Trailer for our online course on Russian Folklore

In 2015, our program “Increasing Engagement through Storytelling, Scenario-Based Learning and Gamification” was a 2015 STARTALK grant recipient. During our program, we trained teachers of Russian on how to increase engagement in blended and distance learning classrooms through the use of storytelling, scenario-based learning and gamification. As a result of their training, we developed a fully functioning online course on the Russian Folklore based on the materials created by the teachers. Here is the trailer for the course.



How to Create Engaging Online Discussions?

engaging discussions

Have you ever tried to lead an online discussion? How about a group discussion? If you did, you probably struggled with figuring out how to guide your participants towards the desired goals without dominating the conversations and “giving” them the answers? Today I will give you several strategies that will ensure everyone’s participation and avoiding the situation when 1-2 participants colonize the conversation while others disappear into the cyber abyss. 

Here are 5 strategies to have engaging online discussions:

Strategy #1 Analyze post trends

While you are reading posts from others, try to think about some general themes that show up throughout this discussion. Start new threads with these “themes”.

Strategy #2 Narrow down discussion

Your discussions should have a very narrow goal. Strive for depth and not breadth… when you see that your participants are straying away from the main purpose of the threat, guide their discussion to its original narrow focus.

If there is a controversial point, try ending your comments with a question. This suggests a variety of perspectives on this issue as opposed to the “my way or the highway” approach. If you want to guide someone to another idea, or correct someone’s trail of thought, you can start your sentence by saying” Have you considered?  “What do you think about…?”

Strategy # 3: Support minority perspectives

Pick up on some ideas that have been sidelined by the main stream ideas and then gently bring them back for others’ consideration. Think- what might be the merits of these points? Are they founded on valid information? How could they be beneficial for others?

Strategy #4: Model Behavior

Everything about you (including your message) should reflect what you preach. Your message posts and message replies should reflect the standards that you require from others. When you compose a message, set it aside for a while. Then come back to it and ask yourself – is the message clear? Is it emotionally charged? Does it express the desired perspective? What feeling does it provoke? Make sure to never post anything when you are in a negative state of mind.

Strategy #5: Make your silent participants shine

 It is your job to bring in the silent participants, make them feel comfortable, and give them room to expand.

If you see that someone is not involved in the discussion, shoot them a private email asking if everything is ok. If you see them doing something great, bring in their name and tag them, make an example of them, and encourage them to share their experience with others, make sure to give the spotlight to everyone in your group.


In the comments below please share YOUR strategies for building engaging discussions online.