Over the course of four semesters, I have developed a set of tools and techniques for using Discourse, a next generation Open Source discussion board, as a tool for teaching and learning. Most Learning Management Systems add discussion tools as an afterthought. If you believe that communication should be the most important aspect of what your students do online, I can help you build an environment in which discussion and communication are moved to the forefront of your online teaching and provide hooks to continue to use your LMS for grades and other mundanities.

What is wrong with the forums that your LMS provides? Discourse is designed to be fast and easy to use whether you are using a computer, tablet, or phone. For example, long discussions load instantaneously, by loading only the messages you need to see,  when you reach the bottom of the page, more messages are loaded, just like in Facebook. Discourse remembers what messages you have seen, so when you return to a discussion it starts where you left off. Long discussions are summarized, so you can easily see just the messages that are most interesting.  Notifications make it quick and easy for you to see when you have been replied to, @mentioned, or received a personal message. And that is just the start.

Check out the syllabus for an Educational Media course. I designed my courses around technology challenges that told students what to do, but left them on their own to figure out how. This approach has two advantages. For my students, it means that they gain practice solving problems the way that they will after class is over, on their own. For me, it means that the challenges that I design need to be redesigned much less frequently. Let someone else design perfect step-by-step instructions with meticulous screen shots only to have the software change the next day!