Say What?! Improving Online Class Discussion

This semester I’ve decided to use discussion forums for only half of my online class participation. I mixed it up to add some intrigue and interaction to the other weeks– my students are using NowComment.


NowComment is a Web site that displays articles and text content for students to read. The unique thing about NowComment is students can comment in-line to the text. Students can also reply to one another. NowComment nests the comments for a clean user interface experience. Students can also mark up the document with highlights and annotations.

This mode of communication has proven successful. Students enjoy the variety NowComment adds to the online class, in addition to the traditional online learning tools such as email and forums.

It also allows the students to interact directly with the content.

Most online classes have students read an article or book, then contribute to a different web page to discuss their findings. I’m guilty of this, like I said, I use discussion forums for half of the class participation. The problem with this traditional online discussion structure is that a student may not understand what their classmate is referring to in the text, unless it is directly cited. Nowcomment minimizes this confusion and lets students tag the statement in the text to comment directly to the material.

This tagging feature makes it better for everyone to draw connections to the reading and contribute to a dynamic online class discussion.

To use NowComment, you must have an account. However, the accounts are free for educators and students. Instructors can create a group for each class roster to easily invite a group of students to one document. The Web site uses email to inform students of a new document to discuss.

A negative impact of NowComment is that students must check their school administrated email accounts or provide the instructor with an alternative email. In addition, their may be technical difficulties such as the invitation being filtered to the Spam, Junk, or Trash folders.  For example, I have a student that has had technical difficulties all semester. She does not receive the initial NowComment invitation. I’ve had to delete her invite, then send her an updated invited for her to access the documents. We have no idea why these issues occur and why she is the only student with problems.

In general, the students are enjoying the conversation and are able to contribute successfully. I recommend this educational technology tool for anyone with flexibility to choose a means of communication and for those with text heavy class materials.

*Update* I was impressed how quickly the NowComment President reached out to me regarding this blog. He was very helpful in troubleshooting the invitation errors my student had. Kudos to a company that follows social media and proactively reaches out to it’s audience!


About Julie Tausend Burba

Instructional Designer at Hulu, Ed Tech and Project Management enthusiast. MBA Technology Management, MS Management, BS Communications, Traveler and Cook.

Posted on April 26, 2014, in Educational Technology, Instructional Design, Tausend Talks Shop, Teaching Tools, Technology Management and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Glad NowComment worked well for you Julie, and thanks for the nice review! Good news– we’ve figured out how to accommodate users without email and will be implementing that soon! Readers should send any questions (about this or other topics) to — Dan Doernberg, President, LLC

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