Use Threaded Discussions to Make Training Stick Better

Whether your training is face-to-face,  live virtual (“webinar”), e-learning, or a blend, a threaded discussion can be a valuable add-on or an integral part of the training that adds an element of participant interaction and critical thinking.

Research on training transfer has found that trainee interaction, especially in e-learning, increases learning and transfer.  Threaded discussions are a relatively quick and easy way to provide opportunities for interaction.  The written discussion also makes it easier for non-native English (or any other language) speakers to participate.  And, people can participate at their convenience.

An instructor training class really opened my eyes to the value of threaded discussions.  Skeptical at first, I soon began to see that these types of online discussions provide opportunities for more thoughtful responses and discussion than I saw in face-to-face classes.  There was no competition for “air time” and no limit as to how many students could respond.

What is a threaded discussion and how do you set one up?  A threaded discussion begins when a question is posed which starts the thread.  When responses are posted, they appear under the question, like comments to a blog.  Unlike a blog or any other social media, when responses are posted to the response, they appear “threaded” under that response.  In an active discussion, you will see responses to the original question, responses to the response, responses to that response, and so on – several levels deep.

Types of questions which work best as threaded discussion starters are open-ended:

  1. Questions that ask about participants’ experience with something

  2. Questions that pose hypothetical problem for them to solve

  3. Short case studies for them to react to

  4. Socratic questions that ask for an example, why something is important, or how one idea or technique fits with another one.

To get started:

  1.  Identify key concepts in the learning content that may need further clarification or can be expanded with discussion.  Think about how participants should apply the learning.

  2. Locate the best software platform to host the threaded discussion.  Many LMS platforms have threaded discussion features, although many times they have not been activated.  A Linked In group can also be created for this purpose since it is possible to restrict groups to “by invitation only”.  The threaded discussion should be accessible via an internet link for best results.

  3. Determine who will moderate and lead the discussions.  This person can be a training instructor, course designer, subject matter expert, or line manager.  Since most of the discussion will be done by participants, the leader simply needs to respond to questions, pose follow-up questions, and make sure the discussions stay focused on the topic.

  4. Require participation in threaded discussions as part of the class.  For example, to complete the class, each participant must post at least 3 times on 3 different days.

  5. If participants have not been in class together, post an Introductions thread and ask people to share something specific about themselves – favorite hobby, what they do on Friday after work, if they have a pet, etc.  Be sure to share something about yourself.

  6. Post suggestions and guidance for discussion posts, for example:

– Show you are reading others’ comments by

referring to them in your own posts.

– Agree/disagree and say why

– Share links, books, articles on the topic

– Keep comments constructive – no griping!

Do you use threaded discussions in your training? Please drop me a short note and let me know how you’re using them.

Until next time…

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