceed about 250 words
  • Thoughtful
  • Your own work
  • Rarely should you need to copy or quote
  • If you copy, you must quote and cite
  • Do your own writing and thinking. (Remember: rarely should you need to copy or quote on a short submission)
  • Discuss and engage with your classmates
  • Learn from them.
  • Share and help them learn from you.
  • Engage throughout the week.
  • Do _not_  just swoop in for a few minutes, post, reply quickly, and never return.
  • Reply posts by Friday 11:59pm (but engage throughout the week). Quality is the goal. Quality over quantity.
  • When you reply, start your reply by addressing the original poster by name.
  • See the specified number of replies. You could do more than the minimum. Again, quality over quantity.
  • Do it with the goal in mind. Discuss, engage, think, write, edit, learn, share.
  • Do not simply do a google search on terms and then summarize an internet source.
    • Remember, your classmates can use google too and they don't need you to do that for them. So please start with the course materials and your own thoughts, and put in effort to discuss and engage.
  • Never use ChatGPT or AI tools.
  • Give your thread (first post) a helpful name. For example:
    • "Student name, topic, Week X"
    • Where "student name" is your name, "topic" is the topic assigned, and Week X is the current week.
  • Replies: Greet the original poster by name.
  • All posts: A full sentence, proper capitalization, proper quality.
  • Sign your name after your posts (initial posts and replies). E.g., type out your name, such as "John".
  • This is school, where you practice reading, thinking, writing, and communicating
    • If you feel the need to go to Google or AI tools, ask yourself:
      • Why you think your brain lacks the ability to read, think, and reply
      • Whether you want your brain to have this ability
    • If you take short cuts or cheat, you will never get the practice and confidence you need in life
    • If you are having difficulty with the task of reading a discussion prompt and replying with your thoughts:
      • This is the time to practice and build the skills
      • Do you really want to go through life without having learned this skill of analyzing, thinking, and communicating?

Frequently asked questions

Well, maybe not "frequently" for all of them, but here you go:

  • How much time should I spend?
    • Spend a reasonable amount of time to be thoughtful.
    • Never use Google or ChatGPT-type tools to try figure out the "answer".
    • The goals are effort, quality, and learning.
  • I don't know what you are looking for when you ask what I think about "X", or what my opinion is on "Y", What's the right answer to put down?
    • This is your place to develop some thoughts, even opinions, and express them in your own words, thoughtfully. I can't tell you what you think.
  • I didn't understand what you mean by this prompt so how do I answer it?
    • Do your best to answer it as best you can, and in your answer you can also explain any uncertainties or different interpretations of the question. Other students may be grappling with the same confusion. Life is full of uncertainties, build your skills to resolve them now
  • Can't we just skip the discussion?
    • Sorry, it is something we need to do
  • Wouldn't it be easier if everyone got the same grade, for every discussion, no matter the quality of the submission?
    • Maybe, but that would not be good for learning
  • How come I lost points? I submitted it on time.
    • On time submissions that are excellent get full points. I need to deduct points if it falls below that, and see these guidelines and my feedback. That should provide incentive for you to do your best work and put in effort.
  • I lost a point [points], that's the end of the world, right?
    • Of course not. It's a long semester with lots of opportunities for you to show your effort and learning. Don't stress. My grading is holistic.
  • I copied without attribution on an assignment or discussion, and I got a grade of zero (or one), and here's the extenuating circumstances, and can I resubmit or get partial credit?
    • No, sorry. It wouldn't be fair other others and to me. We need your first submission to be your best work , and your own work.
    • Where consistent with fairness, course rules, and school rules, failing the assignment can be an appropriate sanction.
    • But also remember it need not be the only sanction. Please see course and school rules to see that consequences of plagiarism can include failing the assignment, failing the course, and academic discipline up to and including expulsion.
  • I haven't submitted my first discussion post yet, can I submit it late?
    • If the discussion is still open, give it a try and see what happens. But watch the deadline next time and I reserve the right to deduct points.
  • I haven't submitted my discussion replies yet, can I submit that late?
    • If the discussion is still open, give it a try and see what happens. But watch the deadline next time and you might not get credit.
  • I haven't submitted my discussion yet and now it is closed, can I submit that late?
    • No, once discussion is over, it is over. Remember the goal is your interaction with classmates. Your classmates are busy, and if you miss that week's discussion, the class does not have time to revisit it a later week, since discussion has moved on to a new topic.
  • Can you add some more discussion topics on XX topics or general course discussion?
    • I tried that once and it didn't get much use, and I don't want to add course clutter. Let's focus on the existing discussion, one per week.


Yes, it would save us all a ton of time if we didn't have to do discussion, but alas, we need to do it, and they are an aid to your learning.

Having created discussions, it, it would save me a ton of time if I just gave everyone full credit for any submission. But I need to read them, grade them, hopefully encourage you to do better. As the saying goes, I teach for free but they pay me (not much) to grade.

And it's great to read those submissions that are thoughtful and collegial, that offer insight, new ways of thinking of something.

Most importantly, you are in charge of your own learning, so use the weekly readings, class, videos, discussion, and assignment to help improve yourself by learning the topic area and improving how you read, think, and write.


Posted 1/18/2024 based on years of teaching. Updated 2/10/2024