The purpose of this resource is to model an example of how to convert a collaborative/group work face-to-face tutorial/seminar/practical to an asynchronous online format. 

Collaborative classes involve students working in groups to develop a common output, this output could be:

  • a statement,
  • a response to a situation, case or problem or
  • a product.

Students learn through sharing their understanding of the situation, and possible options, considering other perspectives and negotiating a common solution. Each of the steps challenges students to question and refine their knowledge in the set context.

face to face vs online


A significant change in facilitating these activities online is based on the asynchronous approach, moving the class from a 1 or 2 hour block of time to running over multiple days. This approach enables students to engage any time throughout the week, which is important with diverse timezones and connection speeds. The reduced time pressure to respond can be particularly helpful for students writing responses in second languages. For facilitators, this change means they will need to engage with the class at multiple, shorter times throughout the week to support student engagement and provide feedback. 
The approach would be to provide students with the instructions and stimulus via their Learn.UQ (Blackboard) course site and information on the process and expectations of answering and/or responding to stimulus. Students will work collaboratively via their dedicated group discussion boards.

This approach will be new for most students, facilitators will need to provide guidance for students in how to engage in this environment, including:

  • When and how often to respond
  • What is a reasonable response in terms of length and writing style
  • How to draw on experience and course materials (including when referencing is necessary)
  • When to expect responses from their tutor / facilitator
  • Where to find help   

Note: Marking does not need to be enabled but could be considered to encourage students to engage with the group discussion and help achieve the learning outcomes.


Discussion-board group size 

The online environment has very different restrictions to on-campus space, so discussion-board group size should be considered in this context.

Facilitating collaborative groups may be easier with groups of 4,6 or 12, to help ensure all students engage in the discussion and contribute to the shared output. This approach may require a normal tutorial group to be divided into smaller online groups. The time commitment for facilitators with this approach is not simple, facilitating 2 groups of 12 online will often not take twice the time of facilitating a single group of 24 and maybe only a marginal increase in time.

Group Template

If you have multiple groups you can prepare and copy a template to set up each class. Refer to the Edit, Copy and Delete a Forum guide for further instructions.

Setting up a collaborative class discussion board

Set the expectations for participation, by providing students with:

  1. Clear instructions on how to participate
    • Respond to the stimulus question using the “Reply” button
    • In responding 
  2. Expectations for their participation
    • The stimulus/question will be released at a set time eg. Monday, 8am (AEST).
    • Student responses will be required by a set time (eg. end of the day Tuesday) to allow tutors/coordinator time to review and answer/provide feedback.
    • Students to respond to at least one other student post by a set time eg. end of day Wednesday.
    • Tutor/Coordinator responses will be posted by a set time e.g Thursday 12pm (AEST).
    • Any final comments/questions should be posted by students at a set time eg. Friday 9am (AEST).
    • Tutor/Coordinator will provide final responses by a set time e.g Friday 5pm (AEST).
    • Advise students that they should subscribe to the forum to ensure they are notified of posts when they occur.
    • Student behaviour, language and fairness are required to meet the expectations outlined in UQ Student Charter.
  3. Marking guidelines if students will be graded on their contributions.
  4. What they can expect from their facilitator and when:
    • Facilitators will be accessing the forum at [SET TIMES]
    • The facilitators will not respond to every post, but will try to
    • Agreed upon times for staff responses to student discussions.
  5. Links to where they can find help.
  6. Outline the problem or challenge for the class.

Example forum/thread starter

Example Subject:

Week 3: Tutorial 2 - Time Value of Money and Discounted Cash Flow

Example Message:

Hi everyone,

This week you will be discussing Time Value of Money and Discounted Cash Flow. Start by downloading the stimulus (located within the Week 3 folder in Learning Resources). Please post your questions/responses to the stimulus by no later than the end of day Tuesday and provide your feedback/comments to other students by the end of day Wednesday. Tutors will respond to student posts on Thursday and provide any final follow up responses by 5pm Friday before closing the discussion board. 

Ensure you adhere to the UQ Student Charter at all times while posting in this thread.

Best of luck,


Delivering the Activity

What staff need to do:

  1. Navigate to the appropriate forum.
  2. Navigate to the appropriate thread.
  3. Facilitate the discussion board to ensure students are replying and encourage students to have input.
  4. Respond to student questions on Thursday (or nominated day) and write a short summary post of all discussion that occurred over the week, including common ideas or misconceptions.
  5. Allow students to respond to feedback and follow up any final questions before completing the discussion.

Tip: Instead of responding individually to student questions, where possible make a post which summarises common themes within multiple student posts, acknowledging students by name.

What students need to do:

  1. At the start of the week, students need to access their Tutorial Group discussion board tab in their Learn.UQ (Blackboard) course site.
  2. Click on the appropriate forum.
  3. Subscribe to your group's forum
  4. Click on the appropriate thread.
  5. Answer by replying to the question/stimulus posted.
  6. Review and reply to at least one of their fellow group member responses.
  7. Seek any further clarification once Tutor/coordinator feedback has been posted.

Note: All responses should be completed within two days of the question being posted.


Review and Reflection

  1. Check to see if every student was as involved as expected?
    • Did the facilitator feedback and guidance produce the desired effects?
    • Did the students develop a shared output of a suitable level?
    • Were all key concepts discussed?
    • Did students experience any difficulties with technologies or course materials that you should address before the next week?
    • Are there any unanswered student questions?
    • Are there any student contributions throughout the week that should be recognised?
  2. Marking (if the forum is marked)
    • Use the grade centre to grade the discussion forum.
    • Step through each student's contributions and provide a mark against the marking scheme. If 5 or fewer marks are allocated having a single specified standard for each mark is normally suitable, if more marks are allocated a full rubric can be developed and used.
    • Provide feedback to justify the mark awarded to the student’s work.
  3. Provide final feedback/solutions and clarify any misconceptions for the whole group.
  4. Close off the thread prior to next thread starting.


What if students are having technical issues:

  1. Provide them with a link to the Using the discussion board student guide for more information.
  2. Refer the student to AskUs for further assistance.

What if a student posts in the wrong forum/thread?

  1. Contact the student and ask them to post their reply in the appropriate location with clear instructions.
  2. Remove their post from the thread.
  3. Provide them with a link to Using the discussion board student guide for more information.

If no answers are posted before the due date:

  1. Post an announcement to encourage students to share any questions they might have before the end of Wednesday.

If students are unclear about what needs to be completed:

  1. Make instructions clear in an Announcement
  2. Provide links to the Discussion boards guide
  3. Contact students via email

What if a student posts an inappropriate response?

  1. Screenshot the post with the student's name.
  2. Contact the student to inform them of the UQ Student Charter.
  3. Remove their post from the thread.
  4. Send the screenshot to the Course Coordinator for further escalation.