Discussion Board Automation: How To Assess Student Participation in No Time

Monitoring online board discussions in asynchronous learning environments doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Discussion board automation can help Higher Education (HE) professors assess student participation effectively and transparently without taking up too much of their valuable time.

This article demonstrates how AI-assisted discussion tools can simplify the process of aggregating and grading student participation, making this part of teaching easier and more enjoyable.

The Days of Reading Through Every Discussion Board Comment Are Over

Asynchronous discussion plays a crucial role in student engagement in remote and hybrid learning contexts. Online discussion boards, in particular, provide students with opportunities to engage with course content and each other, build relationships, and expand their understanding of the subject matter.

However, monitoring student engagement in online discussions can be a tedious task, particularly in courses with many students. Between teaching, grading, lecturing, researching, and writing, professors struggle to find time to assess discussion board posts properly.

This time pressure contributes to the phenomenon of faculty burnout. As recent studies have shown, continuous occupational stress (such as research demands, supervisory responsibilities, student assessment, and other management tasks) exposes university professors to burnout today more than ever [1, 2, 3].

But luckily, there is hope, at least when it comes to discussion board assessment, as it’s no longer necessary to read every student comment manually. There are automated assessment tools out there that have never been more intuitive to implement, thus changing the way we teach and learn for the better.

3 Benefits of Using Automated Assessment Tools For Online Discussions

Automation tools such as AI-assisted discussion boards make it easy to gather data on student engagement and understanding in real-time, allowing educators to make timely interventions as needed.

Here are three significant benefits of using automated assessment tools in online classes:

1. Discussion Board Automation Saves Time

As mentioned above, the most obvious benefit of using automation technology is that it saves instructors valuable time. With an AI-assisted assessment tool, all the posts in a discussion board are automatically collected and analyzed. 

This means that teachers no longer have to waste time reading through every comment individually. Instead, they can quickly and easily get a birds-eye view of how well each student engages with the course. This information can then be used to identify students who may need extra support and to challenge those who are excelling.

Pro tip: Make sure the tool you choose is the right fit for your needs. If it takes ages to implement and report grades to your LMS, it is not worth your time. Intuitive interface, easy application, and sufficient integration options (such as syncing with Gradebook) are requirements for long-term success.

2. AI-Assisted Discussion Tools Measure What Matters

When discussion boards are monitored manually, it is all too easy for professors to focus on the quantity of posts rather than the quality. This can lead to students feeling like they need to post for the sake of posting, rather than engaging in thoughtful discussion.

The right assessment tool can counteract this problem. Ment.io, for example, does this by:

  • Capturing complex discussion structures and analyzing the metadata of their development, including student engagement and interactions
  • Calculating students’ peer review score, thus facilitating critical weighted peer reviews
  • Improving student analytical skills by measuring important behavioral aspects, such as collaboration level, thoroughness, clarity, and balance
  • Offering fully customizable assessment options, thus letting instructors decide what discussion engagement means to them and which parameters to track.

Pro tip: If you want your assessment strategy to remain unique to your teaching philosophy, select customizable tech that allows you to adapt your grading criteria according to your personal preferences.

3. Automation Technology Promotes Transparency and Fairness

Automation tech offers students clear guidelines on how they will be assessed. This creates a level playing field where all students know what is expected of them.

In contrast to educators who may unconsciously grade based on the sheer volume of a student’s contributions, automated assessment relies on data that is less susceptible to personal bias. Consequently, students develop a strong sense of fairness and inclusion in asynchronous learning environments. They are more likely to trust the assessment process, as it becomes clear that their performance will be measured objectively.

AI-assisted discussion tools, therefore, have the potential to create a more positive and productive learning environment for all students. For instance, language and culture barriers can be transcended when discussion posts are graded according to their quality and relevance rather than based on linguistic correctness.

This also benefits introverted students, who may not feel comfortable speaking up in traditional classroom settings but are happy to contribute to digital discussion boards. They do not need to be constantly vocal to have complete and equitable access to the discussion, participate in meaningful conversation, and receive equal treatment.

Pro tip: To reap all the benefits of discussion board automation, consider using a tool that informs students on how to improve their grades. This type of feedback increases transparency and allows students to see the direct connection between their online participation and performance.

Monitoring Student Engagement in the Digital Era

AI-assisted discussion boards are robust assessment tools that can speed up the process of monitoring online student participation drastically.

By using automation technology, professors can focus on the quality of students’ comments in online discussions rather than on the volume of their contributions. This also fosters transparency in the assessment process and creates a more positive and productive learning environment for all students.

At Ment.io, we help university professors stimulate deep, meaningful, and inclusive discussions in asynchronous learning environments. For more information about our innovative technology, check out this live demo.


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