University of Tasmania
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Online discussion boards: improving practice and student engagement by harnessing facilitator perceptions

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 16:46 authored by Tracy DouglasTracy Douglas, Allison JamesAllison James, Earwaker, L, Carey MatherCarey Mather, Sandra MurraySandra Murray

This research explores the perceptions of facilitators in asynchronous online discussion to improve practice and student engagement in Higher Education. Traditional didactic delivery of learning content may fail the expectations of student and academic stakeholders. The pressure to teach within constrained resources presents challenges, but also provides stimulating opportunities for optimising use of educational technology. Fostering student engagement requires rethinking traditional classroom and online delivery.

The study explores the challenges and benefits experienced, resulting in the identification of key themes from which implications for practice are discussed. In doing so, it broadens conceptual understandings, while offering recommendations for university teachers, administrators and leaders.

The impact of facilitated online discussion boards on student engagement and participation was investigated from the experiences and perceptions of facilitators of online discussion boards in a Health Science subject at the University of Tasmania. After the semester was completed, all facilitators were invited to participate in one-to-one, semi-structured interviews. Interview questions were grouped to produce both descriptive and reflective responses about roles as a facilitator, and about preparation, training and support.

Findings suggest that, with appropriately trained and prepared facilitators, online discussion can improve student engagement, enhance learning outcomes and satisfy stakeholder expectations.


Publication title

Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice



Article number









School of Health Sciences


University of Wollongong

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright 2020 Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment, development and evaluation of curriculum; Teaching and instruction technologies; Other health not elsewhere classified