How Discussion Boards Turned Out to Be My Favorite Part of the MS in Communication Program

Author: Joni Bertrand, Online Master of Science in Communication Student

Within the online Master of Science in Communication, a great way to interact with your fellow classmates and to apply knowledge to your readings, is to participate on the discussion boards. Online forums are a foundation for two-way communication with your classmates. Discussion boards are a major component of online courses, and serve as an engaging platform that reinforces the curriculum.

After an instructor poses a multi-part question or a conflicted scenario or a stimulating topic, you write a 500 word essay in response with cited sources. This is a great opportunity to have an in-depth conversation about the text readings and scholarly journals. The constant interaction allows for reading and responding to others’ opinions. I loved reading other classmates’ responses, and each week I commented on the postings that spoke to me directly. Some discussions triggered associations from my communications career or volunteer experiences, and I was able to lead the conversations along. Some writings spiked my curiosity, and I wanted to delve further in comprehension by asking a few thought-provoking questions. Sometimes I suggested a different interpretation in order to expand the conversation, which led to dynamic discussions. Reading multiple perspectives of the same readings gave me an opportunity to bring the information alive in a new way through interesting response posts.

All of us gave a response to the same questions, but we created different individual meanings. The majority of us were motivated to write about the connotative meanings of the questions, relating to our personal and work experiences in a symbolic response. Some of the students took on the denotative meaning, and explained very literally what they thought the questions meant in an objective way. I integrated both interpretations of a shared meaning, incorporating both facts and rational thinking with subjectivism depending on the factors involved. Whether we took a modern, symbolic or postmodern viewpoint, I think it is important to reflect on questions and answers in an open way, while intertwining course content from other classes to supplement our writing. Delving into the research, theories, perspectives and advice from other professionals is fascinating to me, making this my favorite program experience.

Communication can have a powerful effect on how people understand and interpret messages. Strategic communication is not only informational and discursive, but it is also influential and persuasive. The transmission of information, ideas, emotion and attitudes can greatly affect perceptions, which then affect people’s actions. Daily practice online through the discussion boards will enable you to effectively communicate your company’s goals in your career. Communicating on behalf of an organization requires effective message planning, and the daily conversations online will help you to be successful.

As an online learner, you will benefit from discussing your classmates’ experiences, while gaining additional insight into the literature through your own writing. The investment that you put forth in your writing will be invaluable when you receive multiple responses from your classmates and your instructors that enhance your original thought. This type of collaborative learning is priceless!

Learn More
Joni Bertrand is a student in Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

About the Author
Joni Bertrand is a communications professional with 23 years of experience in marketing, advertising, public relations, fundraising management, product development, financial planning and business consulting. She has earned a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University in Marketing and Merchandising, and is in her final semester at Purdue University working toward completion of a Master of Science in Strategic Communication.

Joni has held several executive management positions within the corporate retail industry, and has extensive experience in leadership roles within campaign/project management, human resource coordination and educational curriculum development with numerous nonprofit organizations. She is an academic tutor to middle school, high school and college students; is a member of the Public Relations Society of America, and serves on a few professional boards of directors. Joni is a frequent writer for industry publications, as well as corporate and school newsletters. Her research interests include
ethical communication, corporate crisis management and educational leadership.

In her free time, Joni enjoys photography, traveling, writing and cheering on her three kids in their athletic achievements. Fun Fact: Because of her Dutch heritage, she can actually “tip toe through the tulips” and dance in wooden shoes!

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.