By Randi Kirkland, Ph.D.

QM Standard 1.9 requires students to introduce themselves to the class. A discussion board where students introduce themselves to their peers can help build community among students in an online course. However, it can be ineffective if approached the same way in each course. Below are some ideas for making that introduction more interesting to read for the students and for you!

Relate to the Course Content

Ask the students an open-ended question that is related to your course.

  • General: What are your goals for taking this course? What experience do you have with {insert topic of course}? Choose an image that you think represents a particular topic (mental health, public health, Communism, etc) and explain why.
  • History: If you could invite three historical figures to dinner (specify a date range or location if applicable to your course), who would you choose and why?
  • Education: Describe your favorite teacher from elementary school. Why do you consider them a good teacher?
  • Genetics: What is one trait that you inherited from your parents? If you have siblings, do they have the trait as well?

Use an Icebreaker to Encourage Conversation

Have a little fun with the first discussion board. This can be beneficial if students will be doing a lot of group or team based learning so that students can get to know each other better before working in their teams.

  • If you could take a vacation to anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
  • If you were stranded on a desert island and only had five items with you, what would they be?
  • Two truths and a lie: Each student posts three sentences. Two are true, and one is a lie. Other students must guess which is true.

Allow Students to Post in Multiple Ways

In the Canvas discussion board, students can post their responses as text, audio, or video. Some students may prefer to post an audio clip or video but may not know that is an option.


Provide your own answer to the discussion prompt! This can help to build instructor presence and show the students that you there is a real person behind the screen.