I know lots of peers that have taken online courses find discussion boards to be busy work. They find it pointless and a waste of time. I admit I was among those ranks at one point before I started at National University when I was still working on my BA. I was always rushing to get my posts in at the last minute (sometimes forgetting), they were an afterthought. I started National I started off much the same and then I realized I was the problem, not the discussion boards.
So I tried creating my own deadlines for posts, my original posts by end of the first day of each week. It helped, so I decided to go one step further in my next class. During that first week, I posted week 1’s post on the discussion board and wrote week 2’s posts in a google doc. I kept this cycle up for a month. I particularly liked writing my discussion posts early as it helped me from rushing through them like an afterthought. I noticed that the earlier I posted the more peer responses I tend to get, which was also validating to the exercise.
My next class, I wrote and posted my discussion board posts for week 1 on the first day of class, week 2 on the day that our original posts were due for week 1 (so a week early). I kept this cycle (posting a week early) up for a month. I noticed that not only did I get a ton more peer responses but I also saw a big increase in other students posting their initial posts and responses early.
I have tracked the pattern and concluded that the sooner someone posts into the discussion board the sooner others will post. Discussion boards are like a floodgate, if you start the flow early your peers will often follow suit.
I make a point to engage with anyone that responded to my postings (original and my responses) so I have the benefit of a real discussion with peers. I noticed when I do this early in the class others will follow suit and be responsive to their post’s comments as well. I think that the real point is to create an actual dialogue between peers but you only get that if you post early and respond to the comments on your post or even other posts. I have gotten some great tips from peers, often from their second or third reply in our board conversations.