Role-play discussion forums

  • Group size: 5 students
  • Teaching type: Inclusive and flexible small group teaching 
  • Division: Department for Continuing Education 
  • Subject: General
  • Tools: Canvas discussion forum


In order to foster communication at a distance, it is important to create a culture in which both students and academic staff know how to communicate effectively through a virtual learning environment. This role-play exercise helps students and staff develop their skills in facilitating online discussion forums. Participants take it in turns to act as tutors or students in the forums. Each 'student' is assigned a different role, from enthusiastic to disruptive, and they must adopt that persona in their posts, giving their 'tutor' a realistic chance to experience and work with the range of student behaviours.


This exercise works on many levels. Firstly, it introduces participants to the technical aspects of using a Canvas discussion group. Various types of forum contributor are role-played, thus introducing students to effective and ineffective ways of using a discussion. This is emphasised further by encouraging students to take a mentor role.


The original activity was intended for education students, and each participant plays different roles over five forums. If this activity is to be used as an introduction to forums on a more general course, the activity can be pared down to give more of an overview.

screenshot of small group web quest

A screen shot of the Canvas course page, where the role play activity is explained

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