Creating thought-provoking discussions in your class can help student learning and engagement in the course material. Technologies like clickers are a great way to start discussions and direct them as well. Online tools like forums, and email chains can help to extend conversations outside of the classroom. Tools like reading responses are also effective at improving the quality of conversation, since students are asked to form an argument on the reading before they come to class.

Improving Class Discussions with Polling Tools: Clickers

Student response tools are effective at engaging students and starting in-class discussions. 

Since students are asked to form a response to questions, they automatically become a participant. A good strategy for creating discussions is to ask students to respond to the results from the poll. Ask students to comment from each viewpoint. Talk about what may be surprising or how it may compare to other classes. Starting a lecture off with a poll can also get students to start talking about class topics from the beginning. Spreading out polls can keep students engaged throughout a class or presentation. Even throwing in a fun poll in the middle of class can re-energize students.

For more tips on using polling tools in your class contact John-Mark Ikeda at jikeda@law.berkeley.edu.

To reserve Clickers contact media services at media@law.berkeley.edu

Reading Responses: Blogs and Forums

Whether you are using a Blog, Forum or just having students submit their writing on bCourses, assigning reading responses is a great way to improve the quality and quantity of class discussions. Posting questions on the readings for students can give them a hint about the next class topic and help them to start thinking critically about the readings before going to class.

Reading responses also encourage students to complete the reading assignments and to form an opinion on what they have read. This should improve the quality of discussion. By using digital tools, you can make it easier to track the learning of your students, by having all of their writing online. Many tools make it easy to comment back to students so that you have to carry around fewer papers and students get feedback faster. 

For more tips on using reading responses in your class contact John-Mark Ikeda at jikeda@law.berkeley.edu.

Extending Class Discussions: Forums 

Engaging class discussions can be important for learning, but also can detract from the days agenda. Extending class discussions online can ensure that class time is used efficiently to cover everything in your teaching plan. Informing students that they can continue the discussion online, is a great way to manage class time, while ensuring that students have an opportunity to finish their discussion. Transitioning discussions from online to in-class will engage different students in your course. It can also push students to think more about course topics outside of the classroom.

For more information on tools that can be used to extend class discussions contact John-Mark Ikeda at, jikeda@law.berkeley.edu.

Web Conferencing Tools: Blue Jeans

Face-to-face discussions can be done with video conferencing tools like Blue Jeans or Skype. Inviting people into small group discussions or to speak with large audiences are possible with only a laptop and a web camera. Visiting speakers, or collaborators from around the world can participate in discussions with your class using these tools.

For more information about web conferencing contact John-Mark Ikeda at, jikeda@law.berkeley.edu.