The Two Cardinal Rules of Discussions

A “Cardinal Rule” is a rule that is so important that, if you break it, there are dire (…evil in great degree; dreadful; dismal; horrible; terrible) consequences.

If you do not follow the instructions on this page you will probably not pass this course!

When you are participating in a discussion, each response you post will have two fields that you must complete correctly in order to get credit for your response: the Message field and the Subject field.

  • No matter how terrific your Message is, if your Subject isn’t acceptable, your post will not earn full credit.
  • I suggest that you write your message test first, then write the Subject.

Here are the 2 Cardinal Rules:

Cardinal Rule #1

Your Message must teach us something new and relevant about the issue. The purpose of a discussion post is to provide new information about issue being discussed.

Ask yourself these questions before you submit your discussion post:

  1. Is your message accurate?
  2. Is it relevant to the issue under discussion?
  3. Have you taught us anything new?
  4. Is your information properly cited and/or documented?

Cardinal Rule #2

Your Subject must be a complete sentence that summarizes the main point of your post.   You are required to create a Subject for your discussion posts that conveys the main point of your message. It is not enough to use just a “keyword” or “key phrase” as your subject – you must create a short sentence (a complete sentence with subject – verb – predicate) which summarizes the main point you are making in your message.  Note: you must not use the Subject that is automatically created for you – you must replace it with a complete sentence that you create.

The goal here is to state the main point of your message in your Subject. Remember – you can’t just mention the topic you are commenting on, you must summarize your main point in a sentence. This requirement is intended to accomplish 2 pedagogical objectives:

  • It requires you,  the author of the post, to think about and clearly state the main point of your message. To do this, you must have a clear understanding of the material, and this facilitates both learning and memory.
  • It provides your classmates, the readers, with up-front information (technically referred to as an “advanced organizer) which is helpful in understanding, learning, and remembering the content of your message. In other words, the reader should be able to determine the essence of your message just by reading your Subject.

Important notes:

  1. It is OK to sometimes respond with non-informative messages. In fact, sometimes it is a good idea to thank someone for their assistance or simply let them know that you agree with what they have said. Non-academic messages such as these can add valuable social presence to the course, and help to create a sense of collegiality. However, messages that add teaching presence (knowledge) to the course count the most when I evaluate your participation in the discussion.
  2. If you copy/paste or closely paraphrase information from the textbook, a website, or any other other source, you must use quotes and provide the citation. The most valuable messages are written in your own words. The quality of your discussion post is determined by the original content, not by content from other sources.

A final, most Important Note:  You are participating in the discussion for the benefit of yourself and the other students – not for the benefit of the instructor. Therefore:

  • It does little or no good to submit several posts very late in the module.  It is likely that no one will even read your last minute posts, and for that reason they do not add to the teaching / learning value of the discussion.
  • Low quality posts that do not add to the collective knowledge pretty much just waste your colleagues time.  Do them a favor by not submitting low quality posts.