Six Tips for Responding in Online Discussions

By Hearing First Team October 12, 2016

Connected Learning | connected learning, professional learning community, learning community

Discussion threads are a key activity to engage with others online. Starting and responding to discussions online may be new at first, but it’s a lot like having a face to face conversation. Here are six tips to help make online discussions more familiar.

How many times a day do you depend on digital technology to manage your home or professional responsibilities? Most of us connect daily with family or friends, and many professionals use digital tools to communicate in virtual work roles, tele-conferencing or tele-intervention.

Hearing First has used digital tools for a year now to share important information and resources on listening and spoken language (LSL) to families and professionals. In fact, our greatest growth has come through engagement on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These digital spaces also help foster personal learning networks that can be an important source for informal professional learning.

This month we’ll offer another online opportunity to connect and learn through the Hearing First Professional Learning Community. This online community will provide a place where professionals can login any time of day or night to pose questions and offer new insights that can help grow LSL knowledge and skills. This kind of informal learning can reduce professional isolation, give you “just in time” access to other LSL professionals and ultimately lead to better LSL outcomes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.  

Discussion threads are a key activity to engage with others online. Starting and responding to discussions online may be new at first, but it’s a lot like having a face to face conversation. Here are six tips to help make online discussions more familiar. 

1. Say “Hello”: If you see a friend, what’s the first thing you always do? Chances are you offer a greeting. Just a little “hello” goes a long way in building online relationships. Greet new members and reply to their introductions. Reach out to others in your community on a regular basis by replying to their posts and checking in to follow up on previous discussions.

2. Use Members’ Names: Include names in replies to posts. In his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie believed in the power of using names. This can even include @mentioning someone in a discussion to connect them with another member and bring them into the discussion. 

3. Recognize Returning Commenters:
Like the theme from the famous TV show Cheers, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” The same is true in an online community and begins with your recognition of readers “as they come through the door.” Keep the discussions going by recognizing when someone returns a comment to your post and express appreciation for the response. Look for opportunities to comment on discussions you care about. When you comment on discussions that others post, they’ll often reciprocate and engage in discussions you post.

4. Ask Further Questions: It is easy and tempting to be the provider of answers when members post questions in discussion threads, especially if it is in the area of our expertise. However, the most open and engaging discussions are ones where members post thoughtful considerations to extend the conversation. Ask questions to gain more clarity or take the conversation deeper. Offer insights, but also pose questions that encourage others to reflect on the topic and consider other perspectives. 

5. Invite Other Members to Share: Foster an atmosphere of sharing by inviting others in your community to add value to discussions. Take the lead and invite others into discussions. Send private message invitations. Let them know their insights would add value to the discussion.  

6. Sign Your Name: This little technique can certainly makes a difference in online discussions. Just as you would in a letter or email, it is a great idea to sign your name to every reply you make to a commenter. This allows members a more personal feel in an online space.

New communities take time to develop. Members have to get their feet wet and see what it is all about. As with anything new, there is a tryout period, but there is also a great opportunity for growth in all aspects of our professional journey if we jump in, greet others, post often and encourage others to participate. 

We hope to see you online very soon!

Connected Learning | connected learning, professional learning community, learning community

About the Author

Hearing First Team At Hearing First, we want all children to benefit from the availability of newborn hearing screening, the advances in technology, and the early learning services in their communities. We want all children to have the opportunity to take advantage of access to sound – a critical building block for future success.