Monday, November 25, 2013

Promoting Digital Citizenship in Online Discussions

The last post emphasized the use of asynchronous online discussion to promote critical thinking. This post emphasizes the use of online discussions to promote digital citizenship in order to facilitate robust and meaningful academic discussion among students and instructors.

What is Digital Citizenship?

Students are constantly communicating digitally through social media, instant messaging, and phone texts but this form of communication often does not incorporate the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use. Digital citizenship is a concept that emphasizes appropriate use of technology - in this case, as a form of interacting in online class discussions. For more information about digital citizenship visit

 Ideas for Promoting Digital Citizenship Through Online Discussions:

  1. Keep discussions to Bloom's higher level topics including creating, evaluating, and synthesizing.
  2. Use discussions as formative assessments for checking both individual and group understanding of the topics in the course.
  3. Grade the discussion on specific participation requirements. In the discussion instructions tell the students exactly what is required of them, such as a reply to the teacher with a requirement of a certain number of sentences, and comments to a stated number of other student posts. Give firm deadlines for postings so that the discussion will continue in a timely manner. If firm posting deadlines are not used, students tend to wait until the last minute to make their post which inhibits the development of robust conversations throughout the week.
  4. Emphasize that this is an academic discussion and not an emulation of social media. State this in the discussion instructions until it becomes acceptable classroom practice and culture. Some instructors call this "netiquette". You may want to post the "netiquette" guidelines in the course syllabus. Netiquette might include:
    1. The use of proper English grammar
    2. Complete sentences
    3. No text lingo such as "LOL"
    4. Proper spelling - encourage students to use the spell check feature within the LMS or to type their post into a word processing document with spell checker first
    5. Avoid the use of personally identifying information
  5. Require and encourage students to list resources or references for any copied and pasted information - no plagiarizing.
  6. Promote the practice of empathy and caring for others. For example, instead of being critical, students could use "I statements". No bullying or put downs should be allowed.
  7. As the instructor, model citizenship by practicing what is required, while also commenting on the students' posts.
  8. Give students the opportunity to create their own discussions so they begin to own the process.


Gorman, M. (2013, October 6). 10 Ideas for rich academic student discussions in education social media...promote digital citizenship. 21st Century Educational Technology and Learning blog.

More Information about Online Discussions:

Promoting Critical Thinking Skills Through Online Discussions

Improving Online Discussions

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