At a Glance: Understand what expectations your instructor has regarding participation, and then practice writing posts that advance the conversation.
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When it comes to higher education, the more you put in, the more you get out. Participation in class is a big part of that involvement, and one that will do wonders for your success.

Participating in online classes happens differently than traditional courses, but there are plenty of ways to contribute and get involved. Whether it’s an online discussion forum, live chats or responding to blogs, there are tactics that suit any personality and inclination.

Here’s how to get involved:


Ask, then do

First and foremost, find out how your instructor wants you to participate. Review the syllabus or ask directly. He or she might want to see active and meaningful contributions to the class discussion board, or that students are speaking up regularly in live seminars. If you are shy about sharing your opinions verbally, consider participating in a written Q&A session.

Dive in

Don’t put off participating until the end of the course. It will limit your ability to get as much out of the class as possible. So push yourself into the deep end and start speaking up earlier. The more you engage, the better you will become at it, and the more you will learn from other students’ comments and opinions.

Get meaty

When participating in an online discussion, it’s easy to write short, declarative statements such as, “I agree with Kate.” But that doesn’t really add much or advance the conversation. Instead, add substance by quoting from research or from the text you’re debating to deepen your point. You also can share personal experiences from work or home, or pose a question to the instructor or other students. Sometimes just asking a follow-up question to one of your classmates will lead to a fruitful extension of the discussion.

Office hours

Many faculty members hold virtual office hours. Take advantage of this opportunity so that your instructor gets to know you and sees that you are invested. He or she can answer questions, expand on the class material or provide guidance about your group project or paper.


Whenever and however you participate, make sure you write professionally and with clarity. This isn’t texting time! Doing plenty of participating is an important way to succeed in your education.

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