Using Google Plus Communities as an Online Discussion Board (that doesn't look like it came from 1995)

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Video Length: 10 minutes

Although Google Plus has a multitude of users, and is the Swiss Army knife of the social media space, I feel like there isn't a lot of buzz surrounding its potential uses in the classroom. One of the ways that it can be used is as a classroom discussion board through Google+ Communities. The video above demonstrates how to set up a discussion board that you can make private to your class or open to the public in various ways. 

The reason that I like it so much is just because it looks nicer than pretty much every other discussion board option out there. If you use a backchannel chat or an online forum, the overall viewing experience of both of these tools gives me flashbacks to working on a computer with Windows 95. Everything is in a box or in a folder, giving the impression that the experience is antiquated. With Google Plus, images and videos can naturally fit in the discussion post headings, and all responses can be expanded from the original post. No folders, no scrolling through 15 posts, then moving on to page 2. Everything is clean and nice, able to be accessed on the same page. 

As a teacher, you can pin the discussion post you want to start with your students to the top of the community page. Once you are done with that discussion, you can then unpin the post, letting it naturally drop down the page over time. This allows for easy access and less confusion on the student side. 

Teachers also can have a strict level of moderation privileges, where each and every post could be approved by you before being seen or can be left a little more open depending on your trust level with that class. More importantly, even if trust is lost, the settings can be changed with a few setting changes. 

I highly recommend using Google Plus as a discussion board, especially for those schools that are G Suite for Education schools or even if you just use Google Classroom as a classroom organization tool. Google Classroom users know that there is not (at this time) a viable online discussion option embedded in the tool. Google+ Communities can be shared by link in an assignment, which makes it easy to share in Classroom (or any Learning Management System).

A properly managed discussion board can be a great learning, collaboration, and peer feedback tool. That statement especially rings true when it looks like an inviting, relevant space. It's time for discussion boards to look like this, not the 1995 specials that we have been inflicted with since...well, you guessed it.  

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