Distance education is becoming popular in higher education institutions in the United States and throughout the world. Instructors offering on-line courses are looking for new technologies or using the existing ones in new ways to enhance student learning. Discussions designed as threaded discussions are integral to most on-line courses, and have been found to facilitate active learning among students. But, research indicates that threaded discussions sometimes digress into chat that is not in line with the intended purpose, thus causing the discussions to lose their focus. To address this problem, threaded discussions for a graduate level on-line agricultural education course were designed in a particular way to help facilitate more focused discussions. The findings indicated that by following this model, there was more student participation, more focused discussion, and less deviation from the intended purpose. Threaded discussion posts also suggested that students engaged in reflection before posting their messages. A two-stage threaded discussion model was developed based on the experiences of designing and implementing threaded discussions for this on-line course, and is presented in this paper. This model has implications for designing discussion boards in on-line courses in agricultural education as well as in other fields.



distance education, on-line higher education courses, threaded discussions

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