Before looking at the LEO tools you may find it beneficial to review the Guidelines to enhance the use of LEO: Communication that outlines five principles, implications for practice and useful resources. For information about developing a learning community go to our Communication in blended learning website.

The LEO asynchronous communication tools include:


While all academic staff are required to create a LEO unit to support their teaching, there may be the need for you to create a new forum or make modifications to existing forums for fully online delivery mode while your campus is closed.

For general information about forums, go to LEO Guides|Tools|Forums.

If your LEO unit does not currently have a forum, go to How to set up a forum and How to add a new discussion topic to a forum.

You may also wish to make use of the resources at the online self-paced Teaching Online Program website. You can self-enrol into this program to access the resources.

To support you developing your learning community and online communication with your students it is recommended that you peruse the following modules:

As you will not have face-to-face contact with your students it is imperative that you maximise the use of the LEO tools to communicate with your students. The staff in the LTC often hear from academics that online discussions in their units have not been as successful as they had hoped, in terms of both engagement by students and the achievement of learning outcomes.

It is highly recommended that you download a copy of the Guide to Fostering Asynchronous Online Discussion in Higher Education resource which "articulates a set of principles for fostering discussion in higher education, based on the theory, the literature and evidence from postgraduate and undergraduate flexibly delivered courses" (Fostering Online Discussion, 2017).

Strategies to help you create and moderate effective online forums

Establish criteria: Explain to students what is expected of them in an online discussion in terms of quantity or length of response, supporting evidence or links, citing resources, how to respond to others, referring to and drawing upon contributions etc

Set a clear deadline: Make sure students know how long a discussion will last, and that you expect them to post throughout this time frame rather than the last minute. A clear deadline is also useful in preventing students going back after a discussion is over and posting to simply to satisfy the requirement of the class

Moderate and lead by example: Be present in the discussion and guide the direction of the discussion by participating in the same way you expect your students to. A teacher who is absent from a discussion will only send the message to students that their contributions are not valued.

Stay positive: A friendly demeanour can be very motivating for students and encourage them to contribute and participate more in a discussion

Praise students who participate well: Highlight good examples of discussion posts, congratulate those who do participate to motivate those that do not.

Summarise the conversation periodically: Discuss how different contributions have been relevant and how students can use this information in their current assignment or task. Refer to students by name when they have made significant contributions.

Don’t dominate the discussion: Give students a chance to participate. This will encourage students to see themselves as equal contributors. If you dominate the discussion and post too much, it can stifle students’ willingness to express their own opinions for fear of contradicting their teacher.

Deal with any issues privately: If students are not participating, or there is conflict in the group, it is a good idea to deal with these issues outside of the public discussion. Email can be useful in such instances or the use of the private message function

(Source: University of New South Wales, College of Fine Arts (COFA) Online, Learning to teach online: conducting effective online discussions, p3.


Note: Faculties and Schools may require you to comply with specific guidelines about student participation, how online forums are moderated, assessed and the use of language and forum ‘netiquette’ so check with your Lecturer-in Charge, Team Leader or Course Coordinator BEFORE creating your forum or discussion topics.

For improving online communication with your students, the following resources could prove beneficial and have been rated highly by academics who have participated in the LTC’s Teaching Support Program (TSP).

  1. UNSW, COFA. (2011). Learning to teach online: Conducting effective online discussions [Video]. Retrieved
  2. UNSW, COFA. (n.d.). Learning to teach online: Conducting effective online discussions [PDF]. Retrieved
  3. Burns, M. (2015, March 2). Helping Learners get the most out of online discussions. [Blog Post]. Retrieved
  4. Janssens-Bevernage, A. (2014, March 14). "Post once, reply twice": uninspiring online discussion boards and what to do about them. [Blog Post]. Retrieved
  5. Morrison, D. (2012, June 22). How to get students to participate in online discussions [Blog Post]. Retrieved
  6. Morrison, D. (2012, June 25). How to facilitate robust online discussions [Blog Post]. Retrieved
  7. Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR). (n.d.). Discussion Prompts. Retrieved
  8. Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR). (n.d.). Discussion Facilitation. Retrieved
  9. Carter, C. (2013, July 31). Raising Digital Hands: Running Effective Forums. [Blog Post]. Retrieved

Resources for students

Touro College. (2015).15 Rules of Netiquette for Online Discussion Boards [Infographic in Blog Post]. Retrieved

Page last updated on 17/03/2020

Learning & teaching

Please contact the Learning and Teaching Centre for professional development, resources and advice for your learning and teaching needs at ACU.

LEO support

Available 8am-10pm Sydney time, Mon to Fri,
9am-5pm Weekends and public holidays
Closed Good Friday and Christmas

LEO Guides
LEO Guides feedback