The online component of our course has an email forum (a google group) for the year 1 students which is intended to have a function analagous to the discussions which you have in the classroom.

Because of the increased amount of time which is available for the students to reflect on the questions asked of them (due to the assynchronous nature of these discussions), I have expected that the majority of students will participate in these discussions.  Accordingly I have made the topics of discussion fairly important or even central to the students learning in some cases.

The problem that I’m having here is low participation.  In a discussion topic posted last week two students out of a class of 16 posted a response.  This discussion topic while it is not directly assessed, is based around developing an assessment instrument that the students will use in their major piece of assessment for the course.  I’ve been fairly disappointed with the response rate as a result.  I’ve extended the period of the discussion, and heavily pushed the point that this is a critical discussion for us to have, and that has led to contributions from 2 more students so far.

Maybe I’m expecting too much?  I guess if I compare this to a classroom discussion, I might get a similar response to some questions.

Does anyone have any ideas on how I can improve the response rate (short of making the students contributions an assessment item)?