The Guide

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The Guide to Fostering Asynchronous Online Discussion in Higher Education

Conclusions and Limitations

In this Guide we have presented four components identified as critical to facilitating productive asynchronous online discussions: outcome oriented task design, explicit communicative strategies, interactional scaffolding and clear expectations for student participation. We have explained and exemplified these with reference to our own tertiary teaching research and practice which confirm that when these components occur simultaneously, students’ engagement and subsequent learning are fostered (see Students, Lecturer vignettes and Project Report) for research evidence and testimonials from lecturers and students).

The Guide reaffirms the importance of lecturers’ presence, expertise and commitment to ensuring quality learning takes place. We recognise that enacting the suggestions contained in the Guide will vary across disciplines as each has their own distinct ways of working with knowledge and offers particular kinds of tasks in the apprenticing of students. While the examples in the Guide draw from educational psychology, other examples can be found here on the FOLD website.

We do not suggest that asynchronous online discussion can replace face-to-face interactions, rather we aim to ensure it is best used to achieve the lecturer’s pedagogic aims in an online environment. When planning for productive online discussion, we recommend considering the purpose of the forum in the overall subject design, asking such questions as: How does the forum co-ordinate with other modes of delivery such as face-to-face lectures and tutorials and individual study? How does it align with other online tools such as quizzes and video content?

Finally, we acknowledge that the Guide is limited to asynchronous online forums only, and it does not address the many challenges of integrating the array of tools available to lecturers and other subject designers in contemporary flexibly delivered higher education courses. We offer the Guide as a resource for refining academic practice as we strive to enhance our students’ learning experiences in online learning.

The Guide

Articulates a set of principles for fostering online discussion in higher education, based on theory, the literature and evidence from postgraduate and undergraduate flexibly delivered courses.

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Student Perspectives

Here we present students’ perspectives on their experience of online discussion, in which the teacher used the Guide.

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Lecturer Vignettes

These vignettes capture the essence of how the FOLD strategies have influenced lecturers’ experiences of facilitating online discussion.

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The resources in this section are the literature used to inform the Guide as well as presentations made by the Project Team. These will be added to as we continue to disseminate.

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